Personality Test
George Washington - Guardian Supervisor (ESTJ) Mother Teresa - Guardian Protector (ISFJ) Albert Einstein - Rational Architect (INTP) Margaret Thatcher - Rational Fieldmarshal (ENTJ) Mikhail Gorbachev - Idealist Teacher (ENFJ) Eleanor Roosevelt - Idealist Counselor (INFJ) Elvis Presley - Artisan Performer (ESFP) Jacqueline Onasis - Artisan Composer (ISFP) Dolley Madison - Guardian Provider (ESFJ) Queen Victoria - Guardian Inspector (ISTJ) Walt Disney - Rational Inventor (ENTP) Dwight David Eisenhower - Rational Mastermind (INTJ) Thomas Paine - Idealist Champion (ENFP) Princess Diana - Idealist Healer (INFP) Charles Lindberg - Artisan Crafter (ISTP) George S. Patton - Artisan Promoter (ESTP)

Avoiding Presentation Melt-Down
Presenting to Your Non-Guardian Big Boss

Susan, a first-level product marketing manager at a high-tech company, was presenting the results of her market research project to VP of Marketing Steve. Five minutes into the presentation, Steve asked a question challenging Susan's team's methodology in conducting preliminary research. Even though Susan's team had considered Steve's points before determining their chosen process, she answered diplomatically, "That's a very good point Steve. Let me have the team put together the data around it, and I'll get it to you before the end of the day". However, Steve immediately began challenging more of Susan's assumptions, to which she again diplomatically deferred, and the presentation devolved rapidly. Susan never did get through her Powerpoint presentation, which she and her team had spent hours preparing, but instead bore the brunt of Steve's increasingly aggressive challenges, in the end having promised to get back to him with a large inventory of answers to his questions. Susan felt crushed by Steve's seemingly harsh treatment and, after a few months, left the company - a loss for all concerned.

What happened? And how can you be prepared so that this type of disaster does not befall you?

The key is to know something about the Big Boss's personality, and just as importantly, about yourself. A prime cause of presentation melt-downs lies in the difference between the two: in key areas you are speaking the equivalent of a foreign language - without knowing it. Disaster looms when communication breaks down and misunderstanding occurs. Most often the presenter has no clue that it has happened, and keeps digging a deeper hole, unable to climb out. Fortunately, Dr. David Keirsey, author of Please Understand Me, and The Keirsey Temperament Sorter, has performed more than 50 years of research into these differences in communication style, and once you are aware of them, you are on your way to successful presentations to your current and future Big Bosses.

The good news is that, as a Guardian, you are a member of the largest Temperament group - approximately 45% of the U.S. population are also Guardians. Even better, Guardians are even more prevalent in corporations and management - so the odds that you are presenting to a Big Boss that speaks the same (Guardian) language as you are at least even. Of all the four temperaments, you are the least likely to experience the presentation meltdown. The bad news is that the worst meltdowns I have ever witnessed have been Guardian presenters at the hands of non-Guardian Big Bosses. Because you run into the different Temperament Big Boss less often than, say a Rational colleague would, you are less likely to be aware of the buzz saw you are about to run in to.

As a Guardian, you likely have the following traits that you will tend to display when giving a presentation to Mr. / Ms. Big:

  • You are respectful of authority. As a high ranking member of the organization Mr. Big deserves your esteem and you will tend to defer to him when there are differences between you.
  • You value established processes, proven methods, and proper channels. These keep order in the organization and avoid unnecessary risk that can cause chaos.
  • You are loyal to the organization, and likely to put the needs of the organization ahead of the needs of individuals - including your own.

These are all positive and valuable traits, and as noted above, are shared by at least half your colleagues in most corporate environments. However, when presenting to non-Guardian Big Bosses - that is, Rationals, Artisans, or Idealists, these very traits may be what create the disasterous results you want to avoid.

The Rational Big Boss is the least like you. In contrast to your traits, the Rational:

  • Respects competency above all else and is skeptical of hierarchy and positional authority.
  • Questions the status quo continuously and will discard any process or method if she finds a new one that she believes to be more efficient or effective.
  • Is loyal to finding a better way, and the needs of the organization or individuals take a back seat.

The Artisan Big Boss may also be a mystery. The Artisan:

  • Respects results and "getting things done". While he expects you to jump when he commands, results are what counts, and he's open to challenge if you can back it up.
  • Despises red-tape. Extremely utilitarian, the ends often justify the means, and the Artisan Big Boss has little patience for bureaucracy, hierarchy, or tradition that stand in the way of reaching a goal.
  • Seeks the thrill of competition. Winning is important, and teams and sides shift with the game at hand. Personal friendships and loyalties never disappear, but they are put aside during competition - and reappear after the final gun.
Idealist Big Bosses are fairly rare. However, they can also behave in unexpected fashion. The Idealist:
  • Respects cooperation and diplomacy. Idealists see the workplace as an arena for interdependent labor.
  • Values harmony and individual growth. They abhor processes and organizational structures that disregard the value of people, or block harmonious relationships between people in different departments or job functions.
  • Is loyal to the needs of the individuals within their sphere, and are likely to challenge organizational rules that they see as detrimental to the well-being of their people.

In our example at the top of the article, once you know that Susan is a Guardian, and Steve is a Rational, an effective response for Susan becomes apparent. Rather than deferring to Steve when he challenged her (which is precisely the correct behavior when challenged by a hierarchically-oriented Guardian Big Boss), Susan needed to respond directly to Steve's question explaining that his point had been considered and the reasons a more effective path had been selected. Having established her competency to Steve's satisfaction, she would have continued on with her presentation. Instead, Steve interpreted her deference as a lack of confidence, and from that point distrusted her methods as incompetent and incomplete.

Most of us have experienced similar situations at some point in our careers, and are likely to face them in the future. Armed with awareness of Keirsey Temperament Theory, these unfortunate results are both foreseeable and preventable. In fact, knowing how to best pitch the Big Boss based on their temperament can make you a star.

What Temperament is your boss? Are they a Guardian, an Idealist, an Artisan, or a Rational? Knowing can make a major difference in your career success and happiness. Figure out what Temperament your boss is with the new Keirsey Boss Sorter, now available at Invest 5 minutes that may greatly improve the rest of your (work) life. Click here to go to


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