Dear Vicki: Last fall I hired a new salesman for our small tool and die company. Ivan came with a stellar track record, so I felt lucky to get him. And for the most part, he has proven to be excellent; our sales are way up. He is funny, very outgoing, and what in the old day we used to call a “live wire,” which I guess is part of what makes him so good at his job. Initially, he was well liked by most of our employees, but as time has passed, several people have come to me privately complaining that Ivan is “too much” or “demanding.” We’ve all ignored it, but lately I’ve considered firing him because he often exhibits inappropriate behavior and doesn’t seem to take the job seriously. There’s a right way and wrong way to do things, and making a sales call dressed like the Easter Bunny isn’t right. At least not for me. I discussed this with my wife, who studies the Five Elements, and she suggested I write you. She said she thinks Ivan is a Fire/Wood. I hate to lose the sales he generates, but he is starting to wear us all down. Signed: Bothered Boss
Dear Bothered Boss: Your wife has done you a great service by identifying Ivan’s elemental personality. Once we understand someone’s priorities based on their elemental personality, their behaviors make more sense. We can also begin to understand why they bother us, or in some cases, thrill us. Your wife didn’t pass along what she thought your primary element might be, but based on your letter I suspect you are a Metal personality. So let’s take a look at what might be going on between you, Ivan, and your staff.
As a Metal personality, you value order and propriety. In your letter you said: “There’s a right way and wrong way to do things.” This is pure Metal, as is a desire for structure and boundaries, and a need to honor them. But Ivan’s Fire won’t care one bit about boundaries or protocol. His Fire can be all over the map, often for the sake of being entertaining. Fires have very little structure. Think of it: In nature, Fire isn’t really physical; it is heat made visible. Trying to rope in a Fire can feel like an impossible task. So why is Ivan able to manage the structure necessary to keep a steady job? His saving grace is his secondary Wood energy. Wood is the second most structured element (after Metal), so that is what helps Ivan keep his act together, so to speak.
As a Fire/Wood, Ivan will certainly be entertaining and outgoing. He will also often have poor boundaries around his joking and fun, especially if his Fire energy is out of balance. The Easter Bunny sales call is a good example. Sadly for Ivan, it’s likely that his secondary Wood keeps his Fire burning brightly, and probably too brightly at times. Because Fire and Wood relate on the Nurturing Cycle of the Five Elements model – with Wood feeding Fire – Ivan has a built-in supply of fuel for his Fire. That means he probably has too much Fire energy quite often. The other issue with Ivan is that if things aren’t going the way he wants, his Wood can become angry or frustrated. This will give a force to his Fire outgoingness that can feel abrupt and demanding, as your employees have mentioned. Finally, you and Ivan relate on the Controlling Cycle, with his Fire controlling your Metal. So it isn’t surprising that your sense of order or appropriateness feels challenged by Ivan. It is being challenged by him via the Controlling Cycle relationship the two of you have.
So what can you do? Must you fire your Fire salesman? No, you don’t need to fire him. But you may want to manage him in a slightly different way than you have been. First, I encourage you to speak directly with Ivan. Offer congratulations on his successful sales, certainly, but then speak to him about the behaviors you and your staff are finding problematic. His Wood will hear everything you say because personal success and esteem matter to Woods. He will want to change to stay in your good graces. Then, I suggest you have a prepared list of behaviors you appreciate in him and a list of others that you would like to modify. The Easter Bunny episode comes to mind here. Again, this structured approach will work well for his Wood, and hopefully his Wood will help his Fire stay in line. Finally, you can create company guidelines for all of your salespeople regarding expectations. Woods do great managing to expectations; so again, this part of Ivan will receive your input well.
To help cool Ivan’s Fire, at least at work and on sales calls, you can try the following suggestions. Decorate your office with lots of blue. This is the color of Water, which is what cools Fire (in nature and in the Five Elements model). Also, request that Ivan always wear blue on his sales calls. Building Water will not only cool Ivan’s Fire, but it will build his Wood (Water feeds Wood in the model) and help his Wood maintain the structure you desire. Over the years, this blog has discussed many other ways to build Water and you can try any of them you want with Ivan (wearing a lapis lazuli or aquamarine stone, using frankincense essential oil, eating salty food, drinking ginseng tea, etc.). However, there is one particular way to balance Fire that we have never mentioned here and that is what I would suggest you ask Ivan to do prior to every sales call or time in the office. Have him place the palm of one hand gently across the back of his head directly behind his eyes, then place the other palm gently across his forehead. He should hold this position for 2 or 3 minutes while breathing slowly. This will definitely calm his Fire without ruining his ability to be engaging and a good salesman. In fact, once he manages his Fire, Ivan could well become the salesman of your dreams! I wish you luck on this and send blessings to you (and your wife)!