Shara Yuki Enay Birbirsa
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
This drama queen is a country girl no more. I recently accepted a position with American Savings Bank’s corporate office, so I’m back in the hustle and bustle of Downtown Honolulu — and it feels great! Life on Läna‘i for the past year and a half was fun. I made some great friends and have lots of wonderful memories. I experienced a lot of “firsts” and worked with some amazing people. But ASB made me an unexpected job offer — a great offer — so I decided it was time to come home and explore new opportunities.
My family is happy to have me home (so far) and it’s been good to get back into the routine of weekly family get-togethers, runs to Costco on the weekends and enjoying spontaneous dinners throughout the week. We are a tight crew and I’ve missed spending time with them, so it feels good to be home. Of course, my dad is a little sad that he won’t get to hear about my hunting and fishing adventures anymore, but I look forward to going to the firing range with him and doing other fun father-daughter bonding activities, instead of just talking about them over the phone.
Assimilating back into chaotic city life has been fairly easy. Of course, I love having so many ‘ono food options at my fingertips, which is a stark contrast to Läna‘i, which had only a handful of plate lunch-style restaurants, many of which served the same kind of food. So far, the traffic hasn’t bothered me too much, although I do miss being able to drive from home to work and then to the market in less than two minutes on Läna‘i.
But the one thing that’s been killing me since moving home is Honolulu’s heat and humidity. Läna‘i was so much cooler because of its higher altitude. Even on the sunniest day in Läna‘i City, it was never as hot as it is in Honolulu. Most times, it was overcast and breezy, and in the early mornings and evenings, the temperature was in the 60s, which was perfect sleeping weather. Here, I can’t wait to get indoors and cool off in air-conditioned buildings. As soon as I finish taking a shower, I’m sticky again. Just sitting on the couch, watching TV, makes me perspire — and summer has just begun! I’ve thought about shaving off all my hair just to make the heat more bearable, but that might be a little too drastic a move.
My first several weeks at ASB have been good, but overwhelming. Once I get past the initial information overload that is normal during the on-boarding phase of any new job, I’ll be ready to hit the ground running. I’ve already started to jog, but soon I’ll be in full sprint mode.
For the past six years, Hawaii Business magazine has named ASB a “Best Place to Work” in Hawai‘i company and, after only a few short weeks, I’m beginning to see why. As a new manager, I was invited to attend a two-day training to learn how to manage “the ASB way.” In class, we learned about the organization’s corporate culture, effective coaching techniques, the importance of collaboration and open communication, how to run meetings efficiently and how to appropriately address sticky employee situations that could arise, among other things. I was amazed at how much ASB invests in training its managers. If they added up the cost of developing the training materials, of having 12 managers attend class for two full days, and also account for the loss of work these managers would have been performing had they not been in the training, the investment would be significant — and impressive.
As part of the training, participants were asked to complete something called a DiSC Assessment, which is a personal assessment tool used to improve work productivity, teamwork and communication. It’s supposed to increase your awareness of how you respond to conflict, what motivates you, what causes you stress and how you solve problems, all of which will enable you to be a more effective teammate and manager.
After I completed the online questionnaire, I received a detailed report about my personality and behavior profile and then in class, we discussed ways to effectively work with people from other profile categories. DiSC is the acronym for the four profile categories listed below. Guess which category I fell into.
• “D” stands for “Dominance”: Person places emphasis on accomplishing results, the bottom line, confidence. Common behavior traits: Sees the big picture, can be blunt, accepts challenges, gets straight to the point.
• “i” stands for “Influence”: Person places emphasis on influencing or persuading others, openness, relationships. Common behavior traits: Shows enthusiasm, optimistic, likes to collaborate, dislikes being ignored.
• “S” stands for “Steadiness”: Person places emphasis on cooperation, sincerity, dependability. Common behavior traits: Doesn’t like to be rushed, calm manner, calm approach, supportive actions, humility.
• “C” stands for “Conscientiousness”: Person places emphasis on quality and accuracy, expertise, competency. Common behavior traits: Enjoys independence, objective reasoning, wants the details, fears being wrong.
It was no real shocker that my results indicated that I am a “Di.” “D” people are task-oriented, while “i” folks are usually people-orientated, which basically means I’m a personable tyrant. Yikes! I’m definitely a crack-the-whip, get-it-doner, but I also like to collaborate and, as you all know, I am over-the-top dramatic and enthusiastic, so I guess the assessment is pretty accurate.
According to my DiSC report, D personality-style people tend to be direct and decisive and prefer to lead rather than follow. They are risk-takers and problem-solvers, which prompts others to look to them for decisions and direction. They tend to be self-starters. D-people think about big-picture goals and tangible results. They are bottom-line organizers who place great value on time frames and seeing results. The D may challenge the status quo and think in an innovative way.
And, now, for the ugly side of D-people . . . They tend to overstep authority (so not true!), as they prefer to be in charge themselves (OK, maybe). At times, they can be argumentative and not listen to the reasoning of others (scary true!). They tend to dislike repetition and routine and may ignore the details and minutia of a situation, even if it’s important (so not true; I am all about details). They may attempt too much at one time, hoping to see quick results (story of my life).
As for the D’s personal growth areas, there are many. D-folks may need to strive to listen more actively, be attentive to other team members’ ideas and strive for consensus rather than making decisions alone. D-people can be controlling and domineering at times and need to watch their tone and body language (I’m rolling my eyes at some of this stuff right now) when feeling frustrated or stressed out. The D can be all business and goals and, therefore, may need to focus more on developing personal relationships and recognizing the feelings and desires of others. They need to work on being friendlier and more approachable.
So, to summarize, D-people can get the job done right and fast, but aren’t typically the most popular kids on the block because of their no-nonsense, sometimes overpowering approach. So, people like my work, but don’t really like me? Oh boy. Good thing a little bit of the nicer, more human qualities from the “i” category also showed up on my profile, or I’d have to commit myself to a dark cave somewhere that allowed me to crank out the work, but not have to interact with anyone.
In our manager’s training, only two out of the 12 participants fell into the “D” category — myself and the new executive vice president. We were asked to share our preferences for work environment, teammates and processes, and it was clear during our brainstorming session that we would not be the class darlings once we reported back to the rest of the group. After all, we like people who work hard and fast, don’t make excuses, don’t waste too much time at work gossiping and socializing, non-thinking people, and folks who aren’t open-minded enough to try new things. We were like the slave drivers. While I didn’t completely agree with everything from the assessment (which could just mean I am unaware or in total denial), it was a terrific exercise and I learned a lot about myself and what I need to work on to be a more effective teammate and manager.
Now, if everyone would just stop talking, get to work, do their jobs perfectly — and quickly — and listen to everything I say and not question my authority, I could become effective much sooner.
Shara Enay Birbirsa is a former writer for The Hawai‘i Herald and Hawaii Business magazine. She most recently worked for Pülama Läna‘i as its Community Liaison. Last month, Shara returned to Honolulu to become Employee Engagement and Communications Manager for American Savings Bank. She has been writing this Drama Queen Journals column since 2006.