My life as a PI Controller

May 14, 2018

My life as a PI Controller

By Will Otto May 14, 2018

My name is Will and I’m a Controller. Feels like introducing myself in elementary school again! Now that you know you’re in the trusted hands of an elementary school graduate, let me set the stage by telling you a little bit about myself.

I’m the staff recruiter here at The Predictive Index (PI), the only one we’ve got. I love being a bit of a unicorn but what it means for my daily life is that I do A LOT of selection and assessment work—interviewing candidates and working with hiring managers to talk them through their own assessments of candidates. I also manage the larger recruitment ecosystem and process, so if you ever interview (or already have) at PI, that’s an experience I had a hand in creating on the structural side and hopefully it was awesome! From the first moment we think we might have a business need for opening a new role, to that last, satisfying step of having a new hire set foot at PI HQ on Day 1, I think nonstop about how to make the experiences better for candidates and interviewers.

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On an average day, I spend about 25% of my time talking to candidates. I’m totally energized by hearing smart people talk about the cool and impactful work they’ve done. I spend another 25% working with my hiring managers, my internal customers. They propel searches forward with their  their subject-matter expertise and their energy for growing their teams. The other half of my work is where the variety comes in—cross-functional conversations about how I’m using the software with someone on our product team, brainstorming with my amazing people ops team about large questions that touch all of our work, and following up with candidates to make sure they’re getting an A+ experience. On the most hectic days, I might be doing all of that. That’s our pace at PI and it gives me the permanent sense of being challenged, of being on my toes, and feeling incredibly engaging.

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My behavioral pattern

The PI Behavioral Assessment™ essentially reveals where you fall on the spectrum of Four Factors:

1. Dominance: Dominance is the drive to exert one’s influence on people or events.

2. Extraversion: Extraversion is the drive for social interaction with other people.

3. Patience: Patience is the drive for consistency and stability.

4. Formality: Formality is the drive to conform to rules and structure.

Here’s my pattern:

20180514-IMG_8872My Reference Profile is Controller

From what I’ve been told about us, a Controller is detail-oriented and conservative, with a preference for high quality and technical expertise.

I’m just glad PI allowed me to change my self-identification from “control freak.” Us Controllers love rules, structure, and process and I won’t apologize for it! The first time I was told about my behavioral pattern I was a little confused. Not because the assessment was off —it was spot-on—but by how 6 minutes of my time had spelled out so much of what I’d been struggling to figure out in my professional life. My VP of talent at the time I took the assessment, a wonderful and thoughtful leader, actually used my behavioral pattern in pitching a big research project to me that ended up launching much of the next phase of my career. The Controller sticker on my laptop tells you exactly how I feel about my pattern!

Controller coming through!

Structure, process, and making sure we can build the plane as we fly it—that’s what Controllers can do for you. I’m pretty focused on details, and getting things right. Our high Formality drive means we sweat the small stuff—I re-read the email twice to make SURE I’ve made it as concise as absolutely possible. But our higher Dominance drive combined with that high formality makes sure this brevity doesn’t slow me down. I like being proactive and solving problems ahead of time, in turn satisfying my need for structure. And you might think someone would need a high Extraversion drive to be on the phone as much I am…Nope! My low Patience drive pushes me towards variety and fast-paced work so being on the phone with 3-4 different new people in a day leaves me feeling energized, even though I’m not your typical extravert.

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I once ran a meeting for opening a job rec with PI’s awesome product marketing director Rich. I was peppering him with questions and frantically taking notes: What would success look like in this role? OK, now what kind of work might this candidate have been doing in the past? Wait, let’s go back to success in this role—what would be a metric there? OK, now what kind of phone screen question would you want to have any candidate answer before getting to you?

He turned to me, not missing a beat, and said, “Wow. You ask a lot of really good questions.” There’s that Controller pattern. It means I’m going to ask follow-up questions even though I trust Rich and co.

The dark side of being a Controller

Some of the common traps Controllers fall into is we may be resistant to change if it feels too brusque and we are likely to become uncomfortable in ambiguous situations.

If there’s one thing I dig most about my job, it’s the freedom to do it my own way; Controllers love autonomy in problem solving situations. My boss gives me the big outcomes and our North Star and then she lets me take whatever route I need to get there. But there are times where it’s hard to be that decision-maker, where I fall into the trap of letting perfect get in the way of progress. I’m not a natural “push, push, push” type of person, as seen with my situational Dominance drive, so when I need to call the shots and get into herding-cats-mode, that can be a stretch for me. Alternatively, if I’ve got a day that’s just plastered front-to-back with meetings and interviews, I can find myself what we call B-pleted, where my situational Extraversion drive is just ready to put its head down, slip on some headphones, and do independent work until I regain a little of that energy.

My boss naturally knows this about me. Recently, I had to make a decision about something that I felt a little uncomfortable about. I reported the facts to her and she had an opinion, but instead of bailing me out with what she wanted to do, she flipped the question back to me. It forced me to manage-up my Dominance drive a bit, step out of the risk aversion Controllers usually steer towards, and take on the risk of being a decision-maker. It turned out to be the right decision and was really empowering, but like anything related to stretching and growing, it definitely felt a little uncomfortable at first.

How to work with (and manage) Controllers

When working with Controllers:

  • Give us specifics: Controllers want to know what they’re talking about.
  • Since Controllers like to do things by the book, provide us with a clear definition of responsibilities and authority.
  • Stay on track and on time! Controllers like to run a tight ship.

My boss manages me largely by giving me the big outcomes that are important to our team, and letting me handle those details that my high Formality craves. It gives me a true feeling of ownership over my work. What’s more, it allows me to author structure and process for recruitment that I can bring back to my boss and have her help me work through questions like, “is someone who’s not high Formality going to want to work through this form we’ve got or will you have to own it?” It’s a great check on making sure that as I get us towards a smarter, leaner process I’m creating something that works for ALL of PI, not just my fellow Controllers.

“I’m crazy lucky to have had this experience with PI as a support tool.”

I was the kid who stressed out about other people misbehaving in class so I probably should’ve seen this coming. I was never a planner until after college but once I started doing it, it was a natural fit. I referenced the research project that my former boss gave to me: she knew that with my high Formality drive and low Patience drive I’d feel the sense of urgency to not just do the research quickly and effectively, but to do it precisely. I produced results with that project and as a result, I got promoted into a role where a third of my responsibilities were around creating and operationalizing a sourcing research arm for my employer, a brand new venture for our talent team. It’s effectively how I learned to source candidates and use my once-dormant research skills to advance my career.

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I’m crazy lucky to have had this experience with PI as a support tool because I hadn’t done a lot of research professionally and there wouldn’t otherwise have been any indicator that it’d be a strength of mine. It also showed me that just because I’m detail-oriented and good at tactics, it doesn’t mean I can’t use that same desire for precision and structure to do big-picture work like strategy. Just a real lightbulb moment, of which I’m very proud.

Comments

  1. Hi Will,

    Your post was extremely relate-able to me. I am a controller myself and searching for the next career step that fits my personality… Or better said understanding myself as a PI Controller and how I fit those characteristics into different roles within my career. Often times I feel my strengths are seen negatively (sense of urgency) by management where as applied appropriately they have been very useful to the group. I really connected with your comment about “other kids misbehaving” and have always asked myself why that should even matter to me? But it does because of my personality. Thanks for posting up and hope you have a great day!

    Best, ~Will

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