Self-Portrait of an “Anchor”

Following my reading of How the World Sees You, I found the opportunity to get a little free professional coaching. Both the book and my coaching activities have focused on how best to “market myself.”

This can be a challenge to me because while I did name this blog Heroic Technical Writing (as a way to convey that I like to develop clear prose that “wins the day”), I’m aware that my actual writing style is not always very flashy. I write from the brain rather than the heart, and many of my most useful skills involve organizing things, setting up systems, or even designing forms.

Many of these traits are emblematic of what Sally Hogshead calls “The Anchor,” an individual whose primary qualities are Trust (someone who garners respect and maintains loyalty through their dependability and consistency in chaotic environments) and Mystique (someone who has an innate ability to listen and to edit their ideas and opinions).

I know what some of you might be thinking: “Woo, gosh, stand back! Dependability? Consistency? Listens a lot? Doesn’t say much? Sign me up for some of that!” Okay, so those traits might not always jump out at you and scream excitement. But really, so what? I’m not wired for a lot of excitement, and that can be a good thing at times. Note earlier where I mentioned organization and system design? Those traits have their place.

Here’s an example of how I operate in a new workplace: for the first six months, I don’t talk much. Instead, I go into “sponge mode.” I listen. I take notes. I try to diagram how an organization handles people, products, and procedures. I get to know the nomenclature (I’m a relentless acronym collector). I try to understand the underlying politics of an organization–how do things really work? Who has the authority and the ability to make things happen? Those aren’t always the same person. I figure out an organization’s tics, “hot buttons,” and in-jokes.

After six months, I’m usually ready to start talking. At that point, I start making suggestions. I identify where there is disorganization and suggest ways to put information into a useful order. I’ll write documents that incorporate information from the entire organization. I establish reference documents and share the information so everyone knows what I know.

If I have a “hot button,” it’s unexpected changes to established procedures–especially if they’re procedures I created with very specific reasons/benefits in mind. Restless change agents make me crazy because if someone suggests a change, I can identify how that change will affect other people in the organization and will often push back if I believe a change is counterproductive. I don’t resist change on general principle but I often need to understand the “why” behind decisions because I understand the cascading effects “one little change” can make. I’m a thorn in the side of innovative leaders who enjoy or thrive on change for change’s sake, but in the end, I like to believe that I make change agents think through their latest brainstorm more thoroughly before they pull the trigger.

Yet in the end, people go through three phases with me:

  1. This guy’s a little odd. Doesn’t he ever talk?
  2. He’s not so bad.
  3. How did we ever live without him?

Because I serve as part of an organization’s “institutional memory,” people count on me to become a local expert on whatever operation I’m in and because I’m loyal to the organization’s goals and stated purposes as I’ve observed them. So again, maybe that’s not terribly exciting to some, but there are usually customers who value what I do…in time.

Not sure how you add value? Here’s the “How to Fascinate” assessment (fair warning: you either need to buy the book to get a code for the assessment or pay $37 for the assessment without getting the book):

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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1 Response to Self-Portrait of an “Anchor”

  1. Kevin Wilson says:

    I too am an “Anchor”. I just took the How to Fascinate test and that is what came back. You really nailed it about us anchors when you wrote “I don’t resist change on general principle but I often need to understand the “why” behind decisions”. I also need to know the why and then ask myself if that makes sense.
    Anyway, thanks for writing the description, it helps explain me.

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