Incredibly, very few people know how to do things. In addition, many of us do not even know that different people work and execute things differently. Too many people work in ways that are not their own, and that guarantees a null performance and performance.

For knowledge workers, asking “how do I perform?” Could be more important than asking “what are my strengths?”.

Like our own strengths, the way each one performs is unique. This is a personality fact, be it of birth or upbringing. The personality is a natural fact and this obviously is formed long before the person goes to work or perform the task. And how a person performs is given to us, just as in what the person is good or not. The way a person develops can be slightly modified, but it is not very likely that he can change it completely. And, certainly, it is not very easy.

Just as people achieve the results thanks to what they do well, they also achieve those results by working in the way they do best. A few common personality traits usually determine how a person performs.

The first thing we should know is if you are a reader or like to listen. Very few people even know that people can be readers or listeners, and that rarely people are of these two types at the same time. Even very few know which of these two typologies they are. But some examples could show us how much harm it makes us to ignore this:

When Dwight Eisenhower was supreme commander of the allied forces in Europe, he was the most loved by the press. His press conferences were very famous for his style; General Eisenhower showed total control over any question he was asked, and he described any situation and explained any policy in two or three elegant and beautifully polished sentences. 10 years later, the same journalists who had admired President Eisenhower now had it in open disdain. He never responded directly but changed the subject and ended up mumbling about something else. And they constantly ridiculed him for massacring the English language in incoherent answers and grammatically flawed.

Eisenhower apparently did not know that he was a reader, not a listener. When he was the supreme commander in Europe, his assistants made sure that each press question was presented written at least half an hour before the conference began. Then, Eisenhower was in total control. When he was elected president, he was succeeding two listeners, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman. These two men knew that they themselves were listeners and both enjoyed open press conferences, with impromptu questions. Eisenhower may have felt that he could do what his two predecessors had accomplished. As a result, he never heard the questions that journalists asked him. And Eisenhower is not even the most extreme example of a non-listener.

A few years later, Lyndon Johnson destroyed his presidency, in large part, because he did not know that he was a listener. His predecessor, John Kennedy, was a reader who had assembled a group of writers as his assistants, making sure they wrote for him before even discussing their memos in person. Johnson kept those people among his staff – and they kept writing. He, apparently, never understood a single word of what they wrote. And yet, as a senator, Johnson had been excellent; for parliamentarians must be, above all, listeners.

Few listeners can be converted, either by others or by themselves, into competent readers – and vice versa. The listener who tries to be a reader will suffer the fate of Lyndon Johnson, while the reader who tries to be a listener will suffer the fate of Dwight Eisenhower. They will not succeed or succeed.

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