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Know your audience, speak their language, and see your leadership effectiveness soar

Using knowledge of individual temperaments can help you troubleshoot issues, communicate more effectively, and ultimately lead more effectively.

Temperaments reflect the natural way someone is “wired”—their predisposition to think and act in a certain way. As we talked about in a previous post, when you learn to recognize temperaments, you can become cognizant of other people’s perspectives and where they are coming from. Knowing this can aid in conflict resolution, more effective communication skills, and ultimately more effective leadership. For example…

Guardians (the most common temperament) are all about duty, responsibility and obligation and base the present on their experience from the past. Their frame is very much, “We can do this because I know it’s been done before.” They are practical and commonsense and get things done—that’s why a large percentage of managers are Guardians.

Because of this, Guardians may become stressed if their workload is too heavy and they can’t complete their responsibilities. They may have a negative outlook or complain about the same things over and over. They may find things that should be fixed in other people before considering what they could change in themselves. They may feel exhausted and unappreciated.

In response, your recipe for leadership success is to:

  • Let them vent their frustrations, but only for a short time.
  • Encourage them to take a break, step away from their daily responsibilities, and set limits with themselves and others.
  • Seek out and acknowledge their contributions.
  • Offer them realistic solutions and talk about the concrete steps to get there.

Artisans are present based, and comfortable talking about things that are right in front of them. They’re usually known for tactical expertise and want to be able to solve practical problems very quickly. They usually show up in people-oriented positions—sales, influencers, entrepreneurs—and are comfortable selling ideas.

Artisans may point out that others are wrong, wasting time, or ineffective to cover up their own lack of results. They may defy authority and bend or disregard the rules. They may appear to be bored and disengaged from the project at hand.

To effectively lead Artisans, you should:

  • Create goals or challenges to engage them in their work—Artisans respond best to challenges that call for action or create competition.
  • See if their work environment is too constrained by workload or team members.
  • Give them greater responsibility to manage——Artisans may need to have greater freedom to make decisions.

Idealists are about hope and possibilities for people, and are very intuitive and feeling based. They are future oriented and abstract “what-if” thinkers, who always consider the people aspect of a solution. They are concerned about your feelings, your conditions, and making your world better.

Idealists’ temperament means that while they are normally enthusiastic and positive, if unhappy they may dwell on the negative and seem irritable or withdrawn. They may daydream or think about how to leave without hurting anyone’s feelings. They may create false drama or situations to attract attention to themselves and divert focus from the team or project at hand.

As a leader, you should make it a point to:

  • Acknowledge the vital contributions they have made.
  • Take them aside and allow them to vent their feelings privately without reproach.
  • Deflect other team members’ criticism of them and point out their strengths and abilities.
  • Encourage them to focus on the team’s possibilities and potential.

Rationals speak mostly of new projects that intrigue them and new solutions they envision. They are logical, rational and “What if” abstract thinkers, skilled at evaluating the consequences of past, present and future. This is the smallest group, 5%-10% of the population, and many companies won’t have any.

Rationals may try to dominate teams by acting as “superior intellectuals” and dismissing others. They may be impatient with and critical of others’ errors. They may nitpick details and become argumentative or condescending. They may alienate themselves from others at work and choose to be distant and silent.

To channel these traits in productive ways:

  • Encourage social interaction through gatherings they are expected to attend.
  • Present techniques for social interaction as “tools” they can master.
  • Defer to their expertise and acknowledge their ability to see whole systems.
  • Point out the damage their criticism does to the efficient functioning of the team.

Hone your leadership and communication skills
Try this exercise to better know your audience and refine your leadership and communication approaches. First, list your direct reports and other important relationships in the grid below according to their temperament. Now, what would you change in your messaging and leadership approach in order to speak their language and get better results?

How can we help your leaders and business excel?