Motivating Workplace Heroes Using Personality Types

“You don’t inspire people by revealing your superpowers; you inspire people by helping them reveal their own superpowers.”

ALEXANDER DEN HEIJER

Please leave any sketchy Machiavellian thoughts behind. Our goal is not to manipulate but to help the people we lead find their most powerful selves. We want to inspire them to explore their potential, whatever that means for our team members. We desire that they shine and explore productivity in their unique way, whenever the work structure allows it.

Consider your colleagues’ personality traits not as a tool to drive them to a particular goal but as a language that helps you connect with the essence of what makes that other person tick. The benefits of doing so, we hope, will be mutual.

But before embarking on this leadership journey, it may be helpful to make sure that you know yourself. Self-knowledge can help you gauge how you might react to other people and help you avoid biases and pitfalls. One way to attain self-knowledge is by having a handle on your personality traits. Many resources to assist you with self-discovery are available on our website, 16personalities.com, including our free personality test. We all have preferences (and biases) that we may need to filter if we’re going to help others become their best selves.

And it’s also important to remember that there is no such thing as a person who is a pure personality type. When you’re working to help people become their more productive selves, there are other factors to consider. For example, many events in childhood that we may not even remember are the cause of some adult reactions. After that, our lives lead us from one lesson to the next in ways that are similar to what others experience, and yet fate packages our paths in distinct ways. No two people are exactly alike. As a leader who is savvy about personality types, take care to respect how each individual might express their personality traits.

So, let’s explore some thumbnail profiles of personality tendencies that might aid a manager in helping their employees meet their potential at work.

Analyst Personality Types

Architect (INTJ)

To inspire Architects, you must capture their imagination and desire for rational order. Plans that are clever and effective resonate with them. Architects focus on outcomes and often measure their value against the success or failure of a plan. If you can find a way to give colleagues with this personality type at least partial (or more) ownership of a plan, they will invest more of themselves into a project. They will want to guarantee a positive outcome to a plan that they helped develop.

Rationality is strong in these individuals. So you might also want to take care not to seem too arbitrary. You’ll lose them if they believe that you haven’t thought through a process or technique. You may validate yourself as a leader in the eyes of Architects by sitting down and sharing with them as much information as you feel comfortable revealing. Once they are confident that the path that they are being asked to take has been meticulously considered, their buy-in will be much more of a sure thing.

Logician (INTP)

Logicians need room for play that includes a certain amount of flexibility. They are idea machines that can turn on a dime if they feel that they’ve come across a better or even more interesting direction. Not all tasks or jobs allow for that kind of flexibility, but fortunately, Logicians have a Thinking personality type’s respect for rationality and can accept alternate opinions or visions, as long as they make sense.

So, while Logicians may accept that they need to stay firm on a previously chosen path, it is likely also important for this type to understand that their ideas, even when they can’t be implemented, are being heard and understood. When Logicians offer alternative ideas, it’s not out of disrespect. It is simply how their minds work, and as long as you demonstrate a willingness to listen to and take them seriously, they’ll likely invest in your vision.

Commander (ENTJ)

Commander personalities are the individuals who dedicate themselves to getting their ducks in a row. The first way to motivate Commanders is to give them the task of organizing an endeavor or being responsible for the follow-through. Multiple quotable people are credited with saying something like, “A good leader is first a good follower,” and Commanders are just as good foot soldiers as they are generals. In fact, it’s important to remember that despite the designation, not all people with “Commander” personality types are marked for leadership. But they typically will take ownership of their own responsibilities and shine when given a sufficiently challenging or interesting task.

The second way to motivate Commanders is to sell them on a rational and orderly plan. Give them a watertight rationale for an endeavor with a significant enough reason to pursue it, and you have someone who will partner eagerly with you in meeting your goals. Honor their Thinking trait by presenting them with a clear vision based on examined details and logic.

Debater (ENTP)

Like all Thinking types, Debaters need a logical reason to feel motivated. But even after the itch of rationality is scratched sufficiently, they may not stop examining and reexamining a project or series of tasks. They are comfortable looking for holes to plug, even in the most well-considered and established plan and even if its effectiveness has already completely satisfied them at some point. Strategic steps are never written in stone and can always be improved upon, according to most Debaters.

A good way to keep Debaters engaged is to challenge them to take on some version of a quality control role, whether that role is an official or unofficial position. Ask them to look for problems in the current setup. Even if the alternative suggestions that they offer aren’t implemented, Debaters will likely enjoy the process of examining and exploring the way that things are done enough to feel that they have made an impact. Simply feeling that their manager or leadership team takes them seriously will go a long way with Debaters. Being open to feedback and suggestions is the key for leaders looking to inspire Debater personalities to connect enthusiastically with their work.

Diplomat Personality Types

Advocate (INFJ)

Advocates carry a torch for two ideals: having genuine integrity and being part of something meaningful that is bigger than themselves. Tapping into those ideals can give Advocates a sense that the task at hand has a greater purpose than just making money. (Not that there’s anything wrong with making money, but we’re talking about motivating Advocates, and money alone will probably not do it.) For example, if you want to hire an Advocate as someone who helps others find employment, it may help to train the Advocate to guide their clients toward career fulfillment rather than toward a position whose biggest selling point is providing a regular paycheck.

Another thing that will nudge Advocates to invest themselves in their work is an overall sense of integrity and doing the right thing. While “We do no harm” will be part of the vision of an enterprise that attracts Advocates, they will want to go beyond that and embrace a stance that says, “We actively promote that which is right and fair.” But even more than embracing a vision, Advocates will watch to see whether the company is actually taking steps to realize those aspirations. Making Advocates aware of the integrity that is built into your work will win them over.

Mediator (INFP)

While Mediators are not social butterflies, they are nonetheless big on connecting with carefully chosen others. When you task Mediators to do something that inspires or lifts up others, you may ignite an enthusiasm unlike anything that you’ve seen before. Give them meaningful work and then boost that “perk” by pairing them in a partnership or making them part of a small team that they can call their own. Show Mediators how their work improves the lives of the people your product or service impacts.

Make sure that your target objectives are clear, but give Mediators a little room to meet goals in their own unique way. Mediators can become a bit unfocused, so include some gentle accountability. And as you are mindful of all of the above, also keep in mind that you are dealing with sensitive adults. Reassurance and positive feedback can go a long way toward counterbalancing any negative events or conflicts without coddling these unique personalities.

Protagonist (ENFJ)

If you’re searching for an employee to volunteer for a task, especially when the task that you have in mind includes other people, Protagonists are easy pickings. As with other Feeling types, meanings and people are important to Protagonists, and they go all in when they find a mission that seems significant and helpful to others. With these personalities, add energy by adding people to the equation in whatever manner you can. Protagonists aren’t as likely to give their all if they can’t see how their work is some sort of blessing to the people it touches.

However, if you want to keep Protagonists motivated, you may need to take special care of these assets to your team by finding ways to help them balance their lives. Protagonists are eager to perform well but are also prone to overdoing it. Keeping them a vital part of your team may include helping them maintain a reasonable pace and plenty of self-care when such work-life interventions feel appropriate. Gentle, caring reminders offered with a personal touch work well with these personalities.

Campaigner (ENFP)

Campaigners are energized by novel experiences and new people coming into the fold to join the individuals they are already connected to. To keep people with this personality type engaged, a leader would do well to keep things fresh with a steady flow of introductions to new techniques, products, and services when possible. New material to work with will give Campaigners a sense of energy and movement.

With Campaigners in mind, a good amount of bonding activities among the staff wouldn’t hurt either. While it may not be wise to keep a party atmosphere simmering in the office, store, or workroom all the time, most bosses could beef up their celebration game a little. It won’t hurt your organization’s work ethic to stop once in a while to raise a glass to your group’s success and recognize the individuals involved. Campaigners will respond well to these times and feel motivated in between these events.

Sentinel Personality Types

Logistician (ISTJ)

Logisticians and chaos are near-mortal enemies that should never cross paths, unless Logisticians are dutifully cleaning up someone else’s chaos. Start by providing employees with this personality type with a clear job description. It’s not that they can’t improvise, but they do like a clear roadmap before they start a journey. Make sure that there are plenty of ways for Logisticians to organize the details of their work as they execute it.

They may not complain loudly, but Logisticians will likely see things that can be done better. Let them know you hear them when they bring up such issues if you want to win their support – and because they are likely to be right in their assessments often enough to warrant your attention. A word of caution here: while these detail-oriented personalities often accurately see the glitches in the day-to-day routine, they can also be too attached to how things have always been done in the past. Logisticians may occasionally offer their insights because they feel motivated by discomfort with change rather than any real need. Still, even then, they are largely dedicated to the success of the organizations that they belong to and deserve a hearing.

Defender (ISFJ)

Defenders have a deep respect for duty, and you’ll connect best with them if you acknowledge that. They want to do a good job for the people they work for and want to get things right. But despite their typically laudable work, Defenders are often not skilled at self-promotion and may fade into the woodwork. Their humble behavior may not seem like a motivation problem immediately, but in time, even Defenders burn out.

Positive reinforcement for their work and loyalty will be appreciated by Defenders if it’s sincere and not over the top. Be real and specific. Generalizations will sound hollow. Tell them exactly what it is that you are applauding them for. When you praise them, they are likely to appear modest and undeserving. “I’m just doing my job,” might be their response. But you can bet they appreciate that you took the time to recognize their effort. They’re not likely to complain if they don’t receive applause, but the lack of such recognition could slowly erode the enthusiasm of people with this personality type.

Executive (ESTJ)

If you’re trying to motivate an Executive, be careful. They may end up motivating you. As ambitious Extraverts, these personalities often slide on a scale between being a cheerleader for others to being a harsh critic intent on forcing results. But being familiar with this scale, they are likely to respond to it themselves. Executives are too practical to be very bothered by frank feedback. So you can feel at ease pushing the feedback and letting them know where you stand on their work more than you might with other employees. Just be sure that the feedback that you’re offering is accurate and specific – otherwise you’ll lose credibility with them.

On the cheerleader end of the scale, Executives are often so attached to the identity of someone who gets things done that they are likely to respond well when others recognize this. It’s less about getting a certain type of approval that calms a worker’s anxiety and more of a status thing. When their good work is acknowledged, they can lay a stronger claim to their effectiveness and wear your appreciation like a medal, at least in their imagination. They will likely work hard to maintain their reputation.

Consul (ESFJ)

Consuls are personality types who appreciate respect for culture. When we say “culture,” we don’t mean that they spend time at the opera, although they might. Consuls are into people, values, traditions, and on occasion, impressing others. Just the right vibe of culture, as we define it here, can go a long way with Consuls.

The idea of a vibrant corporate culture with its own values and traditions will likely energize Consuls and motivate them to put in their best effort. When the people at work become more like a community, a tribe, or even a family, Consuls are likely to take things more seriously, and with seriousness comes commitment.

Explorer Personality Types

Virtuoso (ISTP)

If you want an independent self-starter who is quick to pick up new techniques and run with them, you’ve found it if you’re working with someone with this personality type. Play to their desire for independence and give them plenty of opportunities to showcase their skills if you’re seeking fuller engagement from Virtuoso employees.

Virtuosos take pride in their skills and their ability to finesse minor miracles that most others would probably struggle with. When it’s reasonable, encourage them to find their own solutions, even if, at times, it feels like you’re sacrificing team spirit. Virtuosos are more likely to thrive when lone wolves are honored for their skills and dedication.

Adventurer (ISFP)

To be happy and motivated, Adventurers need a lot of room to wander and experience all the variety that a single situation offers. Rules that are too strict and activities that are too routine are likely to dull the excitement that Adventurers might feel toward accomplishing a task. But, having said that, they also need some gentle accountability, or they might not get to the results part of their journey. Adventurers need a balance between searching for that which they find interesting and focusing on activities that achieve positive outcomes.

We say “gentle accountability” because people with this personality type are sensitive. They can be easily demoralized if an authority figure – in this case, you – is too strident and critical. That doesn’t mean that they are beyond feedback. They typically want to please the people they respect in their lives, so they’ll want to do a good job if they click with you. But how the feedback is delivered can make all the difference for Adventurers.

Entrepreneur (ESTP)

Entrepreneurs have what can almost be described as a wild streak, which can be either an asset or a stumbling block in an organization. The good part of this personality characteristic is that if something grabs their interest – and many things typically do – they will pour all manner of energy into it. When this wildness comes out as latching on to an organization’s aims and boldly hitting the targets set out for them by the people they work for, Entrepreneurs become model employees.

However, the potential stumbling block involves getting them to settle into an established work pattern that is uninterrupted by their somewhat impulsive tendencies. These personalities can become too distracted by interesting things that are not essential to the goals of the organization. But Entrepreneurs work hard and crave success. So, even if it’s an average workday without much going on, you can try helping Entrepreneurs keep their eyes on the prize. Keep the small and mundane steps connected to the exciting, bigger results and the larger impacts that will come down the road. Give them little previews of the excitement of success and connect them to the routines that make up the average day.

Entertainer (ESFP)

That monthly “Make Your Own Ice Cream Sundae” activity that you keep dreaming about someday being a thing means that you’re probably already tapped into the types of activities that keep Entertainers motivated. Anything that is highly social or that pleases the senses taps into their core personality traits. That tendency doesn’t mean that Entertainers are incapable of serious or even arduous work. When such work is involved, think of adding fun activities, social gatherings, celebrations, and beauty to the workplace as an initiative that will lift morale and create greater bonds among your staff. Add these elements to your workplace as you might add spice to a hearty stew.

Entertainers, with their big hearts, make great volunteer (or professional, if that’s in your budget) morale officers. Put them on any social, special event, or decorating committee that you can think of, even if you have to invent some that don’t already exist. The enthusiasm and loyalty that are created within Entertainers by this volunteer work will likely generalize to the things that are truly important to your organization’s central vision and to the individual’s job description. However, make sure that the boundaries and limits to such activities are clear, so that nobody gets carried away. Entertainers can be quite extravagant.

Creating Heroes

We hope that you, as someone who leads others, will use any insights that you’ve gleaned from our thumbnail sketches of what motivates workers with various personality types to create heroes in your workplace. When you value a coworker and honor their strengths, motivating them comes easily, and building a more effective organization is an obvious side effect of investing in your colleagues’ authentic characteristics.

Please let us know in the comments below how you’ve leveraged an employee’s personality traits to be helpful in motivating them. Thanks for sharing.

Further Reading