People as Dogs?

This week, a friend introduced me to some thoughts outlined in a book entitled “$ales Dogs”.  It is an interesting concept: when building a sales team, the manager needs to be aware of different personality types and those types can be characterized in terms of various dogs.  The poodle, the pit bull, the golden retriever etc. comprise your team and they are good at different things.

I confess that I have not read the book and therefore this post is not a book review.  However, the conversation got me thinking about personality types and effectiveness.  The book takes the familiar notion of personality type and builds a metaphor to help make the concept more real for us; especially those who like dogs.  The pit bull is your hard charger; thick skinned and fearless.  The golden retriever is the dog everyone loves; smiling, upbeat, and great at serving.  The chihuahua is your technical expert; detailed and product oriented.  We’ve heard the types before though the dog angle is somewhat fresh.

More Than What We Seem

In my post, We Are More Than What We Seem, I talk about the labels applied to all of us and how we project ourselves.  As I listened to the summary of the book above, I found myself both intrigued and repelled by the concept of dogs as they relate to individuals.  As a dog lover myself, I can relate to many of the descriptions and traits.  But as a leader and student of the maddeningly complex human animal, I find the effort to simplify something so incredibly multi-dimensional quite insufficient.  We love to put everything and everyone into simple to understand categories.  However, when it comes to people, it just isn’t enough.

Blunt Instrument

There is a great line in the movie, Silence of the Lambs, in which Hannibal Lecter is given a personality survey by young Agent Starling.  The brilliant psychopath remarks: “Oh, Agent Starling… do you think you can dissect me with this blunt little tool?”  I can’t help but think of this scene whenever I take a personality test or read something trying to simplify a person’s essence.  We all love to see descriptions of ourselves in clean, complimentary strokes but the truth is that they never quite capture the full breadth of our nuanced selves.

As for the “dogs in your kennel”, I see value in understanding a person’s strengths and weaknesses as well as their tendencies.  However, we sell a person short when we conclude that their chihuahua personality is not capable of serving like a golden retriever or that the pit bull can’t understand the more technical elements of a solution.  There are simply too many variables.

Finding the Right People

One of the reasons this particular book came up in the conversation was our discussion around the difficulty of finding the right people for sales positions.  As I considered the canine categories, the various types of sales, and my own organization, it dawned on me that the simple truth is that hiring the right person is a reflection of timing, relationship, personality, motivation, and experience.  There are right people and wrong people for every time of our organizational lives.  And, there are right and wrong organizations for every time of our professional lives.

Those same people could be successes or failures at different moments along that continuum.  The size of your organization, breadth of responsibilities required in any given position and their intersection with a person along his or her own development path is an amazingly dynamic interaction.  The answer is no less complex that how we choose any relationship – we certainly have preferences but in the end, the success or failure is built, one day at a time through choices, situations, and reactions.

Seeking to Understand

In short, keep looking for ways to comprehend the human animal.  Just remember that you will have to build the best situations and people will always have the capacity to surprise you.  And if you choose to seek out the right dogs for your team, do what my friend suggested and keep looking for the mutts.