1. Don’t treat employees as personality clusters.
Let go of this idea of placing people into roles based on an existing personality type. I’m not suggesting you throw out results from personality assessments; I’m saying you should avoid placing staff into positions based only upon these classifications. If my boss had judged me on my personality type, I never would’ve gotten the incubator opportunity.
When you see people only as a personality type, you limit their potential to grow into new opportunities and find things that are outside of their personality. When you look back on your career, you see the handful of moments that defined the path you took. Many of them will be decisions that managers made regarding what opportunities you were given.
As managers, we owe it to our employees not to look at them in a one-dimensional fashion. As we consider whether they’d be right for an opportunity, we need a more complete picture.
2. Understand the mindstate in each role.
To understand employees at a deeper level, look to understand their subconscious mindstate within each role they play throughout the day. Their position might be department manager, but they fill various roles throughout their day-to-day work: coach, influencer, producer, etc. In the same way that people are multifaceted, so are their jobs.
For example, whenever I’d go in for my yearly review, I was in a “cautious security” mindstate, which is the desire to feel safe and protected from threats. Security was my motivation. I took a cautious approach, meaning I sought to minimize my risk of making future mistakes. I wanted to understand my weaknesses in these moments and work on them immediately.
However, when I got promoted, my mindstate was “cautious competence.” I was trying to prove myself and feel more capable, qualified and prepared in my new position. Competence was my motivation, and I favored a cautious approach. In meetings, I wanted to avoid saying the wrong thing because I wanted to be perceived as competent. I wasn’t as worried about security, but I still looked to avoid doing things that would show I didn’t understand my new role.
I was still the same person with the same personality type, but I acted very differently based on the role I was in and was motivated by very different things. The focus for you as a manager should be identifying the mindstates your people are under in their key roles throughout their day. When they’re coaching, they might be in a different mindstate than when they’re running a big meeting.
3. Manage to the mindstate.
Once you identify the mindstates of your employees, the third step is to create environments where they can work within those mindstates. For example, say you promoted “Carrie” to a new position, and you find that her mindstate is “cautious competence.” You wouldn’t want to pull Carrie into your office after one week and ask what she would do differently with the brand.
She’s not confident in her knowledge of the brand yet, so your question puts her in a defensive position. Instead, give Carrie time to gain confidence in that new position before you ask for her opinion. She is seeking to minimize the risk of saying something wrong or doing something that could make her seem less than capable, so manage Carrie accordingly.
“Mike” is another example. He’s got to lead a big meeting and is driven by the “optimistic empowerment” mindstate, which means he’s seeking to control as much of the meeting as possible because that’s how he can maximize his chances of doing well in this role.
With Mike, you should coach him to get to the meeting early so he can sit where he wants. Mike should also have an agenda so he can control the conversation. You’re coaching Mike to be as prepared as possible so he doesn’t lose control during the meeting.
Mindstates help you see the full picture.
Mindstates allow us as managers to understand how our employees’ personalities and the context affect their performance within a new position or as part of a new project.
When you create environments that support their mindstates, they’re more fulfilling, increase morale and ultimately help your employees have the best careers possible.