According to my site stats, someone (among the many searching for Doctor Who’s Myers Briggs type) arrived at this website last week by Googling precisely that question: ‘how do you motivate an ENFP to actually do something?‘. It sounds like the desperate plea of a despairing manager.
It also sounds like a question from someone whose grasp of, and/or expectations from, the MBTI are somewhat flawed.
‘How do you motivate an ENFP to actually do something?’ implies that all ENFPs are inherently difficult to motivate. It also suggests that our MBTI preferences hold the key to what motivates us. And it further implies that ‘one size fits all’ – i.e. that all of these notoriously lazy, work-shy, diffident ENFPs will be motivated by the same things.
MBTI can provide some clues as to what might help motivate people (I’ll offer some thoughts on ENFPs in due course). Other personality tools and motivation questionnaires can also be of some value. And the old maxim ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’ has some resonance here, too.
However, the real key to motivating people lies in the conversations you have with them. Talk to them, ask questions, listen, probe, seek to understand them (as an individual not as a representative of their generic Type description).
MBTI is a powerful tool, when used ethically and appropriately, to help people understand, communicate and work more effectively with each other. It can add great value in enhancing self-awareness, building harmonious relationships and developing high performing teams. But MBTI is not about pigeon-holing, stereotyping or labelling. And it is not a panacea.
MBTI explores certain aspects of normal personalities and identifies some of the traits likely to be held in common by similar types. There are 16 Personality Types within the MBTI model but to suggest that there are only 16 types of people in the World would be patently ridiculous. Many, many other factors shape who we are and how we are. In the words of Carl Gustav Jung, on whose work the MBTI is founded: “Every individual is an exception to the rule. Hence one can never give a description of a type, no matter how complete, that would apply to more than one individual despite the fact that in some ways it aptly characterises thousands of others. Conformity is one side of a person, uniqueness is the other.”
So – jumping down from that particular soapbox – how might MBTI help you tap into what motivates a particular ENFP as part of a conversation with the individual?
Typically NFs value making a difference for others – and are driven by their values. Listening for, and presenting back, these values and their vision can be hugely powerful. Help them see how what you want them to do matters and makes a difference. And if it doesn’t - should they be doing it? (‘Should anyone be doing it?’ – an NF might well ask.)
With regard to their Intuitive (as opposed to Sensing) preference, provide an overview of what you want them to achieve but don’t give too much detail or factual information up front – and where possible allow them to find their own way – ideally a new way – to achieve the objective.
In respect of their Feeling preference, never be dismissive, trivial or impersonal (never treat them as a generic representative of a particular type!) Treat them with respect, understand them as a person, acknowledge their needs (one should do this for Thinking types too but this is critical if you want to engage those with the Feeling preference).
How you harness the Perceiving preference can also be significant in energising or stifling an individual. Whereas Judging types typically prefer to work to a plan and avoid the stress of a last minute panic, Perceiving types are often energised by last minute pressure. Whereas Judging types therefore tend to perform best with a plan, Perceiving types typically prefer flexibility and work best to a deadline. Indeed, the apparently un-motivated Perceiving type might simply be killing time until they feel enough pressure to be energised.
Constantly ‘creating’ deadlines for the Perceiving type may sometimes be a way to get them moving. Whereas if a manager with a Judging preference imposes a plan or planning on a Perceiving type who sees no value in this, the latter is likely to feel frustrated, constrained and stifled (here speaks the ‘P’ voice of painful experience).
So MBTI can be a useful tool to provide some clues as to what might motivate an individual with particular type preferences – and as one avenue to explore in discussing their contribution and motivation.
However, if the frustrated manager who Googled this question is really dealing with someone who doesn’t seem motivated to do anything, it is probably nothing to do with their personality type per se (or at least in isolation). And it may well be more about how they are being managed, and the quality of the conversations with their manager, than their inherent motivation or lack thereof.
Would any of my (highly motivated and successful) ENFP readers care to comment? Or any of the other unique individuals reading this?