Dominance (How Jonathan Got His Groove Back)

If you pay close attention you’ll probably get a kick out of how many times you hear me say that “there are two kinds of people”. I’ve always been a very black and white thinking. My mind just doesn’t like shades of grey. Even when something is truly grey my brain just breaks it down into smaller components until it can be resolved with simple black and white answers.

One of the things about this way of thinking is that I find myself labeling people and behaviors. Recently in a conversation with a friend I found myself thinking about the concept of dominance. I was thinking about myself and found myself trying on the label. I was surprised by how well it fit.

Now, let me explain the terminology here before someone gets turned off. The term dominance comes with a set of potentially negative connotations. I don’t want you to apply those connotations to the word in the way that I’m using it. I’m not describing someone who is power hungry or domineering (I would never describe myself that way). I’m using the word to describe how a person is most comfortable interacting with their environment. A dominant person is someone who is happier taking control of their environment as opposed to someone who is happier taking things as they are and working within the existing parameters.

As I was thinking about this I realized that would rate myself as highly dominant in most situations. I don’t ever feel comfortable being subject to the will of people or circumstances if I don’t feel like I’ve been given the change to influence them. To be fair, I don’t have evidence beyond my own personal experience. But I’m theorizing that this is a trait shared by quite a few people who were labeled hard-headed, stubborn or rebellious in their younger days.

As a dominant person I don’t have any problem with the idea of taking charge. In fact, I prefer it as long as it is not something that is more trouble than it is worth. Interestingly, I don’t have a problem taking a back seat or a supporting role as long as I feel that the person in charge is capable and that they are doing a good job. On the other hand, if I’m subjected to a leader that I don’t approve of I have a natural tendency to rebel and begin taking action instinctively to exert some measure of control in my own little space.

At home the dynamic is even more interesting. My wife is also strongly dominant, maybe even more so than I am. As you can imagine, two dominant people don’t always make sweet music together. Conflict is no stranger to the relationship. However, this doesn’t mean that two dominant people can’t get along very well. It just takes more work and understanding. In our case, over time we’ve both developed a good sense of what the other feels strongly about. There are some things that she leaves to me and vice versa. When we need to make decisions in those areas we still consult each other but the final decision will come from the person who feels more strongly.

Changing Gears

I’ve been preaching “know thyself” for as long as I can remember. I feel that people who take the time to understand why they think they way they think and feel the way they feel can affect their own happiness in a way that others don’t understand. I’ve recently been dealing with a situation where I feel like my knowledge of myself in regards to the concept of dominance helped me to make a decision that others might not have made.

This week it was announced that I would be leaving my role as a consultant in Information Management and moving to a different part of the department to lead a major project. Just for the sake of clarity you should know that this is a lateral move, not a promotion. But more importantly it’s an opportunity to dig into something that will make me happier.

I’ve found it interesting how many people questioned why I would take a role like that. I guess they thought that the consulting role was a cushy gig. I suppose it could look like that from the outside. In IM we have “factories” that are responsible for producing structures and data. The people in these factories are assigned to multiple projects at a time and have to deliver specific results by specific dates, project after project. They do some very hard work and they have a lot to be proud of. I think that from their perspective it looks like a consultant job is easy. After all, we don’t have “deliverables” and aren’t held to the deadlines that make their jobs so difficult.

What they don’t see is that we live or die each day based on the factories ability to meet those same deliverables. We’re the people that have to get in front of the customer and explain why something is going to be a week or a month late. Many times we are also the ones revealing that something is going to cost more than originally anticipated and explain why. While the factory is responsible for producing the work, we’re responsible for dealing with the consequences and mitigating the fallout. This is why I would get so deeply engaged in the project that I’d be helping the factory with their deliverables. It’s easier to do the extra work than it is to deal with the consequences of failure.

The hardest thing for me personally was not the work. It wasn’t dealing with difficult customers and delivering bad news. The hardest part for me was coming to work each day and watching my reputation sink lower and lower as a result of things that I didn’t have control over. It was literally eating me up day after day. I’ve talked about reputation on this blog. I believe that people need to build and control their reputation. All of the hard work on the front end is worth it when you can accomplish things at the end of the day that others can’t because of your reputation. That’s why I knew I had to make a change. I needed a role where I could wrap my hands around something, take charge of it and deliver positive results. Not just positive results, surprisingly great results!

I began looking for positions outside of the area. I was passed over for some exciting opportunities that would have been great for my career path, but I put my faith in God and didn’t get overly excited about it. I also maintained a strong relationship with my own leadership. I wanted them to understand why I was doing what I was doing and that it was a function of the role that I was in more than an indictment of the department itself.

Now things look like they are going to work out in a way that will allow me continue to contribute to our department’s success at the same time as giving me the chance to deliver my own results. In a sense it’s an opportunity that represents a challenge and a risk. At risk of oversimplifying, this is an opportunity to put up or shut up. If I am not successful then I will have put myself at risk (particularly with the way things work in the IT industry). At the same time, if I’m successful then I’ll have the chance to push open doors with my results that would have otherwise remained locked forever.

What can I say… sounds like fun.

Until next time, be blessed.


Posted on September 10, 2011, in Real Life and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thanks for sharing this post. It was very interestering and I enjoyed readying it. Now I must go work on my own dominance. ;-p

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