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Managing software personnel by the stroke of the pen
Anuj Magazine
Friday, February 1, 2008
Effective organizing involves decision-making based on analysis of data and information. Whether it is for Quality Management System offered by ISO 9001: 2000 or any other TQM recognition award such as Malcom Baldrige National Quality Award or a quality initiative like Six Sigma, the organizations adopt ‘Factual Approach to decision-making.’ This principle, however, mostly deals with decisions about products, processes, sales, and profits as there are proven statistical techniques that aid decision making in these areas. An area that is often neglected while considering data driven decision-making is the one involving the human factor.

Every leader, manager or supervisor in the software arena has a responsibility for managing human resources in addition to the successful launch of products and processes. Further, in the software field, every leadership and managerial position requires an individual to possess certain capabilities pertaining to human resource management because people in these positions are involved in important human related decisions such as selection of the right candidate for the job, ideal team formation, ideal resource and work allocation. It is often noticed that such decisions are made out of gut feeling and intuition without effectively considering the individual’s personality traits. This can lead to wrong human related decisions that eventually affect goals of the team, productivity, and return of investment (RoI) from a particular team. Thus, there is always a need for more realistic approach to decision making in human related areas.

There are certain tools that help draw the character map of individuals. Graphology is one such tool that accurately reveals one’s personality traits. Graphology is a scientific method of identifying, evaluating, and understanding a person’s personality through analysis of the strokes and patterns revealed by a person’s handwriting. Handwriting is a visual representation of one’s thought process. Consider the following situations:

Case study 1: Hiring the right candidate
As a manager of the software group, you intend to hire engineers with diverse technical skill sets. As part of the general interview process that is adopted by most of the organizations, the technical skills get evaluated by a series of interviews by experts and practical tests that give fairly accurate insights into the candidate’s technical competencies. Every job requires an applicant to posses certain soft skills that ultimately play an important role in his or her success or failure as an individual in the profession.

For instance, a software developer, in addition to strong technical skills, would require soft skills such as analytical, problem solving skills, and creative approach. On the other hand, a software tester might require skills such as good attention to details, persistence, and organizational ability. It is important for the organization hiring an individual to spend adequate time in evaluating these skills in the candidate along with technical skills. Usually this is done in a shabby manner in most of the organizations at the tail-end of the interview process when an experienced manager or an HR executive asks the questions. The whole method of evaluating the soft skills of an individual sometimes turns out to be more a subjective exercise.

How can graphology help here? With the help of graphology, one can get to know a lot of personality traits about an individual even without meeting him or her once just by having a look at the handwriting. It would definitely be unfair here to make hiring decisions simply on the basis of a candidate’s handwriting but this powerful medium can be used to ask the right questions during the interview thereby helping to bring out the necessary personality information of the candidate and making more informed decisions. For example., by means of handwriting one can easily know about the thinking patterns of a person. A software developer may require comprehensive thinking ability for most part of his job whereas a software tester involved in manual testing would do well with cumulative thinking ability. Having this knowledge before-hand, the interviewer can ask the right questions aimed at judging the thinking patterns in an individual.

Case study 2: Relaying the right feedback
Feedback sessions or a one-on-one meeting between the employee and the manager is one of the most important conversations that eventually define the success or failure of employee-manager relationship. Of the many traits that graphology helps one know is an individual’s sensitiveness to criticism. The people who are over sensitive to criticism do not always take feedback the right spirit as they may become quite defensive during such sessions. Knowing this information in advance through graphology can help a manager handle the feedback sessions more effectively.

Conveying to an employee what he needs to improve upon, should obviously be based on facts, but the role of the manager does not end there. It is equally important for the manager to help the employee improve upon a certain aspect under discussion. Having an accurate understanding of the employee’s personality traits helps the manager drive the necessary improvements in an objective and effective manner. This is where graphology can be of immense help.

Likewise, there are innumerable situations where knowing the personality traits of a person before-hand can add enormous value to the evaluation process. Graphology is indeed a useful tool that helps achieve exactly the same. I am sure by this time you might already have a lot of questions about the credibility and the scientific base of the art of graphology. Let me try to address some of these:

How does graphology work?
Handwriting is an instantaneous photograph of your mind. Your nervous system acts as a wire from brain to hand. Your muscles coordinate elaborately in the process of writing. It begins with a thought in your brain, which is transmitted to the central nervous system and then to your hand and fingers, the latter are only the vehicles that execute the commands from the brain. Since the hand is natural tool to put down a thought in a graphic manner on a surface the resultant ‘writing’ is called ‘handwriting’.

Does graphology accurately reveal one’s personality characteristics?
Graphology does not work on intuition or guess work - it is a science. The accuracy of this science in revealing the personality traits depends upon the skills of the practitioner. In my experience, I have found this to be as accurate as 95 percent. It’s not my claim but the admittance of the people whose handwriting got analyzed.

What kind of personality traits can be revealed using graphology?
In general, more than hundred individual personality traits can be revealed fairly accurately using graphology. It becomes much more when one considers precisely the impact one trait has on others.

Handwriting analysis provides glimpses into the subconscious mind, emotional responsiveness, intellect, energy, and traits such as thought patterns, self esteem, ambitions, concentration, attention to details, ego strength, diplomacy, enthusiasm, fear of success, fear of failure, self consciousness, and many more.

Is there anything one cannot tell analyzing the handwriting?
Handwriting cannot reveal one’s age, gender, nationality, religion, whether the writer is left-handed or right-handed, and the future of the individual.

Graphology has a great potential to become a powerful tool in the managers’ toolbox. It definitely helps in better understanding of people and greatly minimizes the intuitive approach in dealing with human resources. It’s not something that is too difficult to learn as more than anything else it involves desire, passion, and interest.

Welcome to the wonderful world of graphology!

The views in this article are my personal thoughts on the subject and it does not depict these being a practice in my current or previous organization.

The author is Test Manager, Products, Citrix Systems Inc. He can be reached at anuj.magazine@citrix.com

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