Play to your employees’ personality types to get the most out of even the most lackluster performers

If you’re frustrated in your efforts to get the best work from your staff, maybe it’s not because they can’t be motivated. Maybe it’s because you’re using the wrong methods to motivate them. The secret is to approach each worker — whether a field technician, project manager or clerical employee — in a way that makes the person want to deliver.

People come with a variety of work styles. If you can learn to recognize them and understand how each type of person responds, you have made a start toward getting more from your team. Various observers have come up with different ways to identify work styles and attitudes. Here is an approach that puts people into seven categories.

Be careful: No way of classifying people is perfect. Everyone is an individual, and some people may show attributes of more than one type. Still, an understanding of work styles can help you determine the best ways to reach and motivate the people on your team. Here are the profiles:

Commanders. Results oriented, aloof, bossy and not terribly tactful; these people need to be in a position to take initiative. Delegate substantial assignments to them and use a hands-off management style. Articulate the result you want, then stand aside and let them figure out how to get the job done. To motivate the Commander, link what you want accomplished to how doing it will improve order, control or results. Most important, understand that the Commander wants to be valued for an ability to overcome obstacles and achieve results.

Drifters. Free spirited and easy going, disorganized and impulsive; drifters are the opposite of Commanders. They have difficulty with structure, whether it relates to rules, work hours, details or deadlines. To motivate Drifters, delegate only short assignments and make sure they have lots of variety. Provide as much flexibility as possible, including what they work on, where they work, with whom they work, and the work schedule itself. Drifters want to be valued for creativity and an ability to improvise on a moment’s notice.

Attackers. Angry and hostile, cynical and grouchy; these employees can be a demoralizing influence. They can be critical of others in public, and often communicate using condescending tones or biting sarcasm. They may view themselves as superior, conveying contempt and disgust for others. These folks aren’t the most lovable employees, but they have their strengths, and you need to motivate them effectively. Start by identifying what they excel at, then put them in positions to use or impart their knowledge in ways that don’t require much interaction with others. Value the Attacker for their ability to take on ugly, unpopular assignments, and for an ability to work for long periods in isolation.

Pleasers. Thoughtful, pleasant and helpful; pleasers are easy to get along with. They view other workers as extended family and need to socialize at work. Unable to handle conflict, they can’t turn down requests from others. They may develop migraines or stomach problems rather than deal with negativity. Motivating Pleasers is simple and direct: Let them know you’re happy with a job well done. The more difficult the task, the greater a Pleaser’s desire to do what’s best for the team. Continually stress the “greater good” of any project. Value Pleasers for humanizing the workplace and for a helpful, collaborative work style.

Performers. Witty and charming, Performers are often the favorites in the workplace, but they do have their negatives. They’re the first to volunteer in a public setting, yet last to deliver on their promises. They can also be self-promoting hustlers who use others as stepping-stones. They’ll avoid accountability for negative outcomes by distorting the truth and blaming others. To motivate Performers, link recognition and other incentives, such as high-profile assignments, to improved teamwork. Value Performers for their ability to establish new relationships and for their persuasive public speaking skills.

Avoiders. These people are the wallflowers of the world. They create cozy, nest-like environments and prefer to work alone. They fear initiative and shun the increased responsibility that comes with visibility and accountability. They’ll do precisely what they’re told — no more, but no less, either. They sacrifice money, position, growth and new opportunities for the safety of status quo. To motivate Avoiders, provide detailed instructions. Don’t expect to be successful pushing this fear-based individual toward increased responsibility. Value the Avoider for reliability, meticulous attention to instructions, and getting the job done right the first time, every time.

Analyticals. These people are cautious, precise and diligent. They are also procrastinators, and that tendency can incapacitate them in times of urgency. They can multitask mentally, but as a result may make poor eye contact and speak in flat tones. They scrutinize others’ ideas and anticipate all that could go wrong, creating an inaccurate impression that they are negative. They are ill-at-ease socially and prefer written or electronic communication.

To motivate Analyticals, give them time to complete each task before assigning another. Value their commitment to accuracy and their ability to anticipate and evaluate risk far enough in advance to allow risks to be reduced.

The one-size-fits-all approach to motivating others won’t work. Instead, you must fit your methods to the individual. An understanding of work styles and attitudes is a start in that direction. By dealing appropriately with different kinds of people, you can tap the discretionary energy of your staff, and gain maximum productivity for your organization.

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