by Elizabeth Petersen
Dan Oswald has graciously allowed me to take over his blog again, and I thought we’d kick off our week by playing a game that’s been making the rounds on social media: Which three fictional characters best describe you?
I landed on the following characters and personality traits for me:
- Leslie Knope (Parks and Recreation): Purpose-driven and hopeful, surrounded by a great crew of friends and colleagues.
- Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind): Vivacious, scrappy, and maybe a little bit of an antihero.
- Buddy (Elf): Enthusiastic and excitable (and I also believe that the four food groups are candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup).
While this game may seem trite, it can actually be used as a valuable communication tool in the workplace. Try using it as an icebreaker during a group discussion or even in one-on-one meetings. Is it a little silly? Sure. But it also can be used as an exercise in self-perception. And once we better understand how our colleagues perceive themselves, we can start to communicate more effectively.
The heart of communication is understanding, and for a number of reasons, people can be slow to reveal themselves (I’m looking at you, introverts). When we understand how our colleagues see themselves, we can better understand how to hear and motivate them. Have an employee who describes himself as Ebenezer Scrooge? Maybe there’s a damaged but kind soul lurking under the grouchy exterior. He might isolate his peers with his abrupt communication, so encourage him to let his guard down, for the sake of both himself and his colleagues. Got another employee who sees herself as part Jane Eyre? That person might be driven by an extraordinarily firm moral compass. She may be best motivated by purpose, and you’ll need to explain to her how her tasks and goals relate to the greater good.
This game may not be for everyone. But I assure you, taking a moment to learn what motivates your colleagues and how they view themselves is one of the surest ways to improve communication and create a mutual understanding.
What do you think? And if you’re brave, let me know which three fictional characters best describe you in the comments below!
Elizabeth Petersen is the executive vice president of revenue and strategy at Simplify Compliance. Before her current role, Elizabeth oversaw Simplify Compliance’s healthcare division, HCPro. She also has held roles in HCPro’s sales, product management, and content development departments. Before joining HCPro, she held editorial positions at JBLearning and CCI Communications. Elizabeth lives in the North Shore of Massachusetts with her husband and son and is passionately interested in corporate culture, innovation, women’s leadership, and caffeine.