Fit the Manager to the Moment

Most can manage some of the people all the time, but not all of the people all the time

By Christopher W. Miller, Ph.D. & Gary C. Graziano, AIA

Motivation trumps personal style but if you have a highly motivated person in the right job, a job that fits their temperament, they can move mountains. If the personality fit is poor, extra energy and support will be required to get the job done and the result will likely be mediocre, at best.  This article discusses some personality profile ideas that can help you think about how you and the rest of your team can fit into an innovation project and be the best that you can be.



What needs to be managed and what can you manage?

Growth creation involves managing five tasks: 1) Problem seeking, 2) Ideation, 3) Problem-solving, 4) Development, and 5) Launch, together with the many personalities required to get things done on time, on scope, and on budget. Each of these tasks requires a different management skill set. While some organizations have different managers for each stage, in smaller organizations, managers have to adapt their personality type and management style to fit multiple tasks.


Who are you?

To understand what stages or aspects of growth you might manage best, you could start by using the Buffalo Creative Process Inventory to determine which of the four growth roles you will play best:

  1. Ideator – Likes the big picture. Comfortable with abstraction. Intuitive. May overlook important details. As an Ideator, you might see otherwise unseen opportunities that set your company on a growth path, conceptualize solutions to a variety of problems, and enjoy Problem-seeking or Ideation.
  2. Developer – Enjoys developing workable solutions. Likes comparing and analyzing solutions, but can become stuck searching for the perfect solution. As a Developer, you’d enjoy managing the task of taking bare-bones concepts and fleshing them out in Problem-solving and Development.
  3. Clarifier – Enjoys exploring problem details. Prefers methodological approaches to problem-solving, but may suffer from analysis paralysis. As a Clarifier you might like giving definition to the areas where growth should be considered or getting into the nitty-gritty aspects of Problem-solving, Development, or Launch.
  4. Implementer – Enjoys giving structure to ideas. Focuses on workable solutions. Likes to see things get done, but may act too quickly. As an Implementer, you’d like the Development or Launch stages of taking a well-conceived idea to market. If you identify with more than one role, that’s okay! One is probably learned, and the other represents your natural role and default mode in times of stress. This natural role is the one that matters because it’s how you instinctively manage that will make you successful in your role.


How do you lead or manage?

To know how you lead or manage, it helps to know your style. To characterize management styles, we’ll borrow from and build on these: 1) Six styles described in a recent Wall Street Journal article by Teri Fisher and 2) Keirsey and Bates’ four Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator-based styles (NT, SJ, NF, and SP, defined below). Each can play a role in the growth process, and one of them probably describes you:

  1. Visionary – A Rational “NT” (Intuitive-Thinking). Twelve percent of population. Excellent decision-makers and architects of change. Possibilities oriented. Prefer top- and bottom-line discussions and brainstorming. Are bothered when conventions get in the way. Lose interest when creating is done. Good at the front end or when things get stuck in the middle. Not good at managing to completion.
  2. Logic-oriented – The Guardian “SJ” (Sensing-Judging). Thirty-eight percent of population. Good planner and implementer. Analytic. Decisive. Predictable. Product-, organization-, logic-, and fact-oriented. Pessimistic, cautious, thorough, and accurate. Impersonal and impatient with delays and complications. Likes closure, but may act too quickly. Creates stable but sometimes bureaucratic organizations. May resist change. Good in situations where much is known or many complexities need to be managed. Prefers incremental change.
  3. Relationship-oriented – The Idealist “NF” (Intuitive-Feeling). Twelve percent of population. People people. Catalyst leaders. Great communicators and listeners. Patient with complicated situations. Value collaboration and consensus, but avoid the unpleasant. Frustrated by too many rules. Good in unstructured environments and at bringing people together when differences arise. Good at giving freedoms that foster growth. Not good at direction-setting or decision-making when faced with differing opinions. Bad at managing to ensure that promises are delivered or that mandates are upheld.
  4. Action-oriented – The Artisan “SP” (Sensing-Perceiving). Thirty-eight percent of population. Problem solver. Negotiator. Verbal planner and decision-maker. Task-focused, “handson” type. Likes action, spontaneity, and self-initiated change. Does not like theory and prepares well. Can be bold, clever, resourceful, and highly adaptive. Good at figuring out how to get specific things done during Development or Launch or when “fast fixing” is required. Not good at planning or managing broad-scope initiatives, dealing with abstract evaluations, or developing and following rules.
  5. Ego-oriented – A variation of the Rational “NT”. Good at championing new ideas and guiding them to success. Competitive, driven to succeed, will try anything that can lead to success.
  6. Detail-oriented – Avariation of the Guardian “SJ”. Perfectionist tendencies, wants things done right. Good in Problem-solving, Development, and Launch when attention to detail is critical. May not be good when being first or fast is more important than being perfect.


What kinds of personality differences, growth initiatives, and tasks can you manage?

Like personality types can relate to and manage like types well, but may not appreciate or manage other types as well. Depending on who you are and how comfortable you are with things new, unique, and different, you may be better suited for Improvement than Invention initiatives and managing Innovators and Ideators rather than Humanitarians and Clarifiers—or vice versa. Or you may be able to move easily among all types of growth initiatives as long as you stick to the stages where you are most comfortable.


What can you do if you’re not a fit to the task you’ve been assigned?

Bad fits frustrate everyone and can stymie or kill careers. While you can do something that is unnatural and be very good at it, the friction between the task and the fit to your personality will eventually burn you out—figuratively and literally. Poor fit can be traced to a variety of stress-related ills ranging from obesity to high blood pressure and heart attack. So if you find yourself permanently miscast, you should find something else to do. You’ll be happier and more successful, and so will everybody around you.

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