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-Rational Big Boss

Matt, a first-level software development manager at a large manufacturing company, was presenting the results of his research project to VP of Information Technology Margaret. Five minutes into the presentation, Margaret asked a question challenging Matt's team's choice of a new methodology in conducting preliminary user requirements research. Because Matt and his team were thorough in designing their research project, they had actually carefully considered the previously used methods Margaret favored early in their investigation before selecting the new, more effective, path. Matt confidently explained this process to Margaret and the audience, and moved on with his presentation. Anyone watching Margaret, however, noticed that she looked not only unconvinced, but even a little hostile. Matt completed his presentation without any further comments or questions from Margaret. The following week, Matt's direct supervisor informed him that Margaret had decided not to fund implementation of the research project, and that the team would be assigned to "higher priority" activites. Within 2 months Matt found a job with a new company, a great loss for everyone 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.

As a Rational, you are a member of the smallest Temperament group - approximately 8-10% of the U.S. population are also Rationals. Fortunately for you, Rationals are over represented in organizational management - so the odds that you are presenting to a Big Boss that speaks the same (Rational) language as you increase as you move higher up the organizational ladder. Of all the four temperaments, though, you are the most likely to experience the presentation meltdown, although it is often not immediately apparent, as was the case with Matt. Because you run into a different Temperament Big Boss at least 75% of the time, it is critical for you to learn the subtleties of communicating with them in their preferred style.

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

  • You respect competency in people above all other traits. You do your homework before giving a presentation, so are ready to defend your conclusions and recommendations to others. You expect others to either see the logic of your reasoning, or to debate any flaws they see, and if their arguments are competent, you are willing to change your mind - even if the argument comes from the most junior person on the team.
  • You question the status quo continuously and will discard any process or method if you find a new one that is more efficient or effective.
  • You are dedicated to finding the best and most effective solutions, and friendships, personal loyalties, and organization hierarchy is not a compelling reason for picking a particular solution if it has less merit than an alternative.

These are all positive and egalitarian traits. However, when presenting to non-Rational Big Bosses - that is, Guardians, Artisans, or Idealists, these very traits may be what create the disastrous results you want to avoid.

The Guardian Big Boss is the least like you. 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.
  • Values established processes, proven methods, and proper channels. These keep order in the organization and avoid unnecessary risk that can cause chaos.
  • 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.

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 reject any new methodologies or technologies where they don't see adequate planning to mitigate negative consequences affecting the well-being of the people in the organization.

The Artisan Big Boss is probably the most straight forward of the non-Rationals 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 why certain alternatives were investigated and chosen or discarded; competency is established only by actual results. Details and minutia that excite you bore him.
  • 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.
  • Seek 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.

In our example at the top of the article, once you know that Matt is a Rational, and Margaret is a Guardian, an effective response for Matt becomes apparent. Rather than pointing out the strengths of his methodology versus Margaret's challenge (which is precisely the correct behavior when challenged by a competency-oriented Rational Big Boss), Matt needed to respectfully defer to Margaret's authority. He might have responded, "That's a very good point Margaret. Let me have the team put together the data around it, and I'll get it to you before the end of the day". Having acknowledged Margaret's hierarchical authority, he would have continued on with his presentation with Margaret's interest and involvement intact. Instead, Margaret interpreted his defense of his methodology as insubordination, and lost trust in his judgment as well as, ironically, his competency.

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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