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Journey 12 – Programmed for Success: Personality Profiles in Triathletes

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ETPA Journey

What follows is a brief introduction to personality profiling, its uses and a brief analysis into how it can be applied to triathlon… Particularly in Ironman Triathlon.

What is Profiling?

A personality profile is developed by measuring an individual’s behaviour. Through observation or self report, future behaviour can be predicted with a certain degree of accuracy. It is a means of measuring an individual’s personality in a particular situation. Profiling can provide an insight into an individual’s preferred or normal patterns of behaviour, what is comfortable for them, and what they can sustain for long periods of time.

What are the benefits of Profiling?

Profiling is useful because it can help determine how someone is most likely to act/react in a particular environment or situation. It can also be useful in an individual’s development, job choice, or how/where they would fit into a team environment. People maps indicate that up 25% of the recruitment process should be determined by personality profile. It could also be used to determine one’s suitability to ironman.

Jung & Briggs Myers

The theory of psychological type was introduced in the 1920s by Carl Jung. This was further developed by Isabel Briggs-Myers in the 1940s and 50s. Extracted from the Myers Briggs.org website the following helps further explain the notion of type and also provides a link to a table that lists and describes each of the 16 personality profiles http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/:

Favourite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).
Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).
Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).
Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).
Your Personality Type: When you decide on your preference in each category, you have your own personality type, which can be expressed as a code with four letters.

The 16 personality types of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® instrument are listed here as they are often shown in what is called a “type table”.

 
DISC Profiling

DISC analysis further describes personality profiling in individuals through categorizing people under set descriptors determined by the prevalence of characteristics in their personality/behavioural profile. These are:
 
Dominance: People who score highly here are active in dealing with problems, and low D scores are experienced by those who like to do lots of research before committing to a decision. High D people may be described as demanding, strong willed or ambitious, whereas their counterparts would be conservative, cautious and modest.

Influence: Those with high I scores influence others through talking and tend to be emotional, where as those with low I scores influence others through data and facts, and are described as reflective, logical and critical. High I scores are described as convincing, enthusiastic and demonstrative.

Steadiness: High S people like security and don’t like sudden change; they are calm, predictable, consistent and unemotional. Low S people are restless, opinionated, and unsystematic, and tend to challenge rules as they like independence.

Conscientiousness: Persons with High C styles adhere to rules, regulations, and structure. They like to do quality work and do it right the first time.  High C people are careful, cautious, and tactful. Those with Low C scores challenge the rules and want independence and are described as self-willed, opinionated and careless with details.

DISC
Figure 1: DISC profiling
Source: Ron Pollack

Gap Analysis

Gap analysis is a way to describe where you are, where you want to be and how time impacts outcome and performance. Modifying behaviour can help ‘close the gap’ between these two points or situations. This ability to modify behaviour is known as behavioural flexibility/adaptability or, emotional intelligence. It explains the ability of an individual to adjust their behaviours to suit different environments, people and situations. Hence, this is a critical tool, and important factor in learning and development. It is those athletes/coaches/teams/individuals that can adapt their behaviour that are most successful, and this is a very common trait among successful ironman athletes and professionals. Often, these two go hand in hand! 
 

Wired for Success: Understanding Personality Profiling in the World of Triathlon

 Have you ever stopped to consider the common traits of Ironman athletes? Aside from their physical attributes and genetic make-up, what else sets them apart from the rest of the population? Allowing some time to think about these questions and a little research into personality profiling will highlight the prominence of certain personality types being drawn to ironman triathlon, and other long course triathlon events. Such people are generally highly successful in their professional life and may include CEOs and business owners. Common traits might include being highly competitive, persistent, strong willed, self motivated, passionate, driven and goal orientated.

What we can learn from this – The implications for Coaches and Athletes

Of the 1,744 people who participated at Kona in 2005, there were 78 business owners (equal to the number of professional athletes), 49 executives, 83 managers, and numerous other professionals (Gunn, 2006).  It is evident with a little research into triathlon circles, that this trend has continued and is actually quite common. There are now corporate triathlon series across the world, and they are all growing in popularity. It seems that many of the qualities that are required to be a triathlete are also important in business. Furthermore, traits such as being competitive, motivated, self disciplined and goal orientated are all traits of successful professionals such as CEO’s and business owners.

Having a certain personality is comparable to most professional endurance athletes having a particular body type. These traits, such as persistence, also help endurance athletes when following a training program. It is very common to hear of a committed ironman age grouper rolling into work after several hours on the bike that morning. According to clinical health psychologist Jenny Susser, attempting each and every session provides a sense of achievement and confidence because they have done all they can to reach the finish line. It is their personality, however, that drives them to do this day in, day out. ‘’It seems they also have an innate ability to manage or accept pain,’’ says Susser. Whether it is to focus on technical aspects of swimming, cycling and running, or to switch off and distract themselves, Ironman athletes manage pain well, which again stems from their personality profile.

Chances are if you are drawn to endurance sports such as Ironman, then you already demonstrate many of these traits, but it is not something that is typically discussed in triathlon literature. It is an interesting concept that helps describe the people involved in the sport and explain why people are drawn to it. Research and anecdotal evidence suggests that one’s personality profile and accompanying traits may actually see them naturally attracted to the challenge of Ironman and similar sports/events.

Acknowledgements
Inside The Endurance Athlete’s Mind, Allison Van Dusen, 22.09.08
Elite competitors test their mental and physical limits in order to compete in the world’s toughest races.
Racing to the Top? Try the Triathlon Eileen P. Gunn 19.02.06
Forbes.com
Peoplemaps.com
Athlete Assessments.com
Topmanagementassistant.com
RonPollack.com

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One thought on “Journey 12 – Programmed for Success: Personality Profiles in Triathletes

  1. Pingback: Factors Affecting Race Day – Part 1: Rituals and Routines

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