This article was based on episode 014 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and Stitcher.
Diversity in the workplace is getting a lot of much-deserved attention these days. As we build awareness of and increase the range of diversity, we must consider personality types. As managers, we need to be capable of working with and leading people who have different personality preferences than we do.
In episode 014 of The Modern Manager podcast, I speak with Rob Toomey, President at TypeCoach. TypeCoach helps companies improve communication and achieve goals through the application of personality type, specifically the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The TypeCoach approach can be applied to many aspects of work from interactions in meetings to individualized management to generating innovative company solutions.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PERSONALITY TYPES in MBTI?
MBTI or Myers Briggs Type Indicator is one way to understand behavior. According to the Myers and Briggs Foundation, “The essence of the theory is that much seemingly random variation in the behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment.” Many people are familiar with the labels of extraversion and introversion, which refer to where we source our energy - externally or internally, respectively. In addition to this aspect, there are three others:
how we process information: Intuition (big-picture) versus Sensing (details);
how we make decisions: Thinking (logic) versus Feeling (impact on people); and
how we approach structure: Judging (planning and execution) versus Perceiving (spontaneous and flexible).
Each of these four topics falls on a spectrum, and we all fall somewhere on the spectrum. It's a matter of what feels most natural to us and not necessarily what we're good at. We all have the ability to perform each of the eight functions, and can develop ourselves to become even better. It's important to remember that there are no personality types that are preferable; they are just different.
HOW TO MANAGE DIFFERENT PERSONALITY TYPES AT WORK
Most of the time, we function in our natural default mode. This means we use the communication style that feels most comfortable for us, but that may not work best for those we’re communicating with. So when you manage someone who has a different personality type, “adjust your style to get on that person's frequency,” advises Rob. When you do so, you’re more likely to have a productive and meaningful conversation. So what does that look like in action? Here are a few common situations:
Introverts in Meetings
Introverts do their best thinking when they have some time to absorb and process the information coming at them. If you ask an introverted colleague a big picture question in a meeting without prepping her in advance, she may not be able to give you her best thinking. It’s ideal to inform introverts about content 48 hours before a meeting so they can begin their thought process and arrive ready to share their thoughts.
You can also include a round robin check-out at the end of the meeting as a ‘last chance’ to share anything on your mind which you haven’t yet shared. This gives introverts a chance to jump in with ideas they’ve been mulling over throughout the meeting.
If you’re an extrovert, you can also adjust your expectations of the introvert, who may not provide the non-verbal signals of nodding and smiling to show that they are engaged in the conversation. This absence of feedback from some introverts can be misinterpreted by extroverts as a lack of engagement or comprehension, when that introvert may actually be deeply engaged, but not showing it externally.
Big Picture Managers
If you're a big picture manager, someone who likes to set the vision and come up with many new ways of doing things, one of the big challenges is working with people who prefer more details and data. This kind of manager should identify which team members consistently ask for or do better with more detailed information and spend an extra ten minutes clarifying the end goal, the process steps, and any detailed information. Even though this may feel tedious, reviewing this information with those colleagues ahead of time will make a considerable difference in the outcome.
Focus Feedback on Four Core Motivations
People can share the same personality type but still be motivated by different goals. Rob explained that there are four primary motivators at work:
a sense of connection and relationships with colleagues;
a sense of duty and service;
a long-term strategic vision, making progress, and improving competencies; and
helping others achieve their fullest potential.
You are more powerful as a manager when you give feedback that speaks to people’s primary motivations. For an employee focused on relationships, frame the feedback in a personal way, like, “I’m impressed by all of your hard work,” or “You’ve exceeded my expectations.” A more logic-oriented manager might naturally point toward outcomes rather than the human side. But for a person who is motivated by relationships, it can be deeply meaningful for an employee to hear how a manager appreciates her, and it can increase that employee's engagement and follow-through.
The same goes for people who are motivated by responsibility, raising their competencies, and helping others. If resonates more deeply when you give specific examples of how they displayed their core motivator. It has a “massive impact on their fuel” for work, says Rob. “When we look at people's core values and we look at their motivation and we look at career transition, often people are leaving organizations because they've been in a drought of satisfying their core values for too long to sustain.”
Pause Before You Give Feedback
How does a manager seamlessly manage the different personality types and primary motivations on her team? This takes practice. Rob suggests pausing quickly before you choose how to deal with a particular situation or person. In that moment, ask yourself: what is the best approach to take in light of this particular person? As Rob explains, “that pause is a million dollar pause because each time you reflect and stop yourself from doing what is your default approach, the way that you would like to be managed in that situation, you increase the likelihood of getting the key that's actually going to open that person's door correctly… as opposed to stomping on their core values.” That pause can make the difference between a highly motivated or disengaged employee.
It’s OK to Feel Uncomfortable and Awkward
Like learning a new language or any new skill, learning how to become a better manager of the various personality types takes time and practice. You may feel like a “fake” at first. But the people around you will likely appreciate your efforts, and with continued dedication, it will feel more and more natural.
PERSONALITY TYPES AND INNOVATION IN TEAMS
The cognitive diversity that comes with different personality types benefits teams. Rob explains, “You need people who are looking at the same situation from a very different perspective who may make a different conclusion based on the same facts, and offer a completely different set of insights that will catapult the team to where it needs to go.”
On occasion, this diversity of approach creates tension. When it comes to brainstorming and innovation, there tends to be two kinds of thinking: light bulb and process innovation.
Light Bulb vs. Process Innovation
It should not be surprising that people with different personality types prefer to innovate in different ways. Big picture people think in terms of light bulb innovation, which is to create a brand new way of doing things that may or may not connect to an existing system or approach. It may be completely unconventional. Detail-oriented people think in terms of process innovation, which involves taking an existing system and improving upon it.
The challenge occurs when both types of thinkers are in the same meeting trying to innovate at the same time. As the big-picture people dream up light bulb ideas, the detail-oriented personalities may dismiss the ideas as unrealistic; as the detail-oriented individuals suggest incremental improvements, the big-picture people may think they’re not dramatic enough to bring about any real change.
“Teams that are able to integrate those two perspectives are more likely to achieve an overall form of innovation that will be more valuable,” says Rob. This can be done by setting aside specific time in the meeting for the light bulb thinking and then transitioning to another period of time for process innovation. When people are clear which part of the meeting is dedicated to which kind of innovation, they can take steps to understand the others’ points of views and find a solution that works.
Becoming a rockstar manager may not be easy, but it does allow you the opportunity to stretch yourself in new ways. How might you adjust your approach in dealing with an employee who has a different personality type than you?
Not sure what your personality type is? Join The Modern Manager community on Patreon and get free access to TypeCoach’s Verifier and additional tools.
Want to bring greater awareness of personality and preferences to your team? Contact Mamie about using TypeCoach with your team.
This article was based on episode 014 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter. Join the Modern Manager community on Patreon and get additional exclusive resources and services.
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