by Heidi Grant Halvorson & E. Tory Higgins
Harvard Business Review, April 2013
In what kinds of situations are you most effective? What factors strengthen—or undermine—your motivation? People answer these questions in very different ways, and that’s the challenge at the heart of good management—whether you’re managing your own performance or someone else’s. One-size-fits-all principles don’t work. The strategies that help you excel may not help your colleagues or your direct reports; what works for your boss or your mentor doesn’t always work for you. Personality matters.
In business the most common tool for identifying one’s personality type is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. But the problem with this and many other assessment tools is that they don’t actually predict performance. (In fairness to Myers-Briggs, it doesn’t claim to.) These tests will tell you about attributes—such as your degree of introversion or extroversion, or your reliance on thinking versus feeling—that indicate what you like to do, but they tell you very little about whether you are good at it, or how to improve if you’re not.
Fortunately, there is a way of grouping people into types on the basis of a personality attribute that does predict performance: promotion focus or prevention focus. Although these types are well known among academic psychologists and marketing and management researchers, word of them has not yet filtered down to the people who we believe could benefit most: managers keen to be more effective in their jobs and to help others reach their full potential as well.