Dear Vicki: A supervisor at my brother’s company is retiring in the spring and Jim has been asked to apply for his job. Jim thinks it’s a great idea: He’ll make more money and because it’s a supervisory position, he thinks he’ll also work fewer hours. My concern is that Jim is someone who has always loved starting things or making them better, and spends a lot of time in his current position doing just that. I really think the “hands-on” approach he takes now is what the company appreciates about him. But in a more supervisory position, I’m concerned that “hands-on” will be seen as interfering or controlling in a job where he’s just supposed to support ongoing operations. How do I talk him out of this change? Signed: Worried Sis
Dear Worried Sis: Jim is very lucky to have a sister who knows him so well. Your concerns are certainly justified, but there might be ways Jim’s time in the new job could be positive. Let’s take a look at his primary elemental personality and then consider the possible pros and cons of Jim taking the new position.
Based on your description, I suspect Jim is probably a primary Wood personality. Wood people are usually pretty hands-on in their work. They almost always see ways to improve things, too, and are excited (some might say impatient) about getting started. It takes a lot to talk a Wood personality out of a new project or improvement because they love the movement that comes with creating and manifesting almost anything. People often think that the Wood personality is never satisfied, but that’s not really it. Wood people just always see creative opportunity; it’s in their core wiring. A Wood person doesn’t look at something and think, “That sucks.” They look at something and think, “What if?” They really are visionaries.
You don’t mention if the new job Jim is considering is purely supervisory or if he will have responsibility for performance aspects like productivity levels, efficiency, or innovation. If he will be responsible for any of these things, he could do quite well in the new job. Wood people excel at spotting opportunities for improvements of all kinds, including increased productivity or efficiency. And because they love creating the new, they usually embrace innovation wholeheartedly.
However, if Jim’s new job will simply be to supervise a mature and very functional division, you are correct – it probably won’t be a good fit for his primary Wood personality. He is likely to get bored or, as you suggest, meddle where meddling isn’t needed (or wanted). The primary Metal personality is often better suited for this kind of position because they usually aren’t very future oriented; they see the beauty of a process or protocol already in place. And in the Five Elements model, Metal is the only element that has more structure than Wood. If the job is to supervise, Metal people can implement strict boundaries for themselves and others to ensure that the existing processes continue to function perfectly.
That said, Wood people do have a lot of structure, but it’s a more organic structure that grows and develops as needed over time. It sounds like in his current job, Jim hasn’t had a lot of structure holding him back from “interfering” because he’s been appreciated for his hands-on approach. If this is the case, he’s likely going to find it very difficult (really, almost impossible) to manifest the structure it would take not to interfere if change isn’t wanted. This will be a source of frustration for him and probably the people with whom he’ll be working. It will be even more difficult for his potential new employees if the boss Jim replaces is a primary Metal personality because the people he will be supervising will be used to minimal interference.
Given all this, I suggest you share with Jim some of what we’ve discussed. Most Wood personalities realize that creating and improving things is something they love to do. It will be wise for Jim to take an honest look at the potential new job and determine whether it will lend itself to these natural desires of his Wood personality. If so, if upgrading, improving, and change will be appreciated, then the job will probably be a great step for him. But if the position really is about just maintaining a current process, he probably should re-think his enthusiastic response to the job possibility. Blessings to you and Jim!