70% of people fall into 2 of 4 temperament groups

As a quality professional, reading co-workers is as critical as reading your mail. The speed and precision of your people-reading skills determine how effectively you can interest them in your projects, even when doing so uses their time or changes their work habits.

Barbara Barron-Tieger of the West Hartford, CT-based Communication Consultants explains how to identify different temperaments among your associates and the strategies that will grab their attention. "Some of it’s common sense," she acknowledges, but when you couple common sense with the clues and strategies that Barron-Tieger explains here, you’ll save yourself many false starts.

She notes that people have four basic temperaments, which color the way they approach their jobs. Further, her experience reveals that 70% of us fall into two of the four groups:

o Traditionalists — 40% of the population.

Identity clues: They are practical, responsible, concerned that others shoulder a fair share of responsibility, prefer conservative attire, and come to meetings on time. Traditionalists dislike change. Barron-Tieger notes that many physicians and nurses have traditionalist temperaments.

Motivational tips: Cut to the chase, make organized presentations, and show tangible benefits of proposed changes.

o Experiencers — 30% of the population.

Identity clues: They are action- and excitement-oriented, quick to solve problems, and prefer short-term to long-term projects. They like jokes, but details bore them. "These folks are the "fire fighers" of health care," Barron-Tieger observes. They gravitate to emergency care.

Motivational tips: Keep it light and simple. Forget about "signing them up" for long-term initiatives. Use lots of visuals in presentations. Show how changes will produce immediate outcomes.

o Conceptualizers — 15% of the population.

Identity clues: They are interested in theoretical implications of projects, are intellectual, may appear aloof or arrogant, enjoy long-range strategizing and cutting-edge thinking, like big-picture thinking, and exercising their imaginations. "You always find conceptualizers in leadership roles," emphasizes Barron-Tieger.

Motivational tips: Opportunity to explore possibilities, to read between the lines. Spare them the details.

o Idealists — 15% of the population.

Identity clues: They are independent, free-flowing, warm, skilled at maintaining interpersonal relationships, and intuitive. "Look for idealists in positions where there’s a lot of people contact," Barron-Tieger suggests, such as customer service or social work.

Motivational tips: Maintaining the human element in health care services, creating mutually beneficial interdepartmental or community relationships, determining how programs will affect different customer groups. (For more information on temperament types, see cover story.)