Regardless what organization you represent, or what service or product you’re offering, you better believe that your number one priority has to do with understanding people—the clients you work for, the customers you serve, and the colleagues you work with, and how best to communicate with them.
Yes, it’s good to know your audience, what their role is, what their interests are, but how often do you think about modifying your approach according to an individual’s personality? Especially for someone internal to your organization? And do you ever wonder how others see you? Chances are you’re likely to spend more time thinking about what you want to communicate than how others will respond to the way you communicate.
You may argue that there are too many different personalities to customize your approach. According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, there are 16! You couldn’t possibly understand them all. And even if you could, unless you’re going to pitch something important to a client or a leader within your organization, is it really worth the effort to try to understand the personalities of those you work with? Here’s why it is—
- Fundamentally, it makes you a better communicator. And communicating well with others leads to better results in terms of collaboration and productivity as a whole. You drive better results.
- You increase satisfaction in the workplace. When you understand the personalities of those you’re trying to communicate with, you decrease conflict by knowing which communication approach makes them more receptive, and you learn about their strengths and weaknesses, leading to the formation of a team that feels more understood and connected.
Since understanding how to engage with 16 different personalities is a bit of a stretch, you should know that psychologists have identified five major personality types, which everyone possesses some degree of. These include:
- Conscientiousness. People who rank highest in conscientiousness are efficient, well-organized, dependable, and self-sufficient. They prefer to plan things in advance and aim for high achievement. People who rank lower in conscientiousness may view those with this personality trait as stubborn and obsessive.
- Extroversion. People who rank high in extroversion gain energy from social activity. They’re talkative and outgoing and they’re comfortable in the spotlight. Others may view them as domineering and attention-seeking.
- Agreeableness. Those who rank high in agreeableness are trustworthy, kind, and affectionate toward others. They’re known for their pro-social behavior and they’re often committed to volunteer work and altruistic activities. Other people may view them as naïve and overly passive.
- Openness to experience. People who rate high in openness are known for their broad range of interests and vivid imaginations. They’re curious and creative and they usually prefer variety over rigid routines. They’re known for their pursuits of self-actualization through intense, euphoric experiences like meditative retreats or living abroad. Others may view them as unpredictable and unfocused.
- Neuroticism. Neurotic people experience a high degree of emotional instability. They’re more likely to be reactive and excitable and they report higher degrees of unpleasant emotions like anxiety and irritability. Other people may view them as unstable and insecure.
While narrowing people down to five categories is helpful in terms of understanding how best to engage with them (for those who are willing to take the test and share their results), there is also an exam that groups people into one or a mix of four business personality types, developed through the Deloitte Greenhouse Experience group. Personally, I like this test as way of classifying the personalities of the individuals you work with, as you can classify people based on their behavior vs. asking them to take a test and share the results with you. This test is especially helpful as it is designed for business and they offer great recommendations on how to engage and relate with someone you spot with that personality type according to your own.
- Pioneers value possibilities and they spark energy and imagination. They tend to be creative thinkers who believe taking big risks can produce great outcomes. They are outgoing, spontaneous and adaptable.
- Guardians favor stability, order and rigor. Likely to stick with the status quo, they are deliberate decision-makers who are practical, focused on detail and reserved.
- Drivers value change and they generate momentum. Direct in the approach to people and problems, they are technical, quantitative and logical.
- Integrators value connection and tend to draw teams together. They are empathetic, diplomatic and focused on relationships. They acknowledge nuances and tend to see things in shades of grey rather than black and white.
Complete these short tests and take some time to learn more about yourself and those that you engage with regularly. What you learn may surprise you!