8 Practical Ways to Use Personality Typing in Your Small Business
Have you ever had an awesome day, but something seemed a little off? Maybe people kept giving you weird looks or avoided eye contact entirely. Then, once you got home, you looked in the bathroom mirror and saw that your hair and clothes look great on you today, so you think you must have imagined all those looks from your co-workers and clients. You smile at your awesomeness, and then you see it: the spinach from lunch is stuck in between your front teeth for the entire world to see.
We have a tendency to see all the good things about ourselves and ignore the bad things. Everyone around you knows you have spinach stuck in your personality, but you walk around in blissful ignorance. Personality frameworks are the mirror that allow you to see the wonderful parts of who you are through a new lens, while also giving you a glimpse of the things that need a little work.
Learning about personality frameworks may seem completely overwhelming at first because of the sheer amount of information out there. However, I believe understanding your personality and that of those around you can be incredibly helpful in both personal and professional endeavors. The most helpful starting point I have found is a book called Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel of the popular blog Modern Mrs. Darcy. She gives a unintimidating overview of the most helpful personality frameworks and practical examples of how this knowledge can enhance your relationships with others. Today, I’d like to give you a few examples of how the frameworks Anne discusses can be applied to your small business.
The first 3 practical ideas we will discuss involve understanding yourself. Personality frameworks are very introspective by nature, so it makes the most sense to learn about yourself before you try to learn about those around you.
Find ways to cope with the stress and environment of your business
Introversion and extroversion are the most common personality types that we notice in our normal lives, but very few jobs have just the right balance of these traits. Jane is an extrovert with incredible skill in crafting, so she started a quilting business, which requires long days sewing alone. Liz is an introvert who knows exactly how to run a perfect event, but her event planning business requires her to be around people constantly.
Jane and Liz both love their work, but it’s incredibly easy for them to feel completely drained if they don’t find ways to deal with the environment of their business. Even small changes in their days can completely change how much energy they have to put into their work.
Since Jane knows she is an extrovert and needs to spend quality time with people to re-energize, she makes a habit of taking a walk with her friend every afternoon. She also makes sure to have breakfast with a friend at least once a week and get her sewing done early enough to be available to spend time with friends and family in the evenings.
Liz’s varying work hours makes it difficult to have specific times to spend time alone, so she uses her calendar to schedule at least two 30 minute blocks of time alone every day. She also keeps a good book in her purse, so she can escape to another world when she is waiting for a client to meet her at a venue.
Running a small business can be very stressful, but having a good understanding of your own personality and the nature of your work can be an excellent tool for finding ways to deal with the stress and environment of your business.
Structure your days so you are most productive
Structuring your days is very closely related to coping with the stress of your business. Everyone is more productive at certain times of day or after certain activities. Jane specifically chooses to walk with her friend in the afternoon because she needs a boost of energy to get through the last few hours of her work day. In the Myers-Briggs personality structure, Jane is an ENTJ, so she is a natural leader and loves logic and efficiency. She knows she is stressed out by having lots of partially finished projects, so she works on one client project at a time. She finds ways to be more efficient at her work by approaching it logically and having a thorough planning system.
Liz is an ISFP, so she is excellent with day-to-day problems, but has to remind herself to plan for the future. She sets a date with herself every Tuesday morning to be sure she is planning for the long-term aspect of her business and makes a system to help herself stick to that plan. Because of her ISFP nature, she knows she doesn’t need a day-to-day checklist, but more of an overview for the upcoming weeks and months.
Your days probably won’t look anything like Jane’s or Liz’s because each person if unique. Even if you are the same personality type as one of the above examples, your specific situation will be different. However, knowing how your personality works can help you find specific ways to structure your days so that you can maximize your productivity while reducing your stress.
Understand strengths and weaknesses in your decision making style
Liz’s way of structuring her days is based on what she knows about how she processes information and makes decisions (aka cognitive functions). Anne Bogel says in her book Reading People that “your type is not just a combination of letters; it’s a pattern of mental behavior.” Each personality type has a different way of processing information and deciding what to do next. Like Liz, some people easily make day-to-day decisions, but may need to remind themselves to look at the bigger picture. Others, like Jane, can easily see the big picture, but may need to be reminded to consider the impact of their decisions on others’ feelings. Being aware of how you make decisions can help you make better decisions in the future by exposing your blind spots.
For Others (employees, clients, vendors, etc.)
Understand their communication style
One of the most important things a business owner needs to know is how to communicate. You might have heard of the book The 5 Love Languages, but it’s not just about showing love to people. People like to know that what the do matters, and a business owner needs to know how to show that to their employees, clients, vendors, etc. If someone’s “language of appreciation” is words of encouragement, you need to tell them what they’re doing right. Someone who prefers gifts might think it’s annoying that you keep telling them things they do right, but would love a small gift card. Employees who feel (not just know) that their work is appreciated tend to have higher job satisfaction, and knowing how to communicate with them is the first step to better productivity.
See their strengths and weaknesses, and put them in the right jobs
We’ve talked about understanding our own strengths and weaknesses, but now we need to take it a step farther. If you understand your employees personality and see their strengths and weaknesses, you will be able to really empower them in their work. If Liz has an employee who is excellent with big picture work, she may need to give her more responsibility in making sure the event as a whole is running well and less responsibility in nailing down every detail. However, she might notice that her employee focuses too much on the big picture, and she might need to give her some training on how to focus in on one idea and execute it very well. Knowing that she needs to understand the big picture will help Liz put her employee in the right job and communicate it in the way she understands best.
Create a culture where everyone can feel comfortable
Have you ever thought about places having a personality? Consider the difference between a library and a Chuck-E-Cheese. You probably act much differently in these two places, even though your personality stays the same. Now think about your workplace. Do your employees or clients have to set aside some part of themselves when they walk in? As an entrepreneur, you get to decide what kind of culture your company will have. If you know you have a mix of introverts and extroverts, think about how comfortable each might be at work. If your workplace is always very loud and there is nowhere quiet to go, your introverts probably don’t like being there very much. If it’s always very quiet and people aren’t encouraged to interact, the extroverts will feel extremely drained at the end of the day.
It’s also possible you have 9 people with similar personalities and 1 opposite personality. That “oddball” is going to feel constantly out of place unless you make an effort to make sure they are included and feel comfortable. You don’t necessarily have to make a big change; just talking to them the way they feel most comfortable once in awhile can make a big difference.
Marketing yourself - know why your clients need you, and communicate it the way they understand
How do you market yourself to clients? What kind of words should you be using. People tend the think mostly in either concrete or abstract terms. If your potential clients are makers and creators, you’ll need to talk in more concrete terms so they understand how your product or service will help them in the real world. If they tend to be problem solvers or idealists, you should probably start the conversation with grand ideas and concepts, then let them ask questions to get more into detail.
You may also need to consider how direct you are in your communication. If you tend to be very blunt, some people may think you are being rude. However, if you tend to take your time getting to the point, those who communicate more bluntly may be irritated that you take a long time to talk. You may want to practice discussing things both ways to see how your potential clients react.
Understand the source of their frustrations, and provide service that solves that problem
One aspect of personality types is how people use tools. Some tend to be utilitarian, while others are more cooperative. The services you offer should address the type of tool usage your clients tend to have. For example, if you tend to work with people who just want things done and don’t care if it’s pretty (utilitarian), then you should offer quick service without a lot of extra communication and fluff. However, if your clients prioritize cooperation over efficiency, you’ll need to offer service that focuses more on working together to complete a task than just turning over the completed project without communication.
Personality typing can be a bit overwhelming, but the benefits are immense. This post has discussed just the tip of the iceberg of ways you can use this knowledge for yourself and others in your small business. If you’d like to dive in further, check out Anne Bogel’s book Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything. It’s an excellent place to start, and she gives an awesome list of other resources for further study. If you order before September 19, you can get some really cool pre-order bonuses.
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