play to win

Such a simple question, but what a profound difference! A recent article in HBR [ ] shows that this aspect of personality can trump others when it comes to determining fit.

Play to win

‘Promotion-focussed’ people are comfortable with risk, dream big, and think creatively. They play to win – but in their haste and optimism they sometimes come unstuck because they fail to plan for the unexpected. On the other hand, those who are ‘Prevention-focussed’, and who plan carefully and pay attention to detail to make sure that nothing goes wrong, may be better at telling the good ideas from the bad, but are often uncomfortable if they cannot take the time to follow due process.

Both types are needed, of course. Most people show some characteristics of both at different times, but most have a dominant focus. People will often find the preferences of someone with the opposite focus hard to understand. Where the relationship is important, this matters.

When I shared this idea with a consultant friend, it gave her a new insight into what had happened in her relationship with a recent client. Although her experience had been an excellent fit with the client’s requirements, and she had therefore expected everything to go very smoothly, the engagement was terminated early with recriminations on both sides. Seen through the lens of this idea, my friend’s promotion-focussed style was always going to seem threatening to the prevention-focussed CEO, leading to attempts to constrain her activities – or, as she saw it, to stop her doing the job she had been engaged to do.

So when you think about taking – or recruiting to – a new job, make sure you know which focus you have, and think how this fits with the person on the other side of the table.

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