Managers Have To Practice Conscientiousness

A manager's success is actually about conscientiousness, not competition
A manager’s success is actually about conscientiousness, not competition
Image Credit: Fabio Venni

When a manager is looking to use their manager skills to add someone to their team, what are the qualities that we should be looking for? Sure, we often go looking for a future team member who will be driven, aggressive, and focused on reaching their goals. However, is it possible that we’ve been getting this all wrong? It turns out that the personality trait that predicts success at work more than any other is associated with some very different tendencies: What we should be using our manager training to look for in new teammates is conscientiousness.

What Is Conscientiousness?

It turns out that conscientiousness is the most potent, non-cognitive predictor of workplace performance. When managers talk about personality, conscientiousness means being diligent, considerate of others, orderly, in control of oneself and generally playing by the rules. Perhaps we should not be surprised to learn that research has shown for years that this overall trait is a strong predictor for all sorts of key positive outcomes such as academic and work success, marital stability, a long life and well-being.

In a new study data was used from dozens of earlier studies across countries, occupations and career milestones, from education to job application and evaluation. The researchers looked at how conscientiousness relates to 175 work-related variables including motivation, performance and emotional well-being. One of the things that it predicts is an absence of counterproductively really well. It turns out that people who are higher in conscientiousness just don’t engage in those types of destructive, disruptive behaviors.

This might not be all that surprising to managers: that being thoughtful is a plus when working with other humans, or that it also correlates with being goal-oriented, reliable and dependable especially during team building. The study revealed that conscientiousness isn’t as strong a superpower in all settings. The positive benefits of the trait did appear to be a little weaker in high complexity jobs. It will be important for managers to consider other measures, such as cognitive ability measures or other personality measures like openness to better forecast performance in more complex jobs.

How Can Managers Use Conscientiousness

As managers, we’ve always been trying to determine how we can help the members of our team to perform at their best. In order to make this happen, we’ve been looking for those people to add our team that we think will benefit the team the most. All too often this has meant that we’ve gone looking for hard-charging individuals that we thought could accomplish just about anything. However, in recent years there’s been lots of research and talk about the importance of traits like self-control and grit, which is really a mono-syllabic way of saying perseverance. However, it turns out that they’re really a part of the same larger trait.

When it comes to conscientiousness managers need to take a step back. What we need to realize is that this is a feature of our team members that can help them to contribute more to our teams. Managers need to think about this like conscientiousness is the mother construct and these are the children – these sub-traits fall under the umbrella of conscientiousness.

What managers really need to be looking for in their team members are people who are going to be able to get along with everyone. What this means is that the team member features that we should be seeking out favor back scratching over back stabbing. What does this look like you say? Consensual, workplace-appropriate back scratching, is what we should be looking for. Managers who are conscientious people will understand what this means.

What All Of This Means For You

Managers always seem to be in the process of adding new people to their teams. When they are doing this, they need to have a clear understanding of the types of characteristics that they should be looking for. All too often we go looking for aggressive candidates that we feel will be able to achieve their goals. It turns out that what we should be looking for are candidates that practice conscientiousness.

What does it mean for a team member to be conscientious? Managers need to understand that this means that someone is diligent and considerate of others. Studies have shown that people who are conscientious don’t engage in behaviors that can be self-destructive. Conscientious people get along with other people better. However, being conscientious a personality factor may be a little weaker in high complexity jobs. Team members who are conscientious will often have a number of other desirable traits. We want team members who are going to be able to take care of other team members.

Going forward managers need to make sure that they are looking for the right type of people to join their team. Instead of seeking out those people who will be focused on achieving only what we have told them to do, they need to broaden their view. We need to be seeking out workers who are conscientious. These are the people who will be the ones best suited to helping our entire team achieve more.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: What’s the best way for a manager to tell if a job candidate is a conscientious person?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Managers, at least the good ones, realize that we don’t know it all. Sure, back in the day we went to school and took a lot of classes. We learned a lot. Then we went out and got jobs. Since then we’ve probably not been learning that many new things. As the world in which we work continues to spin and evolve, we understand that there are a lot of things that we probably need to take the time to learn about. Things like agile development, that new 5G wireless technology, even things like emotional management. The problem that we all face is to find the time that is needed to learn new things. How can we make this happen?