We continue the discussion of leadership and the Five Factor Model (FFM), which can be remembered with the mnemonic OCEAN. Remember, skillful leaders have been shown to be high in Openness (O), Conscientiousness (C), and Extraversion (E), and low in Agreeableness (A), and Neuroticism (N). Today we will discuss conscientiousness.

The second personality trait of the FFM is conscientiousness: This refers to a person’s approach to their work, life, and relationships. A person high in C tends to be organized, dependable, self-disciplined, and goal-directed. A person low in C tends to be a procrastinator, lack focus, and be casual about responsibilities. Do you want to be the work colleague who is known for getting things done, done on time, and done well or do you want to be the person whose co-workers groan when on a team with you? Here are some ways to be more conscientious.

1. Do what you say you are going to do. No excuses. Yes, it is that simple.

2. Listen to what others are seeking. You might think that sending out the meeting agenda on Thursday is acceptable when the meeting is on Friday but what if your boss wants that agenda on Tuesday. Listen to what others expect of you and ask questions to clarify if you have different expectations.

3. Set limits and boundaries. Face it, you can not do it all. If you say “yes” to everything everyone asks of you just to be polite and then are overwhelmed and not able to follow through, you become unreliable. Recognize what you are capable of accomplishing and if you are not able to deliver, it is alright to say “no.” Do not feel guilty. And if you do not have a choice about accepting a responsibility, talk with the other person in relation to your concerns about completing the task, that is problem-solving.

4. Admit mistakes. No one is perfect and perfectionism is an unrealistic goal. You will mess up. When you do, do not try to minimize the mistake, deny it, or make excuses. Simply say “I made a mistake and I will work to correct it.” However, check yourself to monitor how often you are saying this. Too often and you might just be slipping into that unreliable category.

5. Develop strategies. Some people are just more organized and punctual than others. Take a moment to self-reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, then develop strategies to address your weaknesses. Not organized…hire a consultant to tame your inbox, label files, develop a system, and all that jazz. Not punctual…set your clocks 15 minutes behind. Have trouble remembering…make a to-do list daily and weekly.

Click here for the first part of the series on openness.

Stay tuned for next week when extraversion is discussed.