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-Idealist Big Boss

Bert, a customer support team leader at a large software company, was presenting the results of his customer satisfaction improvement project to VP of Sales Tom. Five minutes into the presentation, Tom interrupted Bert's anecdote about how various team members had handled difficult customer calls, asking about the bottom line change in the satisfaction metrics. Bert enthusiastically replied, "They are excellent, and I have a slide showing them coming up. And I want to share with you how important Mike's department was in helping us achieve them!", where upon he continued with his story singing the praises of all who contributed to the success. He took Tom's question, and the following interruptions as a sign of Tom's interest in his narrative, until Tom finally exploded, cutting the presentation short by directing Bert to skip to the final slide showing the statistics. Bert felt deeply injured by Tom's pre-emption of his presentation, and began looking for a new job. Tom was mystified when he learned Bert had left the company - he had actually been impressed by Bert's results.

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.

Idealists make up 15% or so of the population, and they tend to gravitate to careers that are geared at helping people to work collaboratively, and grow to their fullest potential. They are over-represented in counseling, human resources consulting, psychology, and other areas where they can help others reach personal fulfillment. Idealists are especially rare as you go up the organization chart, so the odds that you are presenting to a Big Boss that speaks the same (Idealist) language as you diminish greatly the further up the hierarchy you are presenting. Because you run into a different Temperament Big Boss the vast majority of the time, it is critical for you to learn the subtleties of communicating with them in their preferred style.

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

  • You respect cooperation and diplomacy. Idealists see the workplace as an arena for interdependent effort. All contributions to your project are important and you are likely to give praise generously to all the members of your extended team. You see the potential in all people and ideas, and you try to convey this sense of excitement in your presentations. It is important to you to try to establish a connection with your audience; you often use personal anecdotes/stories to which you feel audience members can relate to "break the ice".
  • You value harmony and individual growth and abhor processes and organizational structures that disregard the value of people. You are less concerned with concrete facts and numbers, believing that a motivated and enthusiastic team will produce excellent results as a matter of course, while an unmotivated team focusing on minute detail will miss out on the opportunities created by true synergy.
  • You are loyal to the needs of the individuals within your sphere, and are likely to balk at any new methodologies or technologies where you don't see adequate planning to mitigate negative consequences affecting the well-being of the people in the organization. You are especially keen to the big picture ramifications of decisions that may have negative effects on team morale.

These are all positive traits that contribute to a harmonious and positive workplace environment. However, when presenting to non-Idealist Big Bosses - that is, Guardians, Artisans, or Rationals, these very traits may be what create the disastrous results you want to avoid.

Guardians are prevalent in most large organizations, and the odds are better than 50-50 that your Big Boss is a Guardian. In contrast to your traits, the Guardian:

  • Is respectful of authority. As a high ranking member of the organization Mr. Big deserves your esteem and expects you to defer to him when there are differences between you. He views the organization hierarchically as opposed to your interdependent view across the org chart.
  • Values established processes, proven methods, and proper channels. These keep order in the organization and avoid unnecessary risk that can cause chaos. Potential is fine, but they want to see concrete results, and the details matter.
  • Is loyal to the organization, and will put the needs of the organization ahead of the needs of individuals. "A better mousetrap" is not always the best solution if it requires organizational change that may rock the boat. The needs of individuals often must be subjugated to the well-being of the organization.

Artisans are also prevalent in large organizations, especially in areas related to sales. An Artisan Big Boss may be a mystery for you to understand and effectively interact with. The Artisan:

  • Respects results and "getting things done". He doesn't care highly for the details of who all contributed to the success of the project; he cares about what got done. He will want you to skip "the small talk" and get to the point.
  • Despises excuses. 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. The long term ramifications on peoples' feelings or morale are usually beyond the timeframe of his concern.
  • 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. What you may take as a cutting or insensitive remark is likely just part of the negotiation for him, and does not reflect any personal animosity.

Rationals are the rarest of the four temperaments, but tend to be over represented in the upper ranks of management. Rational big bosses:

  • Respect competency above all else and are skeptical of hierarchy and positional authority. They will be impatient with personal anecdotes in a presentation, unless the anecdote is used to demonstrate competence and expertise in the subject at hand.
  • Question the status quo continuously and will discard any process or method if they find a new one that they believe to be more efficient or effective.
  • Are loyal to finding a better way, and the needs of the organization or individuals take a back seat.

In our example at the top of the article, once you know that Bert is an Idealist, and Tom is an Artisan, an effective response for Bert becomes apparent. Rather than continuing to sing the praises of all the contributing team members and painting the big picture of how teamwork helped them achieve their great results, he needed to go straight to the scores. Once Tom sees the bottom line, and agrees that the results are indeed excellent, he can sit back and listen to Bert's stories that extol the human side of their accomplishments. Bert should weave some competitive drama into this "back story", creating "a win" for the competitive Tom which will help him appreciate the amount of effort the team put in to achieve their results. Tom would congratulate Bert on the victory, rather than leave him feeling personally injured and believing he needed to find a new job.

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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