The problem most people have when hiring new employees is the tendency to hire people just like themselves. Engineering firms that need a marketer look for engineering-types with marketing experience. Creative types who need someone to manage the office look for other creatives who have operations experience.

It’s a problem for many leaders — they don’t want to be uncomfortable, they want to avoid stress, and they want to have people who will support them and their ideas. As a result, they hire a person who’s exactly like them — engineers hire left-brained analytical types, and marketers hire right-brained creative types.

It’s a recipe for disaster, and almost a guarantee that the new hire will not be able to perform.

This is where knowing the Keirsey temperaments, and being willing to hire the opposite temperament, comes in handy.

The Keirsey Temperaments

As I discussed last week, there are four Keirsey Temperaments — SJ, SP, NT, NF — created by David Keirsey, who based his findings on the Myers-Briggs test.

The four temperaments break down as follows:

  • SJ (Sensing-Judging): The Guardians, the left-brained, the conservative black and white thinkers who prefer things remain safe, secure, and the same.
  • SP (Sensing-Perceiving):The Artisans live in the right brain. They’re creators, and they love change and new situations. They bounce from unfinished project to unfinished project. SJs and SPs together make up 76% of the population.
  • NT (Intuitive-Thinking): The Thinkers. They love details, are very analytical, and pursue knowledge for knowledge’s sake.
  • NF (Intuitive-Feeling): The Idealists. Interested in changing the world and making life better for others. NTs and NPs make up 24% of the population.

Making It All Fit

If you notice, the SJs and NTs ally themselves easily, as do the SPs and NFs. They even fall in the typical left-brained/right-brained classifications. Depending on which type you are — you can take a simple Myers-Briggs test here — you probably have your opinions about the other temperaments: SJs are stodgy, NTs are nerdy, SPs are flighty, and NFs are completely awesome naively idealistic. (Sorry, I’m an ENFP.)

If you were to diagram these four types in a basic 2×2 grid, the SJs would be at the upper left, SPs at the upper right, NTs on the lower left, and NFs on the lower right. The two blocks diagonal from each other are usually the ones that clash the most — SJs and NFs butt heads, while the NTs and SPs tend to cross swords.

However — and this is important — these are the people who need each other the most.

Think about it: the creative marketing types — SPs and NFs — who run an agency probably suck at operations and finance. They may be able to muddle their way through it, but it’s hard, and they most likely hate it. They need an operations person — an SJ or NT — who can handle the details of finance and operations, and jingle their keys to keep the Artisans and Ideals focused on their work.

And the analytical engineering types — the SJs and NTs — who run an engineering firm probably suck at marketing. (Also, water is probably wet.) There can be creative Guardians and Thinkers, but they excel at the detail work. They need a creative type — an SP or NF — to run their marketing campaigns, and barricade the door to keep the Guardians and Thinkers from taking it over.

But It’s So Uncomfortable!

Several years ago, I was the lone marketing guy at a software company, in a building full of computer engineers. And despite my many years of marketing experience, I had a tough time convincing my coworkers that they weren’t that good at it.

Similarly, I know plenty of marketing types who think they’re good at technology and operations when, in fact, they’re awful, but their egos won’t let them admit it. They’ll tell their programmers and developers how to do their jobs, without knowing exactly what they’re talking about.

Last week, I talked about the problem of people working “left handed.” That refers to the idea that while right-handed people could teach themselves to write, throw, and work with their left hands, it would never become completely natural to them.

There are SJs and NTs who can design brochures and draw, and there are SPs and NFs who are inventors and computer programmers. But for many of them, it’s left-handed work.

What Does This Mean For Hiring?

It means you have to hire the person opposite to your type. It means the engineers have to hire a marketer and then leave her alone to do her work. Judge her work based on results, and don’t micromanage her or think you know more. You don’t.

It means the marketers needs to hire an operations manager and then listen carefully to him. Judge him by whether projects are getting done, you’re making your margins, and whether clients are satisfied with your deadline keeping. Otherwise your agency will fail.

But, and this is the hard part, you have to let your new hire do their work. You’re going to clash on procedures. You’re going to argue about approaches. And you’re going to think the other person is purposely being a stubborn, obstinate A-hole for not doing things your way.

(Don’t worry, they think the very same thing about you.)

What you ultimately want to look at is results. Engineers shouldn’t tell their marketers how to design their campaign, and marketers shouldn’t ignore their COOs. These are the people who will make your life easier, make it possible for you to eliminate your least favorite distractions, and let you focus on the things you love to do the most.

And if you’re willing to put up with that person’s idiosyncrasies and eccentricities, you’ll find the other person has made your company grow, expanded your bottom line, and made your life a whole lot easier to boot. You just have to be willing to take the risk to hire someone who doesn’t think or act like you.

Easy peasy.


Professional Blog ServiceBranding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing. His third book, The Owned Media Doctrine, will be available this summer.