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In this series of articles our Org Psych, Virginia Henningsen, takes you through real-life (anonymised of course) examples of personalities you are likely to encounter when recruiting for your startup/scaleup and the tips and approaches you can apply to bring out their best. Yes, there are also pitfalls to look out for and some people you might want to avoid at all costs!

Over to Virginia, our Startup Psych…

Think all Sales Leaders are the same? Time to think again, Business Developers, Sales Managers, Key Accounts Relationship Manager, Partnerships Managers – they can all be as diverse as the titles we give to roles where the chief aim is to bring in new revenue for a startup. We know some key personality and interpersonal characteristics that underlie success in sales: opportunistic, high appetite for risk, ability to draw lots of energy from highly people-oriented roles, confident and resilient in the face of setbacks and knockbacks… but there are also lots of individual differences too that can be really helpful to know about when you are trying to motivate and manage your new sales leader. To ensure you get the best out of your people it’s really important to understand how they are different which will enable you to set them up for success in the role. It will also help you understand why things aren’t working and how you can address it. Maybe your new Sales Leader is like Brad?

Brad profiled as a confident, capable and assertive individual who generally reads people well and is motivated to ensure he follows through on his obligations to others, and this suits him to the stakeholder management aspects of a complex sales role.  Brad is likely to set high standards and will be a high energy, driven type who sets and expects a fast pace. He will work well with highly motivated people but may be challenged by team members who do not share his level of drive and determination. He is likely to be hands-off in management style, setting himself apart from his team, and while he will be open and clear in communication style, he is likely to be skeptical and wary until they have proved themselves to him. Managers with this quality can engender strong loyalty from their team but may benefit from broadening their management style to enable them to work as well with staff members who have varying levels of experience, skill, maturity, and motivation. The following observations and suggestions were made for Brad:

He’s bright

Good levels of intellectual efficiency in Brad’s profile suggest that he values higher level intellectual and conceptual work and will derive satisfaction from being a problem solver and decision maker. He needs to be and to feel, involved and understand the logic, rationale and commercial reasoning behind sales product changes and improvements, and then he will be able to use this information to influence his stakeholders and drive sales.

Need for Control

Secondly, a strong need for security and stability, combined with Brad’s high level of dominance and need for control may result in Brad seeking more information and clarity about his role (compared to most others) and the objectives for his role, to feel comfortable. Brad may feel uncomfortable and less competent when unfamiliar with his work environment, and therefore putting in additional time to get him up to speed as soon as possible to enable him to operate independently will be important.

Very high self-confidence with an underlying need to prove himself

Brad has a strong need to prove himself and there may be some insecurity beneath his outward sign of confidence. As such, Brad may be likely to conceal his doubts and queries, which may make it harder for him to ask for help when he needs it, and he may react defensively in the face of criticism and feedback. It will be important to build a good working relationship with him straight away, being mindful of his hesitancy to trust, following through on promises made to him, and finding common levers that motivate and engage Brad.

Thinking fast and thinking slow…..but at the right times

A preference for broad and conceptual thinking rather than focusing on the detail, suggests that at times Brad may need to make a conscious effort to slow down to ensure all details are attended to and considered. There may be crucial components of the role that are routine, where accuracy and following protocols is essential, and it may be important that Brad has highly detail-oriented team members with natural strengths in this area who can reinforce these aspects of the role, or he will need to allocate sufficient quiet time to manage these attention to detail tasks.  Brad should keep thinking fast in the parts of the roles which require him to take action to initiate contact with prospective customers and to respond to opportunities.

Building emotional stability and control

Brad is highly action oriented and with a below average (compared to most adults) level of self-control, at times, he may speak or make decisions without always considering the consequences. At times he may respond at an instinctual or emotional level, rather than a perceptive and intellectual level. This may be an area for Brad to address, to purposefully slow down and to engage his higher order thinking processes. He may feel irritation and annoyance more strongly than most others, and building his emotional stability and control may be important for Brad’s overall well-being as well as for his performance in this role.

Impression Management

Brad may also need to become more aware of the impression he is making.  Brad is likely to have a variant temperament, and everyone around him will know how he is feeling most of the time.  Sometimes, this change in an individual’s temperament may make them appear less predictable, and as a consequence less approachable. Brad may need to be encouraged to develop a greater ‘care factor’ about the impression he makes, and what others think of him. He could be encouraged to draw on his sociability, warmth, and perceptiveness, and to display this most of the time, rather than just when he needs something.

You can find Virginia on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/virginia-henningsen-4b05232/ Our startup and scaleup clients at https://scaleandswing.com/ really value her insights.