Every entrepreneur, business owner, manager, or corporate executive has a unique skill set and distinct mental library of lived experiences. And while we all approach business from individual strengths and weaknesses, there’s one challenge that resonates with each of us: managing and leading people.
The trouble with managing and leading people is that there’s no singular roadmap. There’s no universal guideline or rule of thumb. You can’t copy and paste techniques like they’re lines of code and expect to get the same outputs.
People are different.
Every individual has unique and proprietary personalities with different ways of viewing the world.
As a business leader, do you know how to manage them all?
Do you understand the importance of tailoring your approach?
Whether you have a small startup with five team members or a multinational organization with 900 employees, you need an individualized approach that allows you to maximize strengths, overcome weaknesses, and move people towards a common goal.
The Importance of Personality Diversity
We can all agree that diversity in the workplace is a good thing. It’s beneficial to have variety in the workforce. But diversity goes beyond simple surface-level characteristics like race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and age.
If you want genuine diversity in the workplace, you also have to hire people who march to a different beat than you.
You need people who think, process and act differently.
You need folks with distinct personalities.
Personality – which is basically the collection of behaviors, thoughts, and feelings that make a person unique – makes for a good measuring stick when hiring. Because while an individual’s roles, titles, and responsibilities may change over time, their personality does not. This makes it one of the few constants you can rely on.
But – and that’s But with a capital “B” – personality is also one of the factors that make management and leadership so challenging.
When you hire people with different temperaments and dispositions, you can no longer implement the same processes and strategies and expect to get identical results across the board.
In fact, you can kiss predictability goodbye.
However, once you sweep predictability out of the way, you’re free to harvest other benefits – such as creativity, balance, adaptability, efficiency, and perspective.
The secret to success is hidden in how you manage and lead across the personality spectrum.
The 8 Personality Types Every Leader Encounters
If you’re familiar with the fields of neuroscience and psychology, perhaps you’ve run across a theory that scientists refer to as the “Big Five.” This theory essentially says there are five basic dimensions of personality. They are: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
Each of these five categories represents a range between two extremes. For example, openness represents a continuum between extreme openness and extreme close-mindedness.
From a psychologist’s perspective, the fact that every individual’s personality is the combination of where they land on five different dimensions or spectrums is intriguing.
From a business perspective, it creates challenges.
If you want to manage and lead people well, you have to do so with purpose and finesse.
And while the combination of the aforementioned dimensions paves the way for an unlimited number of distinct personalities, it’s helpful to simplify.
Whether you’re the business owner of a small venture or the director of human resources at a Fortune 100 organization, the majority of people you encounter will fall into one of the following buckets. How you manage and lead these people will determine how successful you can be.
Introverts are, by definition, quieter and less likely to self-promote. This causes them to blend into the workplace. However, research suggests that as much as 25 to 40 percent of the population falls on this side of the spectrum.
Introverts are inward-facing people who internalize thoughts and feelings. They’re energized by solitude and have a limited capacity for external stimulation. As such, they enjoy working by themselves.
When it comes to managing introverts, avoid aggressively pushing them towards social engagement (like large team projects). Doing so will simply drain them and minimize their effectiveness. The better approach is to put them in one-on-one situations and/or individual work assignments. Give introverts time to process information, as well as a platform to display their creativity and conscientiousness.
If introverts are on one side of the spectrum, extroverts land firmly on the other side.
Extroverts let it all hang out. They externalize their thoughts and feelings and gain energy by being in social situations. Being alone and isolated makes extroverts feel antsy.
To make the most out of extroverts, put them in situations where they frequently rub shoulders with others. However, make sure you build in some structured individual time (as they won’t make it a priority on their own).
- Type A
Type A people are ambitious, goal-oriented, and hypersensitive to time. They hate to waste resources and want to maximize every minute of every day. They’re so occupied with achieving a specific outcome that they often neglect important steps along the way. Type A employees are also ultra-competitive and will do anything to avoid losing.
Having Type A people in the workplace is a good thing. However, too much Type A personality can lead to a hostile, stressed-out, all-or-nothing environment that bounces from one extreme to the next.
The key to managing Type A people is to keep them challenged with new tasks and projects. You’ll also have to keep them balanced by forcing them to leave work at a decent time, or showing them how to delegate tasks to others.
Finally, show Type A employees how much you appreciate their hard work. They rarely take the time to pause and appreciate themselves – so little gestures go a long way.
- Type B
If Type A people are focused on the outcome, Type B employees are more interested in the journey. They’re experiential, adaptable, and willing to embrace sudden changes. They’re also steady and less susceptible to stress, which makes them ideal for high-stress situations and environments.
Type B employees typically respond well to hands-on management and collaboration. They thrive in group settings and thoroughly enjoy being in the moment.
The key challenge with Type B employees is keeping them focused on goals. Make sure you are continually reminded of the importance of achieving the outcome. You’ll also have to keep an eye on their schedules to ensure they have enough consistency in their daily routines to achieve flow.
Occasionally you’ll run into an Ego Maniac and it’s imperative that you address these people right away.
The Ego Maniac is all about himself. He thinks he knows best in every situation, even when he’s surrounded by people with more experience and better insights. He ignores advice and resists direction.
The Ego Maniac believes everything should revolve around him.
Ego Maniacs bring some positives to the table – like assertiveness and a willingness to buck trends – but they can also be cancerous to an organization.
When managing Ego Maniacs, don’t try to face off with them. Instead, be assertive, set clear rules, and distance yourself. Above all else, make sure you hold them accountable. It’s okay to question the status quo, but intentional rule-breaking can’t be permitted.
- Yes People
If the Ego Maniac is a “my way or the highway” kind of person, Yes People will say “yes” to anything without thinking things through.
Yes People tend to be people-pleasers. They may be cooperative and willing to do whatever, but they lack assertiveness. This can undermine their productivity and lead to over-committing.
From a leadership perspective, Yes People need to be put in situations where they understand it’s safe to be honest. Give them time to respond and make sure they understand the responsibilities that are attached to saying yes. The key challenge is getting them to do what they say they’ll do.
Debaters rarely say “yes” without first fighting back. They enjoy taking on contrarian opinions, even if they don’t personally believe what they’re saying.
Debaters aren’t comfortable making a commitment or reaching a conclusion until all sides have been considered. They’re analytical and confrontational, but not always in an egotistical way. They often want what’s best for the company and will fight for what they believe in.
Debaters need to be strategically positioned within the company. You don’t want them working directly alongside Yes People, as they’ll dominate these interactions. They should be carefully monitored so that you can spur them on to action.
You’ll occasionally run across someone who is disengaged and apathetic. These people need to be challenged on a regular basis. They also need accountability. If they feel like they’re on their own, they’ll turn inward and ignore everything else around them.
Disengaged employees can be lazy, but they also have the potential to do great things. The key is to bring out this potential by getting them to participate.
If you can’t get a disengaged employee to buy-in, they’ll need to be removed. A failure to do so will suppress your company culture and could risk further disengagement from other employees. (Introverts and Type A employees are especially at risk of becoming disengaged.)
Quick Tips for Immediate Results
Even when you boil personality down into eight common types, it can still feel a bit overwhelming.
But don’t tune out.
You’ve just equipped yourself with an arsenal of powerful insights.
In order to apply this knowledge within the context of your own business, there are some simple truths you should grasp. For example:
- Listen more than you speak. The number one mistake leaders make when managing people is talking too much. They associate leading with being loud, when the fact is most good insights come from listening. As you attempt to understand the personalities of your employees, force yourself to step back and soak up.
- Friction is not bad. Any time you throw a bunch of personalities into a single office, conflict is normal. But the quicker you realize that friction is not a bad thing, the better off you’ll be. Embrace conflict as a healthy battleground for improvement.
- Consistency and conformity are not equal. There’s much to be said for having people buy into core values and reach for a singular set of objectives. However, consistency and conformity are two separate ideas. Be wary of asking for total conformity, which essentially requires people to abandon their personalities. Instead, create an expectation that people will align with your mission in a manner that’s consistent with their individual personalities.
- Respect is the name of the game. You won’t always agree with someone’s personality or how they handle a situation or responsibility. At the end of the day however, respect is most important. Be proactive in how you deal with the big things, but keep the little things little.
- Get to know yourself. It’s easy to get so lost in analyzing and addressing the personalities of your employees and business partners that you never take the time to assess yourself. Get to know your own personality and understand how it impacts your management style and your approach to leadership.
Developing a Tailored Approach to Leadership
If you pick up a dozen books on leadership and management, you’ll get a dozen different rules, strategies, and frameworks for success. However, the truth is there’s no singular prescription for successfully motivating people to maximize potential.
Leadership is more nuanced than a New York Times best-selling author would care to admit. It requires a basic understanding of human psychology and a willingness to embrace the fact that diversity is more than skin-deep.
Successful leadership isn’t about crafting a slick company motto or making people feel warm and fuzzy.
Successful leadership is about understanding who people are.
It’s about prioritizing individual strengths and neutralizing weaknesses.
It’s about reaching down and addressing people at their own individual levels.
How can you optimize your approach to leadership and management in a way that prioritizes distinct personalities and helps move people from where they are to where you want them to be?
Answer that and you’re on your way to being an effective – and rare – manager.