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Versatility: Is the Focus Entirely on Others?

Language plays a critical role when working with people from cultures throughout the world, and sometimes we take it for granted that everyone will interpret concepts in the same ways that we do. While different interpretations can cause communication problems, they can also be an opportunity to revisit and clarify thinking around important ideas.

A few weeks ago we were meeting with a leadership group from one of our international clients and discussion turned to the concept of Versatility. One of the participants questioned one of the ways in which TRACOM explains Versatility. He wondered whether people with high Versatility are always focused on reducing the tension of others, or whether this behavior can sometimes be meant to reduce one’s own tension as well. He speculated whether there can be a self-serving aspect to practicing high Versatility.

Historically, TRACOM has discussed Versatility as a continuum ranging from lower Versatility, which focuses on reducing one’s own tension, to higher Versatility, where the focus is on reducing the tension of others. Our client’s statement got us to wondering about this explanation. Since TRACOM revised the Versatility model in the early 2000s, we are now able to provide individuals with detailed feedback about specific aspects of Versatility, where this was not possible with the earlier measurement system. People now receive information about skills such as perseverance, creativity, conscientiousness, empathy, and the ability to communicate effectively, among others.

So is it still reasonable to view Versatility as entirely focused on making others comfortable? After all, our research has shown that high Versatility is related to individual’s personal success, so it has tangible personal benefits. Behaving reliably, showing creativity, and persevering to achieve goals certainly helps our co-workers, but these abilities can also serve to further one’s own causes and career. Therefore, while there’s no doubt that high Versatility makes other people’s lives easier, it also helps the person who is showing high Versatility. As the saying goes, what’s good for the goose is also good for the gander.

Perhaps the dichotomy between focusing on others’ versus one’s own tension isn’t a dichotomy after all. A person who is behaving with high Versatility is helping his co-workers, but he is also helping himself. This is perfectly reasonable, and research has shown that emotionally intelligent people have greater engagement in their work and are more committed to their organizations.

We believe that when people display high Versatility they are truly thinking about others, but of course it’s possible to consider your impact on others while also meeting your own needs. Therefore, it is not either/or behavior. Instead, high Versatility is truly a win-win.

If you would like to weigh in on this issue, please leave a comment.

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