Search
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

Motivate Employees and Family Members According to their Personalities

by Shel Horowitz

A capacity crowd gathered for one of the Family BusinessCenter's most entertaining and informative presentations to date, on April 24 at Storrowton Village Carriage House.

Leo McManus, President of the Worcester-based L.F.McManus Company, kept the audience laughing as he explored the different types of personalities--and how to harness the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of each personality type in business situations.

McManus, a well-known consultant in the management and development field, based his presentation around the personality assessment instrument he wrote and published in 1972, called "Self Perception." As participants took the test, scored it, and listened to McManus's analysis, it was easy to understand why this self-exam has become one of the standards in the field.

McManus divides people into nine different categories. To arrive at your category, you fill out a form, circling the adjectives that are most and least like you in 24 different lists of four words. When the form is scored, each answer corresponds to one of four attributes: Dominance, Inducement, Steadiness, and Compliance. Variations on this four-part matrix can be traced all the way back to the Four Humors of Ancient Greece, McManus notes.

Dominance is aggressive behavior. Dominants want to be in charge, don't stress feelings much--their own or others'--and aren't about to take no for an answer. If you score high on the Inducement scale, you're much more driven by feelings--though you're still probably very much an extrovert. But you'll get your way by persuasion, not raw power. Steady people won't make waves--but they also won't be budged if they think you're wrong and they're right. Compliant types suffer from high anxiety. They're perfectionistic and cautious, though they may also be artistic and imaginative.

Within each major category, there are subcategories. For instance, within the High Dominance quadrant, there are Aggressive and Analytical people--the Lee Iacoccas, Hillary Clintons, Bob Doles--whom people admire for what they can accomplish, but they wouldn't want them as dinner guests. Yet the Dominant quadrant also includes Aggressive Persuaders, like Ronald Reagan, Elizabeth Dole, and Barbara Bush. They're outspoken and direct, but they'll also bring in considerable powers of persuasion.

Each quadrant has two personality subcategories, and the Persuasive-Persistent straddles Inducement and Steadiness, for a total of nine.

Of course, most people are somewhat of a mix--falling somewhere between 20 and 80% on each scale. But there are plenty of exceptions. McManus described a CEO search he assisted with in which one finalist scored 95% on the Dominance scale--and a group of physicists who were so introverted that only one of them scored more than 5% on the Inducement scale. That one odd-ball, with a score of 20, suddenly understood why his colleagues were afraid of him. McManus's advice to the rest of this shy, "just the facts, Ma'am" group? "Don't lie down, or they'll bury you."

Each of the four major attributers can be charted, with different characteristics at different points of the scale. On the Steadiness scale, for example, a 75% score represents patience, where those who score under 20% are restless and fidgety--people who probably score very high on the Dominance scale. High Steadies are often possessive of their things--they have their name on everything on their desk--but the pictures on their walls are likely to be of their families, while high Inducement types might have pictures of themselves with famous people.

McManus provided handouts explaining the various types in detail--and providing advice as to how to motivate and negotiate with each type of person. Based on the scores, you draw three charts: one for how others see you, one as you see yourself, and one as you're trying to be. Each of these has a shape, and that shape determines which slice of the pie fits you best.

If your three grids are more-or-less the same shape, it means your goals, presentation to the world, and inner personality core all follow a similar path. Widely divergent graphs indicate that you keep your true self--or the self you're striving to be--hidden under a very different "public" personality. For instance, you may see yourself as quiet and shy, but have worked so hard to overcompensate that others see you as aggressively outgoing.

Most employee-manager conflicts, McManus says, are caused either by collisions of personality type or of core values. Still, he cautioned not to rely over-much on personality. In fact, he identified eight factors to look at in career planning, of which personality is number five. The others, in order, are professional knowledge, work experience, job performance, special skills, values, intelligence, and presence.

Yet any of these factors can overwhelm the others. If professional appearance is important in your business, you probably wouldn't hire someone with torn clothes and strong body odor, even if he or she had been nominated for a Nobel Prize. Likewise, even someone with an award-winning personality would be a poor choice if every time he or she had led a project, the work was unfinished and way over budget.

Yet, personality is vital, and knowing how to work with different personalities is crucial for business success. As McManus puts it, "the most critical kinds of knowledge may turn out to be self-knowledge and understanding of others." To put it another way, technical skills can be easily learned. But without training, the ability to not only get along with, but extract high performance from, people of all personality types and values is much harder to learn on the job.

Back to Top