The personality trait which creates success.

The personality trait which creates success.

The personality trait which creates success.

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Why conscientiousness people are so successful

“Highly conscientious employees do a series of things better than the rest of us,” says the University of Illinois psychologist Brent Roberts, who studies conscientiousness.

To start, they’re better at goals: setting them, working toward them, and persisting amid setbacks. If a super ambitious goal can’t be realized, they’ll switch to a more attainable one rather than getting discouraged and giving up. As a result, they tend to achieve goals that are consistent with what employers want.

Roberts also owes their success to “hygiene” factors. Conscientious people have a tendency to organize their lives well. A disorganized, un-conscientious person might lose 20 or 30 minutes rooting through their files to find the right document, an inefficient experience conscientious folks tend to avoid. Basically, by being conscientious, people sidestep stress they’d otherwise create for themselves.

Being conscientious “is like brushing your teeth,” Roberts says. “It prevents problems from arising.”

I’ve seen this concept quite a number of times over the years. It’s true.

And, it’s generally used to substantiate the following line:

Conscientious people also like to follow rules and norms. You can spot the conscientious kids in the classroom. They sit in their chairs, don’t complain, and don’t act out–which also, of course, contributes to earning good grades from teachers.

Though few have the guts to add the following line:

While conscientiousness doesn’t correlate with high SAT scores, it does predict high GPAs.

Even fewer have the nerve to tie the pieces together.

Because, what it is really saying is that people who act like good little soldiers get good grades from teachers (who want, yep, good little soldiers) but those good little soldiers approval marks for compliance don’t in any way result in good test results.

But, the research is still correct — The only major personality trait that consistently leads to success is conscientiousness. The problem is, educators and business leaders can’t seem to tell the difference between conscientiousness and simple compliance.

And, we educate for compliance — at the cost of both creativity and conscientiousness.

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