How can you motivate an Influencer (Yellow) style?

Last column I presented some ideas about creating a motivating environment for the high D (Director – or Red if you are used to Insights) style.  Today let’s consider a style that has some similarities to the D (in that folks with this style tend be more active than passive or reflective, and are not fond of working with a lot of details).  However there are significant differences between these two styles and the environment which may be very motivating for a D can be very de-motivating for the high Influencer (or Yellow).

The Influencer is optimistic, energetic, warm, collaborative and expressive.  In short, you can’t not like a high I – unless, of course, you are a very high C (Conscientious -Blue) in which case they can present significant challenges if you are their Manager.  Both the D and the C (who tend to be very task focused) may see the Influencer as scattered, frequently off topic, and have trouble meeting deadlines.  There is a natural tendency for both the C and D styles, then, to “crack down” on the Influencer, and have them stay at their desk until the task is completed (which is what they themselves tend to do when they are stressed and pushed for time).

While putting their nose to the grindstone and working in isolation until the task is completed may be part of the self-discipline on the part of the Cs and Ds, it is generally not the strategy of first choice for the I.

So, if HR takes a dim view of flogging, and isolation is not a good strategy, how then can one provide a motivating environment for them?

The environment which is motivating for the Influencer is one in which she feels recognized and accepted, where people have warm, friendly relationships and everyone collaborates to accomplish tasks.   They don’t like having to issue orders and prefer to not work in an environment where they are expected to snap to attention whenever anyone senior to them issues a command.

Most Influencers that I have worked with or coached feel that they never receive sufficient recognition for the things they do right, and get far too much criticism for minor errors or mistakes.  The frequent response to this by D and C Managers is that when the Influencer does it right then they will give them the recognition they deserve.

Walk with me down a parallel path for a bit.  Animal trainers (who do not have the advantage of human trainers or managers who speak a common language with the learner but can only work with reward or punishment) have long used a process called shaping to teach complex tricks.  Rather than trying to teach a dog to roll over by following him around hoping that one time he will spontaneously roll over when you have a dog cookie close by, trainers begin by first teaching the dog to sit.  They give the command, “sit”, push on the dog’s butt, down he goes, and the trainer gives him a dog cookie.  As soon as the dog knows to sit without the push on the butt, and with just the command, the trainer approaches the next stage – down. The trainer no longer gives a reward for what the dog has previously done, but withholds the reward until the dog begins to learn the next step in the process.

The process continues.  Teach the required step and reward until the step has been learned and can be produced upon request. Then hold off on the rewards until the next step and new behaviour is introduced.

For humans the reward is most often acknowledgement that the person has either done it right or is in the process of learning how to do it right.  Withholding this acknowledgement from a high I generally results in discouragement and a feeling of not being appreciated.  Do they generally need more acknowledgement than do the Cs and Ds?  In a word – Yes.

If we really want to be able to create a motivating environment for people, we need to get over the childish belief that everyone else is either just like us or else they should be!  So here are some tips for creating a more motivating environment for the Is:  Decrease, where possible, the number of routine tasks they are expected to perform; give them the opportunity to be in the limelight and shine; and provide time for them to socialize with others (provided this does not detract from overall productivity).

Remember that working in a very slow-paced or reserved environment, working with very critical, negative people, and having their contributions go unrecognized are all demotivating for people with this style.

Remember, the Is believe that “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

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