How to Work with Anybody

January 24, 2023 Ken Blanchard

People often tell me that one of my strengths is my ability to collaborate with just about anybody. Having written close to 70 books with almost as many coauthors, I’ve worked closely with writers of all different personality types. I think the reason I’ve been able to do this is because I’ve appreciated the different talents and points of view my coauthors brought to the table. I do my best to work with people, not against them.

That’s why I’m so excited about our company’s new learning journey called Essential Motivators™. It’s based on a framework developed by Linda Berens, author of Understanding Yourself and Others: An Introduction to the Four Temperaments. According to this framework, we can understand ourselves and others through the lens of four different personality patterns: Fire, Earth, Air, and Water. While the four patterns have many layers—including skillsets, talents, stressors, and shadow patterns—they can be summed up this way:

  • People of the Fire pattern tend to be improvisers. They focus on the present; they are tactical and want results. They might come across as unpredictable and impulsive.
  • People of the Earth pattern tend to be stabilizers. To plan for the future, they focus on the past; they are logistical and want to establish and maintain structure. They can be perceived as inflexible or overly cautious.
  • People of the Air pattern tend to be theorists. They seek strategic solutions for complex problems. They want to understand how the world and things in it work. They might be seen as skeptical or impersonal.
  • People of the Water pattern tend to be catalysts. They look to the future and seek authentic connections to make the world a better place. They can come across as people pleasing and idealistic.

Working with Your Own and Others’ Superpowers

The Essential Motivators™ learning journey teaches people how to recognize and lean into the strengths of their pattern. As our LeaderChat podcast host, Chad Gordon, says, “It’s kind of like discerning your superpower.”

My superpower is cheering people on and catching them doing things right. On the downside, I’ve been accused more than once of being a people pleaser and overly idealistic. Those are all qualities of a Water type. That’s okay—I have plenty of Fire, Air, and Earth types around to keep me balanced!

For example, when it comes to fitness, I tend to want to go with the flow rather than make the effort to work out regularly. That’s why I’ve teamed up with some results-oriented Fire people to help me take action and keep my fitness goals on track.

One of my first coauthors was a talented Air type. He was brilliant at analysis and systems thinking but could also be very critical and hard to please. Unfortunately, I developed an ulcer while I was working with him. Yet the work we did together was game-changing, and I wouldn’t have missed the experience for the world.

The late, great Norman Vincent Peale, my coauthor on The Power of Ethical Management, was a Water type like me. He became a tremendous spiritual mentor to me. Although we published our book way back in 1988, working with him was so inspiring that his impact on my life continues to this day.

I recently published a book with a wonderful Earth type. Because I tend to focus on the big picture, I’m not great with logistical details. Writing a book with someone who has that skillset was a real joy.

On several books, I’ve worked with two or more coauthors with different personality types. Since each different type has different values and needs, things can get complicated and disagreements can come up. I’ve found that the key to working with people of different personality types is to establish a compelling vision for what we want to accomplish together. Once the vision is clear, I do my best to get my ego out of the way and help the others make that vision a reality.

An Easier Way to Understand People

It's easier to help others when you understand their core psychological needs, the things they value, and the behaviors that come naturally to them. When you learn about the four personality patterns, you recognize the unique talents others have that you don’t have. You stop expecting people to do things your way and start to appreciate the way they do them. As Linda Berens says, “It allows you to get rid of the ‘Be Like Me’ syndrome. You make space for others to be different and learn how to communicate in a way that they will understand, as opposed to how you would understand.”

While there are other tools for understanding a person's personality type—DiSC and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are two examples—it can be tough to apply these systems on the job in moments of need. The Essential Motivators™ framework, on the other hand, is easy to understand and fun to use. You can even use it outside the workplace with spouses, children, parents, and friends.

I encourage you all to take the Essential Motivators™ learning journey. Whether you’re writing a book with someone or working on a team, knowing how you and others tick can turn a potential personality clash into a powerful alliance.

About the Author

Ken Blanchard

Ken Blanchard is cofounder and Chief Spiritual Officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies®. Best known as the coauthor of The One Minute Manager, as well as 65 other books with combined sales totaling more than 21 million copies.

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