People with this trait are better at goals. Not just setting them, but constantly working toward them, continuing to push forward even in the face of adversity, and ultimately achieving them. Who are they?
The National Institute of Mental Health determined that men with this trait consistently earn more money. The National Institute on Aging found a direct connection with this trait and job satisfaction. And to top it all off, author Paul Tough in his book How Children Succeed, identifies ‘it’ as “one of the primary dimensions of successful functioning across the lifespan, it really goes cradle to grave in terms of how people do.”
CONSCIENTIOUSNESS is the ability to be practical in your dealings, persistent in your accomplishments, and being very well organized in all that you do. All of those factors are being tied directly to success in study after study. Put another way, conscientious people are very responsible, highly organized, and they plan. They are hard workers with extraordinary amounts of discipline.
Eric and Harold were the epitome of conscientiousness. Even though they were complete opposites when it came to personalities, they shared the same level of grit and determination in achieving their goals. Most of us have seen the winner of the Best Picture for 1981, Chariots of Fire. It was a story about two English runners during the 1924 Olympics. Eric Liddell was a devote Scotsman who ran for the glory of God. Harold Abrams was a man of Jewish heritage who ran for the recognition of his rightful place in the world. Even though they were completely different people on the outside, they both succeeded in their goals, becoming a part of history. In fact, their entire success was the direct result of their conscientiousness.
From a business standpoint, in particular a business growth standpoint, there are three areas you need to consider; goal setting, organization, and planning.
Brent Roberts, a psychologist from the University of Illinois, provided some excellent observations in a recent article for Entrepreneur magazine. Conscientious people are great at setting goals. As Roberts points out, if they realize their goal cannot be reached, they will adapt and adjust to establish one that is reachable instead of giving up entirely. They are driven to reach their goals. For the growth of your business, that is good. Keep them setting goals, but be ready to adapt and adjust if they are too much of a stretch.
Conscientious people are well organized. Their need for organization typically carries over from home to work. For example, Roberts says “A disorganized, un-conscientious person might lose 20 or 30 minutes rooting through their files to find the right ‘document’, an inefficient experience conscientious folks tend to avoid. Basically, by being conscientious, people sidestep stress they’d otherwise create for themselves.” For your business, look for those people who show up at work on time.
Another area of success for conscientious people is the ability to plan ahead. Roberts says simply planning “is like brushing your teeth, it prevents problems from arising.” They will have a plan regardless. It might not end up always being a successful plan, but it will be a plan. “Even is there is a failure, they’re going to have a plan to deal with that failure.” says Roberts. From a growth and business standpoint, having someone who plans the work, then works the plan is huge. If they fail at the task, you can still affirm their efforts that at least they tried. Then encourage them to keep trying.
From an academic perspective, conscientiousness is one of the strongest predictors of success. In their book The Longevity Project, Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin share that study after study predicts the best trait for a longer life is conscientiousness. Most interestingly, it has been a trait which has endured the ravages of time and countless studies.
Can you change people to become conscientious? Most experts would agree, the answer is ‘yes’. How easy or difficult it is to change them will depend on many of their other personality traits. The key question becomes, is it worth trying to instill conscientiousness into certain people within your organization? The best answer might be another question, why not try and see what happens?
If you are already a conscientious person, you have a lot going for you. If not, it is never too late to change. Developing this trait can help your business grow as well as help you live a longer life.
Dan Arens is an Indiana-based business growth advisor.