Monday 23rd September 03:02

Managing People: Understanding Personality

In the past, the study of human personality was the preserve of trained specialists. Understanding what makes people tick was felt to be too complex a subject for most lay people. Yet, today, there are more people than ever who manage the work of others. Without an understanding of personality, many of the decisions managers make will be based on hunches. But this doesn't have to be so. By understanding personality, personality types and personality interactions, managers can take some of the guesswork out of people managing.

1. What is "Personality"?

The word "personality" has a variety of definitions ranging from the psychological definition to the more popular ones of how a person comes across to others.

"Personality is the mixture of relatively permanent personal characteristics in the way a person constructs the world, acts in it and reacts to it."

"Personality is the way a person's psychological, mental, emotional and physical characteristics are organised, while more or less permanent personality is capable of development."

"Personality is the total pattern of characteristic ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that constitutes the individual's distinctive method of relating to their environment." (Kagan and Havemann)

2. Why Should Managers Understand their People's Personality?

Personality type...
1. helps managers to know what motivates an individual. Personality gives clues to things a person loves to do and will do for free.
2. indicates what things an individual will be naturally inclined to do or not do.
3. is the clue to predicting how people will behave in certain situations such as when under stress, when coping with change and when making important decisions.
4. tells a manager how individuals will work when left to their own devices, for example if left to manage their own time.
5. is the key to the mystery of why some people hit it off with others at work and why others have personality clashes.

3. Managing People's Personality

A study by the Gallup Organisation discovered that managers who were most successful with their people were those who understood the people working for them on a very intimate level, accepted the way they were without wanting to change them, gave them work that suited their personality and temperament, and then developed their strengths into new areas that helped people grow. As the Gallup Organisation put it, "great managers are those who allow people to use their unique personality features to blossom at work and thereby make a unique contribution to the business."

It is widely accepted that, unlike the "hard" technical skills of managing, success with the "soft" skills of managing people are much harder to achieve. Understanding personality and personality types, however, does give us clues into how we can manage people better. When you have this knowledge under your belt, you are on the road to management greatness. 

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