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How To Motivate Your Employees Based on the 4 Temperaments

This article was based on episode 219 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, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Members of the Modern Manager community a free Motivation and Feedback document. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.

Ever wonder why some people love competition and others don’t? Why some seem to never drop a ball while others are only mostly reliable? One way to understand our motivations and core values is through the lense of temperament. The concept of temperament has existed as far back as Plato, and philosophers across time have developed various understandings of temperament to help explain human behavior. As managers, we can leverage these learnings to help us better connect with and motivate our team members. But in order to do so, we must first understand one of my favorite things: personality types!

Rob Toomey joins me for the second time as a guest on The Modern Manager to dive deeper into the 4 Basic Temperaments. He explains what we can do to help each type and what to avoid. Rob is President of TypeCoach, an organization that helps organizations use the insights of personality type to drive better results. Working with 800 global client organizations, he has delivered live sessions to more than 50,000 participants and the TypeCoach online tools have reached more than 185,000 people. Rob is also Managing Director of The Idea Factory, which is focused on early stage app and web site projects. Rob breaks down the 4 temperaments for us in the simplest terms, so we can apply them for maximum happiness and results on our team.


Before we get to the temperaments, it’s important to have a basic understanding of personality type. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator includes four dimensions of preference:

  • Extroversion or Introversion: whether we get our energy from being alone or with others

  • Sensory/Intuitive: how we take in and process information, as well as the ideas we’re drawn to

  • Thinking/Feeling: whether we approach a situation first through logic or our feelings and values

  • Judgers/Perceivers: how we prefer structure and time, whether playful or decisive planning

Rob explains how these dimensions show up as our personalities in episode 14: Personality and Preferences with Rob Toomey. As for temperaments, there are four specific letter combinations that correlate with specific core values and motivators.


1. SJ: The Sensory Judgers (also known as The Traditionalists)

SJ’s account for about 40% of the population. They are grounded, decisive, and plan-oriented. Their core values are reliability and responsibility. They love expressions like “My word is my bond”.

To help your Traditionalists:

If a SJ seems stressed, ask to look at their To-Do list and offer to help take things off of it. Because SJs love to take on responsibility, and always want to follow through, it can be hard for them to delegate when overwhelmed. Your assistance doing that can make a big difference. If that doesn’t work, run a worst-case scenario with them to help bring down the pressure.

Whatever you do, don’t tell a Traditionalist to relax; they are wired to make sure things work out. Don’t remind them when things need to get done; their word is their honor, and reminding them makes them feel like you don’t believe in them. If you want to check in, let them know that you know they’re on top of it, you’re just looking for an update.

2. SP: The Sensory Perceivers (also known as The Experiencers)

SP’s are more playful and relaxed in how they approach getting a job done. Their core value is to make things happen and get impressive results. Thus, they are very action-oriented. They don’t get a thrill from brainstorming. They just want to get from Point A to Point B, preferably without all the hassle of committees and consensus building.

To help your SPs:

Experiencers love to be called “impressive” but hate when they feel stepped on by those who take a more serious, heavy approach to getting work done. They feel demotivated if others are looking over their shoulder and micromanaging. Keep the attitude casual and loose. When a manager can bring a free-spirited approach to their SPs, they produce more.

SPs are often motivated by a good challenge. Turning boring work into a game of speed, or otherwise creating an opportunity for an SP to show off their skills and accomplishments can keep even the most mundane work exciting.

3. NT: The Intuitive Thinkers (also known as The Conceptualizers)

Conceptualizers are focused on future possibilities and new ideas, while still having the analytical bend of weighing the pros and cons. They are conceptual problem solvers who love long term strategic thinking. They love being challenged to raise their competency. Their core value is leaving a positive impact.

To help your Conceptualizers:

Give them context for how the work will make an impact on the organization. Or, explain how the work will personally benefit them as a growth opportunity. Avoid questioning their competency, especially in areas of their strengths; they will react very negatively. Offer praise to a Conceptualizer by letting them know their contributions will make a lasting impact.

4. NF: The Intuitive Feelers (also known as The Idealists)

NFs are future focused on new ideas, but are people and value-centered rather than analytical like their NT peers. An Idealist's core values are helping others reach their full potential, and self actualizing in the process. NFs are tuned into morale. They are the ‘canary in the coal mine’ and can give you early warning signs if your team/organization is struggling.

To help your Idealists:

NFs want to work with people that they care about and have strong personal relationships with. When they feel connected, they go above and beyond to help those around them. Make sure that the environment is one that values connection and belonging, and give them opportunities to build relationships. Get to know the NFs on your team in a personal way. Without connection, they lose motivation.

In addition, NFs tend to dislike competition but love knowing how their actions will help others. To motivate them, connect the work with the impact on people, not only the business.

Within each of us is an engine that needs to be motivated in a specific way. Taking the time to understand each teammate's temperament can be the clue to sparking their internal engine. Start experimenting today and discover what lights your team members up. Then, enjoy the dynamic results this kindling creates.



Get a free Motivation and Feedback document to help you tailor your feedback when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at

This article was based on episode 219 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, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.


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