Often, a personality trait an individual possesses manifests differently in his or her personal life than in professional settings. More specifically, traits societally considered bad or perceived as weaknesses can, for one reason or another, be professionally advantageous. And because of their counterintuitive nature, these qualities can easily be overlooked, undervalued, and disregarded to the detriment of unwitting entrepreneurs and business owners. Here are some of the traits to stay attuned to when evaluating employees.
Among many brilliant observations Albert Einstein made was this one: "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?" Tough to argue with that one. And he wasn't alone--other famously messy yet successful figures include Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, and Steve Jobs.
Conventional wisdom dictates that a messy desk or workspace is a breeding ground for disorganization. For me, that's true--when my space is clear, so is my brain. But messy doesn't always translate to disorganized; sometimes, what looks like a mess to an onlooker is organized chaos for another.
If you are looking for highly creative people, know that a disorderly environment has been found to signal a departure from conventionality, leading to creative and innovative thinking. It can also be a sign of prioritizing other, more productive things over spending time keeping things tidy. I think the important thing to keep in mind is not to value neatness over productivity.
In her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain writes, "There's a word for 'people who are in their heads too much': thinkers."
There is a misconception that being introverted is bad and being extroverted is good; professionally, it's simply not been my experience. Some of the best and most productive employees I've had the pleasure to work with were introverts. As Cain suggests, introverts are deep thinkers and problem-solvers, and have a tremendous ability to focus on the task at hand. One contributing factor is that they generally don't like to engage in trivial conversations and are therefore less likely to be distracted by water cooler conversation.
The biggest challenge with introverts is uncovering their talents, as they characteristically shy away from tooting their own horn. If you have a team member who is introverted, as a leader, adjusting your communication pattern will go a long way toward identifying their strengths, and gaining their coincidence and trust.
There are a few important things to acknowledge about anxiety: It is real, it is common, and it is not a handicap. I've had some very positive experiences with employees who deal with severe anxiety. Worrying tends to be a symptom of anxiety, and worrying often drives people to gather information. So, you may find that employees with anxiety are good researchers and analyzers.
As an employer, especially at first, such workers can be a little daunting, because when a person has anxiety, it is not uncommon for them to be on edge. It is this edge, though, that I have found propels these individuals to do extraordinary work and solve problems that others deem unsolvable. It seems as if solving the problem at hand is the only way to quell that anxiety.
When I started my career on the audit staff for Arthur Andersen, one of my fellow new hires seemed to be requested on every job. He was a nice guy and smart, as well, but so were the rest of us. What set him apart? According to him, he was lazy. He explained that he had an aversion to doing meaningless work, which often inspired him to find more efficient ways of getting things done. I've thought of this frequently throughout my career, and while I wouldn't be classified as a lazy person, the fact is that laziness has fueled some of my simplest yet most effective ideas.
Of course, there is a line here. I'm not suggesting anyone seek out or reward employees who push their work onto others or are consistently late on deliverables. But if being lazy drives someone to figure out how to shave even a few seconds off of a process, those seconds turn into minutes and minutes into hours, making their efforts quite valuable. So, I try to embrace my laziness whenever an opportunity presents itself, and I make it a point to pay attention to how my employees approach their work as much as I do the results it yields.
Messy. Introverted. Anxious. Lazy. These are not adjectives people have historically been encouraged to admit to, personally or professionally, and generally for good reason--but they're not all bad, all the time. Keep a keen eye and an open mind and you may find yourself pleasantly surprised.