Before you read this post about Obligers in business – check out this quiz and Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Four Tendencies which will describe the principles I’m discussing.
The Four Tendencies tell a LOT about how you operate in the world – and in your business.
Obligers make up the largest percentage of the population, so it’s worth looking at how to optimise your business as an Obliger business owner, and to understand your Obliger customers.
This is the second article in a series of four – here’s the first article, about Questioners.
This blog outlines what makes Obligers tick, and how they can get the best out of this tendency when running their business.
Let’s start with an overview of the type.
Gretchen defines an Obliger as someone who:
“accepts outside rules, but doesn’t like to adopt self-imposed rules.”
In a nutshell, this is the person lives to please, support and help other people – usually at their own expense.
The Obliger may lack confidence in themselves, or may simply place a higher value on helping other people or meeting their responsibilities to others, ahead of their own needs and wants.
Obligers are externally-motivated, so they are driven to do, purchase or engage in something based on what other people think, or want them to do.
They often operate from a position of serving others and wanting to be liked, and/or appreciated.
They are (usually) not very accountable to themselves because they put others first.
They feel that in business, good service and low pricing are the most important things.
Does this sound like you, or someone you know?
The Obligers’ downfall is that they may give too much of themselves, until one day they snap and lash out (in their own gentle way).
Obligers in Business
Effective Relationship Builders
My opinion is that Obligers are usually very successful in building connection within customers, suppliers, partners and staff their business.
That’s because Obligers usually get a whiff of someone else’s unrest or pain before that person even realises they’re suffering.
Then, they reaches out with compassion, a soothing voice and the offer of help so that the recipient feels better.
This means that the people who work with Obligers feel supported, valued, trusted and nurtured.
But things may not go smoothly for all Obligers.
Because they give so much of their time and energy to others, Obligers often find themselves working long hours for little money, and with no time for themselves – overwhelmed and anxious.
And then there is the breaking point – Obliger Rebellion.
The thing with Obligers is that they eventually get fed up with “all work, no respect” or no recognition – and they snap.
This can happen to both business owners AND employees who are Obligers.
Here’s an example of how that could play out for an Obliger business owner:
Tanya has done EVERYTHING for her customer.
She cancelled a netball game to field the customer’s enquiry at a time to suit the customer.
Tanya gave her customer an extra long first session, and then cut her lunch meeting short to post out a hand written message with a welcome freebie.
Her prices were already low (fair, she thought), but she also discounted the price for this customer who didn’t seem to have much money.
When her customer had to cancel her second session at the last minute, Tanya understood….or…maybe there was something wrong with the first session?
Tanya spent the next hour writing her customer a carefully-worded email, saying it was ok, and things happen, and let’s reschedule.
She wanted to make sure the customer liked Tanya and felt supported enough.
Three days later, Tanya’s client cancelled again, this time with even LESS notice.
Tanya was so fed up – all her efforts were going unnoticed – AND – she had discounted her already-cheap session.
“What does this woman want?” thinks Tanya. “What am I, a doormat?”
She’d spent so much time giving her all, yet felt unappreciated, and a bit hard done by.
It tipped her into Obliger Rebellion.
Beyond the normal sleepless night worrying about her customers, Tanya felt angry this time.
She ruminated on the situation for two days, then eventually called the customer – defensive and angry.
An argument ensued and Tanya hung up feeling intimidated and let down….resolving NEVER again to take on THAT kind of client.
Does this sound familiar?
Despite the tendency to give too much, Tanya is very empathetic, compassionate and a good listener, which makes for engaging customer service.
She also knows that running a business requires her to be clear and confident about her offering and pricing, knowing that her customers’ engagement is not so much about her, it’s more about how ready they are to buy and/or engage.
With a little bit of help, Tanya could move forward in leaps and bounds.
In this case, Tanya could make big improvements by:
- setting clearer personal boundaries and working on being firmer on these
- developing a clear business plan with non-negotiable business parameters and boundaries
- outsourcing tasks that feel ‘difficult’ or ‘pushy’,
- getting enough time for herself so she doesn’t fall into Rebellion
- working on a ‘sales conversation’ that feels comfortable and un-salesy, and
- getting a business mentor or coach to help her stick to a business schedule which achieves her personal AND business goals, while still supporting her customers.
Obligers are wonderful bosses (and coaches) in terms of their human interaction and nurturing.
While can be great with people, they might struggle with business systems and/or management.
Because they put others first, other areas of their business suffer.
They may end up slashing prices, creating a pile of ‘personalised’ (= different) agreements or services that are unwieldy and inconsistent, not following procedures.
They tend to get on best with customers or staff who are like them – giving, reasonable, people-focused and flexible.
Obligers can be wonderful listeners and cheerleaders.
However, staff members or clients who are assertive and/or are Questioners or Rebels might feel very frustrated with the Obliger, who appears clingy or subservient in comparison to themselves.
In a coaching sense, a Obliger coach can build great rapport and relationship but might ‘judge’ or smother their client with sympathy (careful!) or compassion.
An Obliger coach might also leave the client unsatisfied through coaching without courage (e.g. unclear boundaries and goals, letting them off the hook, not enough exploratory questions).
Here’s an example of how an Obliger coach might feel when they run a coaching session.
Toni was worried about whether she would ask good coaching questions and give the client real value in the coaching session.
She spent the session alternating between listening, and working out where to use the questions she practiced.
She didn’t want to pressure the client to be specific with behavioural goals, so left them as fairly general.
At the end of the session, Toni wondered if it had been value for money for her client, who was still unmotivated.
What was the real outcome of that session, anyway? What had she really DONE for that client?
In a nutshell, overextending yourself for others is actually more about you (and your performance/worth) than about your client, and it makes for unclear boundaries and intangible outcomes.
The successful Obliger is the one who can set fair boundaries and focus on the client’s needs in a healthy (objective) way – by stepping back and acknowledging that the client is in charge of their own actions, decisions and outcomes.
The greatest consideration for business owners is that they meet the needs of their Obliger clients in a healthy way.
Obligers will rarely complain – to your face.
They will more likely get upset (eventually) and then tell everyone else behind your back.
If you have Obliger clients, it’s important to notice them, listen carefully and reflect what you hear so that your customers feel heard, supported and cared for.
It was the start of another busy day and Jody noticed a new customer walk into her office, looking timid.
She buzzed around as she normally would called out ‘be with you soon!’
Then the phone rang, and Jody grabbed it, putting a finger up to the customer to wait a minute and she’d be there.
A moment later, Jody turned around and heard the door bells jingle as the lady left her office – who didn’t want to be any trouble to Jody who was obviously busy!
In the end, Jody lost a customer who didn’t want to bother her or get in her way.
In this case, Jody could have walked over immediately and ignored the phone to make time for a genuine connection with this lady and ask a few questions about her needs.
Luckily, it takes a lot for Obligers to truly walk out on you – they will forgive you for many things before they reach Rebellion stage!
But expressing empathy and giving undivided attention will win the heart of your Obliger customer, and the little special touches will be very much valued and appreciated.
After all, it takes one to know one.
Do you have Questions?
Got questions about tendencies in business?
Want to know how to boost your business and overcome the hurdles of an Obliger?
Get in touch and find out how you can optimise the way you work and get the most out of your tendency.