Exploring the Personality Balancing Act within Family Businesses

Personality Balancing Act within Family Businesses

Personalities are like snowflakes: each one absolutely unique. And yet one can still talk about types, such as the narcissist, the wallflower, the obsessive compulsive, the dependent, the pacifist, the peacemaker, and a myriad more. Some types blend well, while others chafe painfully against each other. And while no one individual is perfect, sometimes the blame for the friction lies more squarely with one than with the other.

Partner, Global Head of Family Business

KPMG in France

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Understanding personalities

Personalities are made up of two parts: temperament and character. Temperament is the genetic part, inherited from our parents and forebears. As such it is a fairly set aspect of who we are. Character, on the other hand, can be molded, as it is something we acquire. Things that influence the formation of our character are family, our social environment, education, life experiences, and culture.

It is the interaction or interplay of our character and temperament that determines our personality.Our personality in turns determines the ways in which we respond to situations, whether in positive or negative ways. To have a ‘balanced’ personality – in other words, to react to stimuli and situations in a manner deemed ‘normal’ or moderate – is not easy, at least not across the board. But extreme personalities can lead to discord in the family workplace, and so need to be addressed and managed.

The family business leader’s personality

More than any other personality in the business, the personality of the leader or CEO needs to be balanced, as he or she will strongly influence the climate and productivity of the company. If, for example, a leader given to histrionics or narcissism is allowed to let their personality run rampant, the work environment will become untenable.

There are positive aspects to certain personalities when kept in balance. The histrionic leader who keeps the manifestation of his or her personality in check, will often be sensitive to the needs and problems of others, is empathetic, a people person who invests in relationships, friendly, and socially adept, among other things. By contrast, when operating to the extreme of their personality, this individual can be emotionally volatile, overly dependent on the approval of others, and given to jealousy.

Another example is antisocial leaders. At their best they tend to independent, gutsy, confident and self-sufficient. At their worst they are often irritable, indifferent to the needs and feelings of others, and unreliable.

5 steps to balancing your personality

Family business leaders will usually have no shortage of employees ready to tell them all about their personality flaws – the ‘perk’ of having family members working with you! While their insights are of course of value, self-analysis as well as some more distanced insight should not be neglected if you are serious about working on your personality to the benefit of the business.

  1. Take a personality test.
  2. Seek out third-party insight from the likes of a coach or psychologist.
  3. Identify what truly annoys us about others and then ask ourselves why those traits annoy us so much.
  4. Take an active interest in personalities, reading up on them and getting to understand their interplay in the workplace better.
  5. Work to improve your social intelligence. If it’s true that CEOs of family firms are also Chief Emotional Officers, then you need good emotional IQ.

As with most changes in the workplace, things that start or are implemented at the top have a good chance of filtering down to the rest of the ranks. By working on balancing your own personality through increased awareness, interest and understanding, it is to be hoped that others in the business will be encouraged to do the same and consequently even individuals with starkly different or extreme personalities will be equipped to work well together and thrive.

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