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What Type As can learn from Type Bs: confessions of an easygoing ad man

By Kevin White | President and chief growth officer

May 28, 2021 | 7 min read

I’m an admitted Type B personality. I always have been, and at my age, I know I always will be, says One & All president Kevin White. My defining characteristics (stability and calmness, consideration and thoughtfulness, taking my time) are not always the ones associated with success, especially in the advertising industry. But while Type As, with their breakneck speed to accomplish and competitive spirit, have long been touted as the masters of corporate America, I’m not only embracing my inner Type B, but think it’s high time others start to take a page out of our highly relaxed and excessively flexible handbook.

Type B

Kevin White is president and chief growth officer at One & All – and a proud Type B

Lockdown has been a challenge for planners and perfectionists, with flexibility proving to be the new Holy Grail. At our performance agency for social good, where remote work has made more people titans of their own time and work habits, productivity has skyrocketed. This is a lesson we must take back to the workplace of the future as people readapt to office life.

Clocking in has gone the way of the five-day office work week, and rigid Type A bosses must get in the game or risk isolation and defection from teams embracing life as much or more than professional accolades and corporate success. Troops are tired of giving blood, sweat and tears to companies that measure success in long hours and how many nanoseconds it takes to respond, with little regard for their whole being.

Those days, says this newly empowered Type B, are over.

I’m not advocating a war of personality types. I believe the highest functioning and most productive workplaces are the result of a power couple at the top: a Type A boss who values and utilizes the strengths of Type B team members, and vice versa.

Denise Wong, our agency chief executive, is an ultimate Type A who excels at quick action and forward motion. I balance out the speediest of her impulses by taking a bit more time to weigh risks and rewards. I encourage her to be kinder to herself by making certain she unplugs to recharge and allows others to temporarily take the reins. She counterbalances by nudging me every so often. Together, we make a killer team. The magic and power of self-aware As and Bs working in tandem can’t be denied.

I have often found that my distinctly B traits have led to their own kind of success. I worked with an account manager a few years back who frequently reported to me that our main client was “on the ledge” and perpetually concerned about her business’ program, performance and progress. But as I knew the client well, I became convinced that it was the Type A manager who was pushing her over the ledge with her unrelenting drive for immediate action and impatience for things to play out as she thought they should. I spent much of my time reducing client angst created by her perfectionist account handler, who I in turn encouraged to dare to breathe, to let things play out versus focusing on every minute, unimportant imperfection, to see the wood for the trees. A cringeworthy message for Type As, but one that is immensely important at times.

Sometimes good enough is, indeed, great. Progress, not perfection, is the key to success. And it is imperative to know your audience, be it your client, a co-worker or your boss.

When I worked in the entertainment industry, I had to adapt to an array of Type A power brokers who made their own people quake with fear. I learned two golden rules for dealing with them: don’t be stupid and don’t be afraid. And be succinct and smart, and don’t waste their time.

My ability to adapt to Type A traits is itself a reflection of my B-ness. Because if you’re waiting for those chop-chop, brashly confident Type As to adapt to you, you may need a copy of War and Peace handy.

In the social good space I now inhabit, more Type Bs abound. Many appreciate my calm and collaborative approach, which is perhaps more reflective of their pursuits. I believe my Type B-ness is most manifested in my way of working. I care more about results than winning. I don’t care about credit. My job – through a combination of encouragement and public recognition – is to get the best out of our team. That means in the work sandbox, everyone is free to dig, build or pile in their own fashion as long as they keep their eyes on the prize. Listening and patience make for a collaborative process that focuses on the whole rather than the individual and neutralizes back-stabbing and attention-grabbing behavior.

If my work allows someone else to shine, then I’ll direct the spotlight on them. Because when one flourishes, the whole team wins.

So to all the Type As out there feverishly tormenting themselves in pursuit of perfection, I say:

Slow down. It’s not a race to the finish line, but how you get there and what you’ve created on the other side that matters.

Unplug. Research shows it takes a minimum of two weeks to fully recharge your batteries, meaning you’re wasting your valuable vacation days if your own battery-operated devices are vibrating in your pocket when you should be refilling your tank.

Boundaries. As long as we’re working from home and lack the clear work/life boundary provided by a daily commute, try to keep your personal and work time separate. Create your own beginning- and end-of-day rituals to help you clock out.

Acceptance. If you can’t fully clock out, be kind to yourself and recognize the thoughts that pop into your mind. And make sure you celebrate and leverage the Type Bs around you helping to create balance.

To my fellow Type Bs: remember to always embrace your strengths. They’re inherently more valuable and productive than Type As know. Here’s to helping them learn.

Kevin White is president and chief growth officer at One & All.

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