Are you my type? Understanding personality styles

Throughout your education or career, you have likely been exposed to personality or style assessments. From Carl Jung’s work in the 1920s to the well-known Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (1966) and DISC programs, among others, these assessments are often used to help groups of people communicate, work more cooperatively, and understand each other better.

“Type preferences can be introduced into an organization to manage teams, development of leadership skills, organizing tasks, training, conflict resolution, motivation, executive coaching, diversity, recognition and rewards, and change management,” according to the Myers & Briggs Foundation (

When you understand your type preferences, you can approach your own work in a manner that best suits your style, including how you manage your time, problem-solving, best approaches to decision-making, and dealing with stress. Knowledge of type can help you deal with the culture of the place you work, the development of new skills, understanding your participation on teams, and coping with uncertainty.

In nonprofit fundraising, building staff and volunteer teams, and recruiting and engaging board members, knowledge of type can be helpful in understanding what people need from you, especially how they best like to learn about your mission and impact and how they like to interact.

One simplified model includes the four broad categories of Analytics, Dominant/Drivers, Social/Amiables, and Expressives. If you haven’t revisited these ideas lately, or haven’t been exposed to them, here is a quick refresher on two of the styles to pique your interest (we’ll summarize the other two styles next week). You just might find that appreciating your preferences and approaching others differently could help smooth out conflicts on your team. For example:

ANALYTICS.  These are the framework leaders in our organizations who build infrastructure, organizational systems, procedure and consistency. They focus on the concrete and measurable, valuing a deliberate process and regulations that support strong operations and outcomes. They make logical, thoughtful decisions only after careful research and deliberation. Analytics value data, the more accurate the better. Sometimes seen as passive or guarded, they generally get their energy from time alone.

*           To work with an Analytic, stick to the topic and have lots of data on hand. Analytics value substantive interaction. Ask and answer questions directly and skip the long explanations about intangibles. Don’t make a lot of small talk or press to be a confidante or pal.

*           Analytics in our sector help us build our operational, financial and legal systems to be admirable and credible, design powerful program evaluation, and help us expand “save the world” ideas into large-scale operations to accomplish the most good. Without them, we couldn’t make a compelling case for support from donors, funders, media, or government.

*           An Analytic’s potential weakness can be in “analysis paralysis”—being unable to make a decision until ever more information is gathered and absorbed. They might not see the hidden emotional, political or unspoken undercurrents of a situation. They sometimes come across as antisocial, skeptical or critical.

DRIVERS. These are generally the dominant people on your team. Not all drivers are bosses and not all bosses are drivers, although the odds probably lean that way. Drivers act as our masterminds, inventors, architects, and field marshals. They are pioneers. They are natural leaders and can articulate a vision well. They understand control and willingly exercise power. Ambitious, forceful, and determined, Drivers actively tackle challenges and like to think strategically. They pursue excellence tirelessly and often motivate others to do the same.

*           To work with a Driver, know that they value action and results over process. Mirror his or her faster pace, high energy, and focus on the horizon. Arrive well-prepared and keep your commitments.

*           Drivers in our sector keep us moving forward and willing to take on ambitious goals. They can inspire large staff teams or groups of volunteers, and relentlessly pursue recognition for the sector’s value. Without them, we would be perennially struggling and/or complacent.

*           A Driver’s potential weakness is in mowing people over, not considering the personal or emotional implications of their decisions, not including those affected in decision-making, or not allowing enough research to be done or voices to be heard. They sometimes come across as egotistical.

EXPRESSIVES. These colorful and optimistic champions are the promoters, performers and persuaders on your board and staff. Generally abstract in their thinking, these are confident and convincing people who excel at delivering creative work and influencing others to support your mission. They can deliver terrific campaigns and programs, including fundraising, and can inspire others beyond anyone’s expectations.

*           To work with an Expressive, encourage free-flowing ideas and allow for creativity. Have a white board and pens handy. They value energetic interaction. Be candid and forthright (they hate not being on the inside track). Let them “think out loud.” Bend the rules when you can and don’t get hung up on paperwork or process.

*           Expressives in our sector are the cheerleaders of our work. Their writing, speeches and/or media appearances can be very effective. Their creative and bold instincts can lead to inspiring programs, collaborations, and campaigns. Without them, our stories might never be told.

*           An Expressive’s potential weakness can be in overwhelming people with too much talk or over-the-top enthusiasm. Usually somewhat disorganized or scattered, they can also come across as pushy or opinionated. Their impulsiveness and lack of concern with detail can get your organization in trouble.

AMIABLES. Amiables are social animals, building relationships naturally and networking easily. They get their energy from being around other people. They are natural teachers, care-givers, healers and counselors. They listen. Generally seen as warm, cooperative, loyal, dependable and agreeable, Amiables value consistency, stability, security and a steady pace. They value diversity, excel at bringing others along, and thrive in participatory learning. They savor celebrations, remember birthdays, and enjoy making and taking compliments.

*           To work with an Amiable, don’t forget the friendly repartee and be gracious. They value frequent interaction. Share stories and food at your meetings. Include others, welcome newcomers and allow plenty of time for discussion. Plan carefully and keep things running smoothly.

*           Amiables in our sector are gifted at keeping us connected to the people we serve, literally and figuratively. Their warmth in forming relationships can make them wonderful fundraisers. Without them, we lose the heart and spirit of compassion that makes us vital.

*           An Amiable’s potential weakness is that they typically struggle with change and don’t do well with uncertainty or shifting priorities. They like life to be linear (which, let’s face it, it often isn’t). Unless you walk in with homemade blueberry muffins, they don’t generally do well with surprises. They usually resist new ideas, and can come across as barriers to innovation.

Remember that we humans are complex beings who shift styles from time to time, depending on life circumstances, and no person operates exclusively in one style. Curious for more? Substantial research and tools are available to you, from simple web searches and free online tests to credentialed consultants for in-depth organizational coaching.

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