Reflections of a ‘Doer’

Reflections of a ‘Doer’

Question Everyting Message Board Don't Trust Rules AuthorityDoes learning more about ourselves help us to better understand and influence others?

I’ve learnt that if we are going to change the way things are done in risk and safety that the focus needs to be more on ‘influencing’ than ‘controlling’. In this piece, I’d like to explore the concept of learning more about ‘self’ in order to better understand and influence others. I’ll do this by sharing stories of my own experiences.

I am naturally a ‘doer’. Some describe me as an ‘Action Jackson’ and a person who likes to get things done. I like to organise and see things through to completion. For anyone familiar with the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), my personality and type is ENFJ. It is the ‘J’ that drives what I describe above. (Of course understanding me is more than just applying a four letter label to me, but that’s a whole other Blog!)

For people who ‘know’ me only through my blog posts, you may be surprised when reading the description above. Based on the feedback that I receive, I know that one theme people may take from what I write is that I’m ‘anti-organising’, as I do ask a lot of questions on this subject.

However, my natural preference is to ‘organise’, to ‘plan’ and to ‘make things happen’. I make ‘to-do lists’, I set agendas for meetings and generally I’m a ‘doer’. Mostly this works well and it is certainly useful in running a business.

However like most things in life I have learned that there are trade-offs and by-products. I have become more aware of the trade-offs over the past few years as I have come to know myself better, and in particular how my actions and preferences impact on others. In particular, I learn a lot when I have great conversations with people that I care about, and who care about me. So let’s explore some examples.

A recent experience with a very good friend caused me to pause and reflect. It had me considering the effect that my preference for organising and action has on that friend.

We had agreed to do a couple of things before a meeting we were about to have. This was on a Thursday and by the Monday my friend hadn’t done what we spoke about. I thought that my friend may have been tied up with other things, or had not considered the actions as important as I did, so because of my need for closure and action, I just went ahead an did the thing that my friend was supposed to do. I wanted to see it ‘done and dusted’, it made me feel more in control.

Some people might be thinking great, you’re a good friend you made things easier for the other person, well done! Sure, but this doesn’t consider the impact of my actions on my friend? How did this make them feel? What did ‘me taking control’ mean for how they felt about things?

The good news is that my friend values good conversation and feedback. They called me to let me know that they had done what we agreed, and were just about to send an e-mail to confirm, however I had beat them to it.

I thought of my friend and how this may have made them feel. Would they think that I thought they weren’t worthy or capable of doing the task? I know that my friend is not slack, nor complacent, so me taking control by being a ‘doer’ could really have impacted on how they felt about themselves, particularly on their motivation. This was clearly not my intention, I would not want to hurt my friend, but I recognise that this is what taking control can do to others.

This reminded me of a quote by Deci in Why We Do What We Do:

“Perhaps there is an innate or intrinsic need to feel a sense of personal autonomy or self-determination – to feel a sense of what deCharms had called personal causation. That would imply that people need to feel that their behaviour is truly chose by them rather than impact by some external source” (1995, p. 30)

This was a relatively minor ‘event’, there were no serious consequences and our friendship remains strong, however things could have been different, particular if this had happened with someone who I don’t have a good relationship with, or someone who doesn’t value feedback.

My reflections didn’t stop there. I thought back through the many times in my career (and in life) where my focus was on ‘just getting the job done’. While the people I was reporting to may have been full of praise and ‘well dones’, my reflections now are on what this meant for others.

In risk and safety (like in life), being a ‘doer’ can be good. However if our preference is to ‘do’, finding the time to stop and consider what this means for others is critical. If we focus on being a ‘doer’ we shouldn’t be surprised when others just sit back and let us ‘do our thing’.

Would stopping and reflecting more often allow us time to consider the impact that our ‘doing’ has on others? Could it be that our personality type is the force behind our preference for ‘control’? Does ‘control’ make us feel good because things get done? What impact does this have on others and their motivation? Could taking the time out to consider this in the context of ourselves in turn help us to understand and better influence others?

If you are a ‘doer’, these are perhaps good questions to help with your own reflection.

When we better understand ourselves, our preferences and the unconscious biases associated with our personalities, we are better able to understand what these may mean for others.

For all the ‘Action Jacksons’ out there in risk and safety, I wonder if the list below might be useful if we want to focus more on influencing than ‘doing’?

  • Think about the ‘cues’ that may mean we are ‘taking action’, ahead of considering others. Perhaps as we look at our ‘to do lists’ and agendas we could take some time to pause, and before heading into action, consider what impact the action may have on others.
  • Consider whether we need to ‘do’, or is ‘influencing’ and ‘supporting’ more appropriate in some situations and contexts?
  • Value conversations in person rather than e-mail so that we can get a feel for how others are feeling about the conversation. E-mails tend to be about doing and actioning, conversations allow us to ‘check in’ with others and consider their perspective.

My reflections are important for me. They allow me the space to slow down and learn more about others, and myself and to consider why I do what I do. In writing this piece, my first working title was ‘confessions of a doer’. However, after sitting back and thinking about this for a while, I decided that it wasn’t about confessing or apologising for whom I am, rather a reflection on what being a ‘doer’ meant for me and others. It is the reflection that I find critical in maturing as a person.

When we are honest with ourselves about who we are, when we understand our own ‘type’ and ‘preference’, we begin to understand how this in turn impacts on our relationships with others.

If this reflection resonates with you and if you too have a bias for action, what does this mean for the people you are aiming to lead or influence? What are some of the things that you can do to mature your relationships with others with the aim of influencing rather than controlling?

I’m off now, I’ve still got 7 things on my ‘to do list’ to do! Till next time.

As usual, I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and comments.

Author: Robert Sams

Phone: +61 424 037 112



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Rob Sams
Rob Sams
Rob is an experienced safety and people professional, having worked in a broad range of industries and work environments, including manufacturing, professional services (building and facilities maintenance), healthcare, transport, automotive, sales and marketing. He is a passionate leader who enjoys supporting people and organizations through periods of change. Rob specializes in making the challenges of risk and safety more understandable in the workplace. He uses his substantial skills and formal training in leadership, social psychology of risk and coaching to help organizations understand how to better manage people, risk and performance. Rob builds relationships and "scaffolds" people development and change so that organizations can achieve the meaningful goals they set for themselves. While Rob has specialist knowledge in systems, his passion is in making systems useable for people and organizations. In many ways, Rob is a translator; he interprets the complex language of processes, regulations and legislation into meaningful and practical tasks. Rob uses his knowledge of social psychology to help people and organizations filter the many pressures they are made anxious about by regulators and various media. He is able to bring the many complexities of systems demands down to earth to a relevant and practical level.

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