The personality style of the majority of contractors in HVACR closely matches that of medical surgeons. I don’t have any scientific research that validates this belief. However, I have had 30 plus years of observing contractors and, for one reason or another, have interacted with a number of medical surgeons.
Each medical surgeon is a specialist. When my husband was sent to the orthopedist several years ago, it wasn’t just one orthopedist. No, he had to go to one who only did surgery on backs and a different one who only did surgery on hips.
Similarly in our industry, there are installation specialists who design and build sheet metal duct systems for large commercial buildings and those who specialize in residential. The same is true for the service technician who generally specializes in commercial or residential heating and air conditioning equipment. And both of those specialists are very different from the service technician who specializes in servicing refrigeration systems.
Another commonality is personality style. Surgeons, different from most general practitioners, have little or no bed side manner. In other words, the surgeon can often correct the problem for the patient, but don’t expect much if any clear explanation of what the surgery is or how it will be performed. A persistent patient might hear some technical jargon: “Oh, it is only a minor lobotomy.” Surgery, in my opinion, is only “minor” when it is being done to someone else.
Pretend you didn’t see this coming - the same can be said of HVACR field personnel.
Recently, we conducted a communication seminar for Central Oregon Heating and Air Conditioning in Redmond, Oregon. The seminar included a personality style inventory using the Myers-Briggs Assessment tool. (This is similar to the Kiersey Personality Style Inventory, but Myers-Briggs was the original instrument and the one that I was trained and certified to use.)
Everyone in the company – ownership, management, office and field personnel - went through the training and took the assessment. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, 86 %, of the almost 50 people, in the company are Introverts. Only one of the Extroverts in the company works in the field. The other Extroverts are office personnel and salespeople. Again, not surprising.
A misconception is that an Extrovert likes people and an Introvert doesn’t. Not true, but the belief persists because Extroverts emote and interact with people more easily. The Introvert, on the other hand, often seems removed and reserved in his comments and shies away from people interaction.
The Myers-Briggs Style Assessment describes the difference between an Introvert and an Extrovert this way: An Introvert prefers to focus on the inner world and an Extrovert prefers to focus on the outer world. As individuals, we use this focus to both gather and process information about the world. So an Introvert prefers to gather information quietly, without a lot of conversation or interaction with others, and processes information gathered internally. An Extrovert prefers to gather information through interaction with others and processes information by discussing with others. The Extrovert prefers to interact and the Introvert prefers to concentrate.
Back to the comparison of the medical surgeon and a person who works in the field installing or servicing HVACR equipment. Both must have the ability to concentrate on details and to gather and process information without the input of others. After all, it is the surgeon with a scalpel in her hand operating on my lobotomy and I would appreciate her concentration on me and my brain and not on the other people in the operating room. And, it is the technician alone with a furnace trying to determine what is wrong or the installer, generally alone, with the puzzle of an attic, crawlspace, or basement and a piece of equipment to figure out. The ability to gather and process information independently without input from others is critical for both professions.
This is not to say that either profession is excused from the need to interact with the patient or the customer. Sometimes, it is a requirement of a job that requires us to move out of the comfort zone of our preferred personality style.
Some of the best teachers I know are Introverts. People, who did not know these teachers well, would actually peg them as Extroverts. These teachers are more comfortable functioning with their focus turned inwardly, as Introverts, but when required, due to the work environment, can function as Extroverts.
So what is the takeaway of this information?
The majority of service technicians and installers working for you are Introverts and prefer to focus internally. Praise this trait because it actually allows them to be excellent at their job of diagnosing and correcting home comfort problems. And realize that they are not being stubborn or negative about the interaction with customers required by their job – it is just not natural and comfortable. Encourage, motivate, and train your field personnel to interact with the customer more because it is a part of the job. And establish a protocol that the more likely to be Extroverts, office personnel always suggest that the customer ask questions of the installer or service technician if something is not understood.
And, on occasion, hire an Extrovert for the field!
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