I was recently asked to be part of a panel presentation sponsored by the Chicago-based accounting firm Kessler Orlean Silver. The topic was “Soft Skill Development: The Importance Of Personal Attributes On the Job.” For my portion, I discussed The Impact Of Psychology On Business. Psychology is often an overlooked, yet important, domain in business relationships. So I have decided to write a five-part series on the personality traits of skilled business leaders, known as the Five Factor Model (FFM). Here is the first post.

Business and Psychology…two words that often are not linked together. Yet, recognizing, and maximizing on, the interplay of psychology and business, can help you and your team in terms of increased motivation, morale, goal-driven behaviors, and customer acquisition and retention. In psychology, five dimensions are used to describe the core human personality make-up. This is referred to as the Five Factor Model (FFM) and can be remembered with the mnemonic OCEAN. Skillful leaders have been shown to be high in Openness (O), Conscientiousness (C), and Extraversion (E), and low in Agreeableness (A), and Neuroticism (N), although flexibility is also important as different situations and scenarios often require different skills. Typically personality traits are thought of as unchangeable yet personalities are not static.

The first personality trait is openness: This refers to a person’s openness to new ideas, experiences, and activities. A person high in O tends to be curious, imaginative, and independent. A person low in O tends to be practical, conservative, and prefers repetition. Skilled leadership involves being open, as this enhances creativity, fosters critical thinking, and leads to more thought-out decision making. Here are some ways to enhance your openness.

1. Try something new. Even something small like trying a new cuisine or taking a different route to work can break the cycle of routine and predictability and open your eyes to an entire other world of possibilities. Make a list of all the things that you “will not do” and start taking things off that list.

2. Do not be ruled by fear. Most often we do not try new things or set forth alternative ideas due to the fear of failure, of being criticized, or of being embarrassed. Sure, these outcomes may happen yet it will not be the end of the world and if you do not try, you will never even have the opportunity to experience positive outcomes.

3. Ask meaningful questions. Compare asking “What are everyone’s thoughts on this idea?” versus “What are the pros of this idea? What are the cons? What are some other ideas?” The latter encourages critical thinking and examination and conveys an openness to alternative strategies.

4. Watch your non-verbal cues. Even if you feel that you are being open, sitting with your arms folded, your legs crossed, or facing away from whomever is speaking sends the signal that you are a locked door. Rather, open your arms, lean towards whose talking, and make eye contact.

5. Avoid judgement. When you hear an idea that makes you want to laugh out loud or immediately be dismissive, take a mental time out. After all, laughter is often a response to surprise and a surprise might just contain a nugget of a good idea. So think about what might actually work or be beneficial.

Stay tuned for next week when conscientiousness is discussed.