How Wide Is Their Personality?

  • By Dan Maxwell
  • August 2022
Woman Using Megaphone — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Personality can be measured in many ways. Some ways are more obvious and clearly important.  For example, the right level of Assertiveness is crucial in Management and Sales roles (for effective decision-making and closing).  The right amount of Detail Orientation sets apart frontline and technical people from upper level managers and business developers.  Combine these traits and you can tell the difference between Initiators and Implementers i.e. those who execute vs. those who strategize.

Here’s a measurement that gets far less consideration – width of personality.

The examples below illustrate how width can be measured by looking at the difference between the traits furthest apart on these TRAITS graphs :


Wide 300x77 1 Narrow 300x77 1What does this mean? Imagine the differences this way: in a room full of people at a corporate event, those with wider profiles “can’t be missed”.  They stand out because of their boldly, clearly and sometimes loudly stated opinions.  They insert themselves into conversations and move on when they lose interest.  They are good at “holding the show” and “working the room.”  Those with narrow profiles are more subdued … exchanging comments with a few closer friends and acquaintances, sticking closer to the topic – and typically, one area of the room.

In the workplace, this translates into a few who create waves and others who are barely noticeable. Wider personalities capture the attention of many and influence larger groups (hopefully for good).  Narrow personalities neither “stand out” nor cause a stir; and therefore, they are the most reliable part of any organization.

Knowing width of personality helps set goals and expectations.

Wider personalities can take on major projects and assignments. Their “reach” extends further.  If not fully engaged, they lose interest, look for other things to do, or simply leave.

Wide personalities – extraordinarily productive – can also be disruptive.

Those with narrower personalities take on one project at a time, complete it, and pick up the next one. They need to break things down into projects – sizable steps.

Narrower personalities are consistent; they can also become overwhelmed.

I was talking with a non-profit leader with a narrow trait pattern. While interpreting his results, I suggested sometime during the day he might want to go for a walk … “or two” he interjected.  No doubt adding to his pressures was the fact that more than one of his staff had personalities wider than his – with potential to pull him in more than one direction.

It’s important to note: other factors such as skills, education, experience – and intelligence, can help to make someone more efficient; but they cannot substitute for the natural stamina of someone with the right width for the job.

Of course, wider personalities have a hard time imagining such limitations. They invite challenges and revel in the competition, fully engaged by the stretch of their personal abilities.  One client with significant “width” shared they had participated in a marathon, bought a boat, taken it to the lake, and put in some time on the job – all in one weekend!

In summary: it’s a good idea to ask ourselves, how much we are expecting of others? Do they have the required capacity?  If so, are they fully engaged?  On the other hand, have we assumed they have what it takes without considering their “width”?

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