Cultural Fit Is Not About Personality Matching

The biggest risk in hiring someone into a team resides in whether they're the right 'cultural fit'. This is because skills, qualifications and past performance are easily identified but assessing experience, values and attitudes is far more difficult. It's the less obvious factors that differentiate and determine greatness in any role or career – the things that come out under pressure or temptation.

"Many people who claim to have 10 years experience have 2 years repeated 5 times"

Experience and wisdom can be uncovered with the right interviewing techniques and there are many different profiling tools to identify personality. Here is a comparison of the most common personality descriptors. Hippocrates was first to identify the four basic types of personality in 400BC and his ancient terms of Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholy and Phlegmatic are mapped in the illustration below. I've highlightedDr Tony Alessandra's terms in bold because I think they are the most intuitive for business people. Florence Littauer also mapped Hippocrates' terms and correlated them to the bracketed descriptors above each column which also helps to paint the picture.


Over three decades in selling and leading teams and companies, I've formed the strong view that Drivers are best for business development with Amiables to be avoided because they have a personality / operating style averse to creating any positive tension in a relationship or conversation. Matt Dixon and Brent Adamson found through their Corporate Executive Board (CEB) research that 'Relationship Builders' are least able to execute the Challenger method due to their amiable ways.

Success in business-to-business selling today demands that we lead with insight and a willingness to be positively provocative in creating value. We need to be the signal amidst the noise for customers who are seeking to be saved from the destructive forces of commoditization and disruption.

But in seeking Driver personalities for business development we then become vulnerable to the negative side ofLone Wolf Hunter Warriors who can have negative secondary 'look at me, look at me' Expressive traits or manipulative Analytic characteristics. Yes, every personality trait has both negative and positive sides and my table below provides a summary.


"But personality traits do not equate to values alignment or cultural fit"

I've learned that personality is only one part of what determines success... intelligence, values, beliefs and attitudes are far more important. I've written about Leadership Secrets From The Inside and here is the illustration used in the post. You can see that personality is only one part of the equation.

Here is my main point. When we hire people or become involved with others in business it's very easy to be lured by the facade or stand-out factors. We must take the tome and effort to go deeper.  Psychometric testing identifies intelligence and personality type, and the better tools add operating style (which provides clues about values). We can test for skills and knowledge and we can validate track record. But in focusing on these things we fall into a horrible trap.

"We tend to hire based on skills, qualifications and experience, yet we fire based on poor cultural fit"

The biggest mistake a manager can make is to hire the wrong person because they consume huge amounts of time and energy while damaging your personal brand. It's not easy to find the real person behind the facade and it requires more time and energy to get to the truth... but hire based on their values, attitudes and work ethic. Yes we need intelligent people but they must also be committed to continuous unlearning and relearning. They must believe that their value in the workplace comes from the results they deliver and the positive difference they make through attitude and effort.

Whether they be employees or partners, we need values alignment with people with whom we share our cause. This does not mean that we surround ourselves with mini version of ourselves. The best leaders value diversity and surround themselves with those who bring a different perspective and positively challenge to ensure the team is not blind-sided.

Next time you are considering a new hire or a potential partnership in business... dare I say next time you're qualifying a prospective customer; ask yourself whether they share your values. You first need to clearly define your own values which are the behaviors you exhibit and the way you operate. It will make a world of difference in building the right team internally and externally and protect you from failure.

"Don't confuse personality matching with cultural alignment and remember that just one person in your team with poor values can destroy your personal reputation and corporate brand."

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker

Main image photo from Flickr.