Understanding Personality – The Secret of Managing People

By Carol Ritberger in Management on March 6th, 2007 / One Comment

Managing People...What\'s Personality Got To Do With It?The perception that management can and does work exists in the minds of most managers – past, present, and future. It’s a concept born at the dawn of humankind when the burden of tasks exceeded the capacity of one person to accomplish them. It was perpetuated through the ages as civilization demanded productivity beyond the capabilities of the individual.

Without some form of oversight, chaos reins, which limits the growth and evolution of civilization. Management has been the key to our evolutionary progress from the primitive to the contemporary and the foundation for the development of our society. Why then does its value continue to be questioned? Is it because we fail to recognize that personality differences prevent us from understanding that there are multiple definitions of management emanating from each of the colors?

Until we can recognize and accept those variations, supervisory practices will continue to be challenged. What we may have in their place could be autocratic domination, bullying, insensitivity, overcontrol, intimidation, or self-serving practices masquerading as management. Not a pretty picture however you view it.

The question then is: What truly is effective management, and what tools are available to help us harness its potential for everyone’s benefit?

People Do Things for Their Own Reasons
In trying to understand human behavior, there’s a basic principle that applies to all our actions: People do things for their reasons and not ours. Another way to say it is: Other people see things, respond, and react in different ways. They’ll usually do what they think will offer them the greatest reward for their efforts.

What this means is that no one in a position of power can motivate others to work unless they understand which motivation factors produce the results they seek. Okay, sure, people will make a halfhearted effort if they’re threatened, but all this does is produce marginal results; and it also ends up creating frustration, resentment, rebellious behavior, and power struggles.

If, as a manager, you can keep in mind that motivation is individualized and comes from within, it will make your job a lot easier. How? Because then all you have to do is create an environment where people, of their own accord, will want to cooperate, produce the desired results, and optimize their own performance.

By merely integrating this understanding alone into your management style, you’ll significantly reduce the amount of friction, tension, dissent, stress, and upset; as well as the potential for misunderstandings, miscommunication, and conflict. You’ll also find that people will naturally develop a sense of pride in the work they perform. On the other hand, if you don’t incorporate this basic concept, there’s a very good chance that you’ll continue to be caught off guard when dealing with others, and may repeatedly find yourself embroiled in some sort of power struggle.

A good manager knows that people need to feel accepted for who they are, long to be recognized for their contributions, and want to enjoy themselves when interacting with their peers or superiors. A wise supervisor remembers the importance of the individual and knows that when folks feel good about themselves, they’ll naturally reach higher standards in their performance and be motivated for their reasons and not yours. An intelligent person uses this information to help others become more productive and effective in what they do.

Traits Versus Characteristics

Personality has two aspects:

  1. Inherited behavior (traits)
  2. Learned behavior (characteristics)

When combined, they form what’s referred to as personality type. However, there’s a significant difference in the two aspects: Traits can’t be changed because they’re the fixed part of one’s neurological hardwiring, and characteristics can be changed since they’re acquired through external influences and experiences.

Traits are responsible for telling our brain how to develop and function, meaning directing it in gathering and processing information and making decisions. Traits are what drive the choices we make and how we decide to put them into action. Our behavior then tells other people how to interact and communicate with us, and defines how we’ll deal with them. Traits determine how we learn and utilize our intuition. They regulate our problem-solving preferences and define our perception of what constitutes trouble. Consequently, they also influence the kinds of solutions we’re most apt to create. In addition, traits are responsible for:

  • Establishing our value system, the principles and core beliefs that serve as our code of conduct, and producing the behavior we use to support them
  • Developing our natural talents and influencing how they’re expressed
  • Generating our perceptions, both internally and externally, and influencing what we do with them
  • Directing our emotional reactions and our rational responses to experiences and situations
  • Determining what motivates and irritates us
  • Choosing the people we’re attracted to and those we’ll have a natural tendency to avoid

Characteristics refer to our learned behavior, the stuff that reflects our conditioning – meaning other people’s perceptions, opinions, criticisms, social expectations, and experiences. They’re responsible for the formation of the learned habits, attitudes, and comfort zones that ultimately impact our quality of life.

The motivation behind the development of characteristics is primarily to make us behaviorally acceptable so that we can fit into a social structure. However, in doing so they’re responsible for creating many of the false perceptions we have of ourselves, the ones that inhibit what we become and what we’re capable of achieving.

For example, if you were repeatedly told as a child that you’d never be good at something, you’d begin to believe it, thus creating limitations and insecurities around your capabilities. The result would be that throughout your life, you’d probably avoid engaging in any activities that might bring those insecurities to the surface.

There’s an interesting aspect to the behavioral patterns created by characteristics. They’re the mental barriers and insecurities that in many cases are stronger than our ability to overcome them. Consequently, we may not bring our natural talents and strengths into expression. In addition, characteristics are responsible for:

  • Overriding our innate decision-making preferences, thus causing us to make choices for other people’s reasons rather than our own
  • Driving us to stay in situations, relationships, jobs, and lifestyles that are limiting and unhealthy because that’s what’s expected of us
  • Suppressing our individuality and uniqueness
  • Encouraging us to follow the path of least resistance
  • Creating fears and insecurities
  • Behaving in certain ways based on environmental requirements such as gender roles
  • Spending time developing responsibilities and tasks that may not be well matched with our personality traits

As you seek to understand more about personality, it’s helpful to keep these three important factors in mind :

  1. People want to fit in, and as a result will take on what they perceive to be the behavior norm for their environment – even if it isn’t in alignment with their personality boundaries.
  2. It’s human nature to judge people based on first impressions that may not reflect the true nature of their personalities.
  3. There’s a natural tendency to compare other people’s behavior with our own to determine whether their personality is compatible with ours.

However, if you understand that personality is more than what you see on the surface, then you’ll have the opportunity to really get to know new acquaintances and discover their natural talents. You may realize that someone you misread initially is exactly who you’ve been seeking for a job, or is most compatible in a social relationship. You might even find yourself more appreciative of the differences in people because you’ll recognize that their strengths are your weaknesses, and how those variations offer the greatest opportunity to create a dynamic team of self-motivated people.

The People Factor
The much-used saying “People are a company’s most valuable asset” is as relevant today as it was the moment it was created. The reason is that even with all the changes in the way we work, the nature of business hasn’t changed. It’s still centered on relationships, meaning that people want to work with those who are attentive and sensitive to their needs, are willing to solve their problems, and take the time to create personal connections.

It’s the staff that keeps clients coming back and helps retain their loyalty even in transitional or difficult times; and it’s these relationships that encourage customers to tell their family, friends, and co-workers to consider working with a company. The fact is that people are the determining factor in the success of any organization and make the difference between a mediocre company and an outstanding one. So it’s just plain good business to want to invest in their personal development and create ways to harness their strengths and talents.

While productivity and managing information has become the norm in today’s corporate environment, it’s really the interactions among customers, vendors, and employees that give a company its competitive edge and differentiate it in this ever-changing global economy. This requires an organization and its management team to know their people at all levels in the hierarchical chain, and to create an environment where everyone feels like colleagues rather than subordinates. In doing so, they foster a team that’s self-motivated and cooperative and looks forward to coming to work.

Every day, there are articles in newspapers and business magazines about companies that have failed because they forgot the importance of people and placed more emphasis on their own individual needs. In reading about the fallout of their actions, it’s difficult to understand how folks who have worked long and hard and invested their time, energy, and money can be forced to walk away with nothing.

It’s even tougher to comprehend the results of a survey reporting that more than half of America’s workforce believes that business is based on greed, lying, stealing, and doing whatever it takes to make a buck. No wonder stress-related workers’-compensation claims are skyrocketing, costing American businesses more than $160 billion annually in the falloff of productivity and increased absenteeism.

Going to work can be hazardous to your health, especially if you’re with a company that places more value on the bottom line than it does on its staff. If we’re to change the perception of business, then those in positions of power must become attuned to people’s needs, take time to cultivate their individuality, and figure out what motivates them. Understanding personality is the first step, because it’s where you’ll truly gain insight into what makes everyone tick.

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One Response to “Understanding Personality – The Secret of Managing People”

  1. sharon wortman farnham Says:

    Less see by reading the article you are saying that you have to motivate people to work for you. People should be working for themselves for personal satifaction money and a job well done . I have never been in management God has kept me busy else where during my time on earth . But I work for who ever hires me to do what ever they hire me to do .At times I find myself working around people who appear to be standing still on the clock . I once worked with a young women I caught sleeping on the job I had a 8 to 9 hour shift she had a three hour shift felt likeI did my work as well as hers . She would come in complaining about being tired when she first came to work .

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