Core Qualities. You cannot be serious ?!

“You cannot be serious ?! You exaggerate !”

John McEnroe
John McEnroe

These world-famous words are from John McEnroe. He shouted them every time he disagreed with the judge on the tennis court.
These are also my words to my best friend when he’s way too impulsive again every time he reduces the upfront planning to garbage again.
How is it possible that we can be so truly convinced that the other one is completely ‘loosing it’? Why do we think that we urgently need to make that clear to him, without questioning ourselves on those moments? Every human being has unique behaviour, styles and preferences. That goes for John McEnroe with his typical style, but also for each one of us. That includes my best friend and myself. Many unique features together cover a gigantic variety, a gigantic collection of differences.
What if we would look at all these differences from a quality – perspective? What would happen if I would not get irritated and shout at my best friend, but instead say:

I admire your ability to make use of the energy of the moment and to open doors already in this stage (even though the planning suggested to wait still for 6 days)” ?

Core Qualities

Management Coach and Consultant Daniel Ofman worked intensively with these kind of questions. He developed an extremely interesting model called the “Ofman Quadrants” or “Core qualities model”. You can find a lot of information about these quadrants and the core qualities on the internet. My purpose here is to share some personal learning and to link them to the model.
You can use this model to find out:

  • what your core qualities are. These are things you do well.
  • which of your behaviors you should avoid (pitfalls).
  • what types of things you should make an effort to do, even though they don’t come naturally to you (challenges).
  • why certain behaviours or characteristics in other people trigger a negative reaction (allergies).

Core Qualities
The model is dynamic :

  • Making too much use of your core qualities leads to a pitfall.
  • Once you’ve identified the pitfalls you can find your challenges. These are potential core qualities that need development. They are the positive opposite of your pitfalls.
  • When you exaggerate your challenge you will find your allergies. Allergies triggers a negative reaction in you. They are the positive opposite of your core qualities.

I like planning things a lot. I am also competent in planning things. But now and then I exaggerate. On those moments on the people around me. Planning gets a kind of ‘holy’ position and becomes the only measure for decisions and actions. When somebody wants to do something or asks for a ‘what’, a ‘how’ or a ‘why’, there’s only one answer for me: look at the planning !
This is clearly a pitfall. Life and reality are of course much more flexible, open, unpredictable and complicated than any planning could cover.
The positive opposite of this pitfall is my challenge. What makes me so sure that the planning is the one and only way forward? Has my friend meant to disrespect the planning on purpose? What was his purpose anyway? What can I learn from his approach? Shouldn’t I become a bit more ‘flexible’ and less a ‘planning addict’ ?
Becoming aware of this challenge is a great though confronting experience. It may lead to an even newer awareness: the one of the allergy. If too many people, and certainly those I care about most, seem to disregard the planning, disrespect all the work done upfront, and finally, do not seem to appreciate my efforts to ‘follow and trust them’ without planning, then I will ‘turn myself off’. I will turn myself completely into a “whatever” – mood. Of course after having shouted “You cannot be serious ?! You exaggerate !”
That basically means that I stop caring about the progress. I am even capable then to throw away ‘my’ planning myself and switch myself off until somebody clearly convinces me of a new approach.
Sounds familiar? I don’t know. What I do know is that going through these quadrants, being fully aware of them at regular moments, has been a very interesting process.


I have learned to be grateful to have pitfalls. There are no core qualities without them !
Your manager appreciates your flexibility which might be due to your lack of structure.
Your ability to resolve problems and make decisions is based on your ‘pushy’ side which is not always appreciated.
I have learned to be aware that criticism I receive may tell me more about my core qualities.
Criticism tells me that I might have gone too far rather than there is a lack of qualities. When you are confronted with a “You cannot be serious ! Don’t be so…”
• Don’t feel obligated to justify and defend yourself immediately.
• Press the “pause” button.
• Concentrate on this question: “Which of my core qualities am I exaggerating?”
Be grateful for people bothering you.
They are the ones showing you what you need most! Perhaps they do it in an extreme way, but they do.
To prove this, let’s turn our friend Ofman the other way around, starting with the allergy. An allergy is the exaggeration of a challenge. If we follow the logic of the quadrants, this challenge is nothing more than a potential core quality to be developed when we are in a pitfall, such as: I am working too much (pitfall), I should take a rest (challenge).
Applied to interpersonal relationships, we see that the people we feel “allergic” to have the attributes we need most. An empathic team leader reporting to a dictatorial division manager may admire the manager’s ability to express his opinion without hesitation, though he may dislike his excessive authority. A dynamic manager with a black-or-white attitude might also learn a lesson in tolerance.
By becoming aware of the true meaning and power of allergies, as triggers for growth and development, we may succeed in  literally ‘skipping’ them from our personal ‘Ofman parcours’. We may succeed in no longer passing through negative emotions that normally enter our system when we are trapped in our allergies.
In my case the pause button is really helping. Whenever I feel emotionally and physically allergic towards someone or something, I really try to pause. This gives room to for consciously focusing on what this person or situation has to offer. What should I develop ?
In this way I discover my challenges. They are in fact a very useful “supplement” to my core qualities. This idea of supplement comes from a blog by Vincent van Vliet.  I liked that notion very much because I indeed feel as if my core qualities together with my challenges make a great team !

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