People Watching

There’s a fascinating show on Television at the moment, shown at 2pm each week-day on BBC Two.

The show is called "The People Watchers" and follows a series of secretly filmed "tests" where members of the crew test and sometimes manipulate the general publics reactions in different scenarios, followed by reaction and comment from an expert studio panel. This isn’t done for comedy effect (although some of the reactions of the Guinea Pigs can be very funny!) but is done more to see how the majority of people will deal with awkward situations in a real-world environment.

My favourite example thus far was the long queue for a bank cash-point/ATM. The show was testing how people would react to others pushing into the lengthy queue. The first member of the TV crew that walked up to the front of the queue and pushed in without any excuse was – as you’d expect – promptly shouted at and told to sling his hook! But the next man who walked to the middle of the queue and asked the person if he could jump in as he was in a rush and had a "taxi waiting" was allowed to queue jump without argument! This strategy was taken to the next level when the next crew member walked up, jumped the queue and simply muttered to the man behind him "Excuse me, Badgers can’t be trusted". He got away with his queue jump, as did subsequent attempts using a variety of bizarre mumbled excuses – proving that people will generally allow all sorts of behaviour provided it is covered by even the thinnest of excuses!

Another test involved seeing how long people would put up with waiting for a receptionist to pay attention to them when she obviously wasn’t busy. Amazingly, some people waited 10 minutes plus and even watched as the receptionist walked out of the building after putting up a "Gone to lunch" sign!

If you’ve not seen the show, then I’d recommend setting your PVR for it – or you can watch some old episodes over at the BBC’s iPlayer – simply pop "People Watchers" into the "Find Programmes" box.

There’s a lot that can be learnt from observing people’s reactions in this way, and making sure you are aware of general human psychology and common reactions can prove valuable in business. During a recent Conference Call (well worth listening to again via Karl’s site) I heard SMB Guru Karl Palachuk and his guest mention the importance of assessing a potential employee’s personality traits by using the DISC profile method. Where, for example, is the value in employing somebody to be a Helpdesk Technician that spends all day on the telephone chatting to end users, if that person has the sort of personality that generally loathes interaction with others – especially by telephone! That person may, however, make a great Network Operations Analyst or some other role that involves dealing with lots of technical detail and less talking to other people. A DISC profile is just one method of helping you effectively deal with this scenario.

I learnt a lot about myself when I took a DISC profile late last year and then had a coach talk over the results with me. As a result I have made some changes to my own day-to-day work patterns that have seen many benefits for me both personally and professionally. What’s more, I now find myself trying to guess other people’s profiles based on their behaviour – which can be genuinely useful when working out how to deal with a potential new client!

If you haven’t taken a DISC profile but are interested in doing so, feel free to get in touch and I’ll point you in the right direction.

I’m not going to tell you what type of personality type I am, but do feel free to guess – and please… do be kind… my profile says I’m not good with harsh criticism… 😉


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