Personality vs Behavior: Why Focusing on One is Detrimental (Find Out Which One)

If there are things you can do to create better outcomes for your business, would you do it? 

Of course, you would. 

What if I also tell you that it won’t cost you anything extra, would that interest you further? 



Before I tell you what to do, watch this video that has gone viral in the US. It’s about a 20-year old who takes orders at a Chick-fil-A store. 

What Exactly Are Behaviors

Before diving in, what the heck are behaviors? 

Manager Tools defines behaviors as any one (or in most cases, a combination) of the following: 

  1. The words you say
  2. How you say them
  3. Facial expressions
  4. Body language
  5. Work products

I won’t get into the weeds of discussing that in this article as they offer the best resource out there about this topic. 

For now, let’s go back to our video. Did you notice of the use of the words “how may I serve you today?” being used over and over. 

Feel free to play it again if you didn’t catch it the first time. 

If you were the customer, how would that make you feel? Me? I’d be delighted. The person doesn’t interrupt me. Prioritized my needs. He’s not focused on upselling, rather, focused on listening to me instead of waiting to speak up. 

Contrast that with your last visit to another restaurant or fast food chain. How many times did the person taking your order interrupt you while you were still ordering? How many times did they focus on saying their “script” rather than listening to you? 

Why Focusing on Personality Is a Terrible Idea

Popular culture often talks about different personality traits and how we should understand the personality of the other person. 

While there’s nothing wrong with that, that statement is already contradictory. 

Personality, by definition, is a combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character. In short, personality is who you are. Behaviors, on the other hand, can be modified. 

Imagine with me here for a moment. 

Think of an outgoing/extrovert person — a friend, family member, a colleague. Anyone. 

Let’s say you went together to church or a funeral. 

Would you’re outgoing or extrovert friend continue talking in a loud voice or won’t stop talking? 

I highly doubt it. 

Why? Because even if the person has an extroverted personality, he/she can modify their behavior to suit the appropriate environment. That’s why focusing on personality doesn’t get you anywhere in business. It’s what most companies are focusing on. 

And that’s why Chick-fil-A is dominating fast food — all because they focus on behaviors rather than personality. 

Reason 1: Behaviors are repeatable

Let’s go back to our video. 

The person kept repeating the words “how may I serve you today?” 

That’s not by accident, nor is it because the person is outgoing or an extrovert. 

It’s because the company knows that behaviors— more specifically the words you say and how you say them— make a difference. 

That’s how Chick-fil-A claimed the No. 1 spot on the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s annual restaurant report for the fourth year in a row. 

Towards the end of the video, you should also notice the words “our pleasure serving you.” Again, that’s not by accident. It’s a variation of the words “my pleasure” which all employees say instead of “you’re welcome.” 

These things don’t happen by chance. Chick-fil-A has developed an airtight training plan for employees and has added other little details to make locations feel more hospitable and friendly. 

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So, regardless of the personality type, the outcomes are consistent to what the Chick-fil-A wants — which is to make their customers want to come back and spend time at their stores. 

Reason 2: Hiring becomes a problem 

Focusing on personality also brings up another problem — hiring. 

You can’t just hire “outgoing” people for your customer-facing roles. Why? Because you’d end up discriminating and won’t have a diverse workforce. 

I personally don’t know the person in the video (identified as Jeremiah Murrill). But from the looks of it, he is not an outgoing person. Rather, he just adapted his training to create better outcomes for Chick-fil-A. 

He smiles. He listens. He doesn’t interrupt. He uses specific words. 

All are behaviors. 

Remember what I told you at the beginning? If there are things you can do that can create better outcomes and it costs nothing, would you do it? 

That’s how the management at Chick-fil-a sees it. 

They don’t just look at personality traits. Rather, they built a program designed to promote customer service that every employee goes through. 

How many of your employees go through such a training? Which words to use and not use? Which body language or tone of voice give you better outcomes? 

Still not convinced about why behaviors are better than personality? 

You don’t have to take my word for it. 

This superior customer service has helped drive massive growth at Chick-fil-A over the past decade. The company went from $3.2 billion in systemwide sales at the end of 2009 to $10.5 billion at the end of 2018, making Chick-fil-A the third-largest fast-food chain in America.

Over to You

Most people don’t think about the words they say because it’s natural to us. We’re not writing anything so whatever we say is correct, right? 

As leaders in your organization, it’s more important to look at your own behaviors. 

Have you ever experienced talking to someone, and they took it negatively? Even with the purest of intentions, the words you say and how you say them carry more weight. Then we shrug it off as someone being closed-minded. 

But we didn’t take into account the words we said or how we said it. 

And that’s why focusing on behaviors is more important than personality. 

What behaviors are important to your business? Are there specific words that make you appear more focused on your customer? Do your staff keep using “I” instead of “we”? 

Don’t leave things to chance. 

If there are specific behaviors your top salesperson is doing, wouldn’t it be better for your business if everybody in your sales team is repeating the same behaviors?

Ariel Lim

Ariel Lim

Management consultant / MBA / Inbound marketer who helps startups generate leads, create and execute strategies.

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