14. How To Use Your Abilities – Work Styles

14. How To Use Your Abilities – Work Styles

My purpose is to provide practical wisdom you can immediately start applying to your life. As mentioned earlier, how you use your natural abilities is as important as the abilities you’ve been given.  Based on their styles and perspectives, two people with the same five or six dominant abilities can look quite dissimilar in how they work, parent, and relate to others. Each needs a different environment to grow, learn and thrive. One of them may value tangible results while the other values experiences and feelings.  One may enjoy the company of others nearly all the time, whereas the other might need regular time alone to reflect and rejuvenate. One may work slowly and meticulously while the other moves fast to get a lot accomplished in a short time. One might live in the present moment while the other lives with a view of the future in mind. 

No matter what your work style, enjoying your profession and knowing how to relate well to others are important to success. In The Millionaire Mind, Dr. Thomas J. Stanley reports the results of his survey of five thousand millionaires. One thousand responded with full disclosure. The researchers then interviewed 775 of the responding millionaires in depth. Across the board, all the millionaires stated that they enjoyed their profession and that this enjoyment was a high priority for them. Fifty-eight percent declared it essential to have good personal and professional relationships. Relational sophistication was Extremely Important or Very Important to their career success.

As you discover who you are and find what you enjoy doing, your chances of achieving the success you were made for increase greatly.  

There are three distinct work styles: Motivators, Counselors, and Strategists. Perhaps you can identify something of yourself in each, but you’re seeking your dominant style. You may be able to recognize it by its positive effects. However, it will probably be easier to identify your dominant style of work by how it gets you in trouble.

Motivators help us move to the next level in our lives. They gain significance from creating movement in others or helping others shift their point of view. Examples of Motivators are: the teacher who championed you to consider a certain vocation; the coach who made you believe in yourself; the fitness instructor who encouraged you to lose weight. In isolation, believing in yourself is not easy. We need impetus from others to inspire, encourage and champion our achievements. 

Winston Churchill is a superb example of the Motivator on a grand scale. In World War II, he inspired England to persevere despite constant bombings, devastating losses, limited war materials and rationed food. Motivators are verbally dynamic. They can actively create the “ah-ha” experience and influence people to think in a different way.  They look for ways to create win-win situations and opportunities to promote a cause, idea, action or sale.  Motivators use their knowledge, passion and vision to persuade. Because they’re verbally dynamic, they’re good negotiators. They are perceived as traditional salespeople or impassioned advocates. 

While Motivators possess the natural ability to work hard, they don’t naturally work smart. They tend to do things themselves that they’d be smarter to have someone else do. They must learn to work smart…when to delegate tasks and when to seek the expertise of others.

Counselors are designed to create an environment for change and growth.  They naturally monitor, nurture and manage. The listening ear is invaluable. Receptivity and perspective from someone who sees the entire picture are essential. The therapist or doctor, the friend who takes time to listen to you, the parent who gives you room to move and grow at your own pace ­– they’re all Counselors. 

They naturally survey and inventory their surroundings, listening for a dialogue and looking for the green light in any situation or relationship. When the green light goes on in a selling relationship, for example, Counselors proceed with confidence.  In sales, they shine when they invite others to the table and respectfully allow those people to make their own decision.

Arguably, the most powerful man in America is Alan Greenspan, Chairman of The Federal Reserve Board. He spends most of his time analyzing and inventorying the economy. He doesn’t say much, but when he does, everyone listens.

Because Counselors don’t like to be forced or manipulated, they tend to censor themselves so they will not be considered pushy or offensive.  Due to their self-censoring, Counselors are often considered non-traditional salespeople. They’re rewarded when they get others to make decisions with minimal interference on the Counselors’ part.

Counselors have a natural ability to work hard and work smart. Their disability is a tendency to be passive, waiting for the go-ahead from others.

Strategists make good leaders because they consciously create environments for us to be safe and dynamic, to have clarity and hope. Once Strategists create the right environment, they have a natural ability to infuse that environment with enthusiasm, inspiration and leadership.

Nowadays, they’re known as executive types. 

American literature celebrates a young executive type named Tom Sawyer. When given the task of whitewashing a long fence, he inventoried his environment, provided brushes and paint, then got his friends to see the fun they’d miss if they didn’t join in. He got everyone else to do his work enthusiastically. 

During World War II, if General Macarthur had been removed from his headquarters, handed a rifle and sent to the front lines, it wouldn’t have been the highest and best use of his abilities. It certainly wouldn’t have been in the best interests of the U.S. military. Macarthur had an army to implement his strategy. Those with this ability need a supporting staff to be successful. Without a team to carry out what they envision, Strategists become, like a bug on its back, helpless to move forward. That is their disability. Most of the time, Strategists work smart since they have no problem delegating. It’s when they can’t delegate that they become ineffective.

My brother Brian, a Strategist, was preparing to speak to several hundred people at a retreat in Oregon. He decided to make some changes to the workbooks that the attendees would be using the next day. That required his staff to open hundreds of binders and replace 2,500 pages. A bellman brought all the workbook boxes to Brian’s suite. I arrived late to help. As I opened the suite door, a cacophony of sounds greeted me: “I need more blues. I need more reds!”; binders popping open and snapping shut. People were stepping over each other, and crumpled paper was piling up in the corner of the room. Meanwhile, Brian was sitting on the bed, addressing the troops: “And tomorrow morning we’re going to do this and then we’re going to do that…. When this happens, we will do this!”  He was General Macarthur motivating his staff. As I sat down on the edge of the bed, I noticed there were no binders on the bed. I looked at him and said, “You’re not going to help, are you?” In response, he rose to his full stature and said, “That’s not who I am.  It’s not what I do.” He went right back to talking to the troops. 

 Listeners to this story have pointed out to me that I came late, sat on the edge of the bed, and didn’t help either!  For all the years I’ve told this story, I’ve left out that part. Now I need to come clean, neither of us helped. We’re both Strategists.

If you are a Strategist, you’re not naturally designed to execute physically what you plan mentally. The best use of your natural work style is to inventory your surroundings, create an environment, then motivate within that environment to build synergy, clarity, action stages or positive experiences.

Strategists are adept at leveraging their resources and environments. This includes using emotions, physical assets, financial resources and especially the natural abilities of others.   They are clinical in their assessments and wonderfully insightful about who would be good for accomplishing particular tasks. Strategists have a strong leadership characteristic. They evaluate people and situations for potential, leadership and growth. They also look for those who can follow their lead and physically execute their vision.  They’re trying to figure out how to get the best out of the system. They can be extremely personal, warm and friendly, but they’re always using that eagle eye to survey their professional and personal environment to see who can accomplish their vision.

Strategists generally feel helpless when they have to carry out their own plans. Most are all thumbs when it comes to the actually doing. They don’t have the patience for it. Because of their natural discernment, they know that execution is not their thing.

How you work doesn’t apply just to your job; it applies to everything…parenting, hobbies, volunteering. Your work style is the filter all your natural abilities go through. If you have a natural ability to take on challenges, for example, that ability canplay out in different ways, depending on your work style. The Motivator says, “I’ll take on the challenge myself.” The Counselor ponders, “I wonder when I should take on this challenge?” The Strategist asks, “Who can I get to take on this challenge for me?”

A realtor was showing houses to a couple for more than six months.  The realtor, a Counselor, eventually threw up her hands in frustration because she couldn’t get the couple to make a decision. Her partner offered to try. After examining the needs and concerns of the clients, he called the couple. He said, “Based on my research, the house you just saw is the type of house you would be interested in.  To best serve you, it would help me to know what you liked and did not like about the house”.  The couple’s fundamental objection was revealed when they replied, “For 1.5 million dollars, we wanted a kitchen with better lighting”.  They talked about how to solve the lighting problem and made an offer the next day. Assertive communication ended six months of passivity.

In order to sell effectively, you have to know your own natural work style and speak in the natural language of your clients…even though it may not be your own natural language. This applies in any situation where you want to get another person to consider your ideas: talking with your spouse about where you’d like to go on vacation or discussing with your daughter why she should do her chores or meeting with your boss concerning why you believe you deserve a promotion. Awareness of your own natural style and of the other person’s style and language can have a tremendous positive effect. 

Work style can make a sale or break a sale. Sometimes you see this manifested both ways on the same shopping expedition. A while ago, I bought a luxury car. My friends were giving me a hard time about it because my car was much nicer than my wife’s.  So my wife Joan, a Counselor, and I, a Strategist, went to check out local Mercedes dealerships with the idea of evening things up by getting her a better car. We were accompanied by one of our best friends, a Motivator, who is a natural negotiator.

At the first dealership, we spoke to a salesperson who was a Counselor. He greeted us without leaving his desk. We walked around looking at the cars in his showroom. He didn’t actively engage in conversation, but said, “If you have any questions, just ask.” 

We said, “Thank you.” Later, we asked him for information about a particular platinum-colored model, its features, etc. He answered all our questions. Our Motivator friend had come along to help with the negotiations and was disappointed that the Counselor salesman wouldn’t negotiate. The salesman simply said, “I’ll take $3,000 off for cash and that’s my final offer.” He wouldn’t engage in any further talk about it. He was polite and answered all our questions, but wouldn’t negotiate.

We decided to go to the next dealership. It was much larger and had about ten times the inventory of the first. No sooner had we closed our car door and started walking around the lot than we were greeted by, “Hey, how ya’ doin’? What’s goin’ on? It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” This was a Motivator salesman.  He was friendly and dynamic with a great deal of knowledge and enthusiasm.

Well, I learned a great deal about Mercedes cars from that gentleman. He had 30 years of automobile sales experience. He was confident in his delivery, expertise and inventory. However, he and Joan had different work styles; She’s a Counselor and he a Motivator. He did most of the talking and never listened to her. When he pointed out a green Mercedes, my wife told him, “Actually, we already have a spruce-green Mercedes. I don’t want us to be twins in the garage and get mixed up. I’d really like a different color.” 

He tried to persuade her by pointing out that they were slightly different color greens. We ended up test-driving the green Mercedes because the Motivator wanted us to drive the green Mercedes. As we walked back to our own car, he continued to be dynamic and forceful, asking, “What can I do to get you to sign on the dotted line?” My wife became quieter and quieter. We excused ourselves to think it over. Joan shot the deal down with one sentence, “He isn’t listening to me.” 

From whom do you think we bought the car? My wife went back to the Counselor salesman and purchased a car from him. The Motivator salesman lost the sale because he had inadvertently pushed her away. He didn’t listen to what she wanted and bulldozed right through her. And while we were signing the contract, the Counselor salesman bemoaned the fact that he lost many sales because he doesn’t negotiate well. How frustrating! Both salesmen lose sales…one because he pushes too hard, the other because he is too passive.

From another perspective, both men suffered loss of sales for the same reasons: because they weren’t aware of how they sell and because they didn’t realize how their audience needed to be sold. These salespeople did not effectively communicate with their clients.


What is your natural work style? Here are some quick ways to determine your style. You are a Counselor if the following statements fit your philosophy and method of selling:

I am encouraged when…

  • I provide information to potential buyers so they can make a decision.
  • I provide a valuable service to buyers.
  • I show respect for potential buyers.

You are a Motivator if the following statements fit your philosophy and method of selling:

I am encouraged when…

  • I help shape and influence potential buyers’ perspective.
  • I positively impact the buyer’s decision.
  • I present a thoughtful, persuasive idea to potential buyers.

You are a Strategist if:

  • You own the sales agency.
  • You get Motivators and Counselors to sell for you.

What selling style does your client want?  Here are some tips to determine the sales style that will appeal to your client:

Positive Request

Ask your client this: “In order for me to serve you better, please tell me about a positive experience you’ve had with a salesperson. 

The answer defines the type of salesperson your client DOES WANT.

Counselor Motivator
Made me feel comfortable. Created a win-win situation.
Available to advise me. Negotiated with my best interests in mind.
Did not pressure me to make a decision. Presented options I would never have considered.
Was respectful of my needs. Showed me the best buy and encouraged me to go for it.

Negative Request

Ask your client this only if you are not getting enough feedback regarding a positive sales experience:  “In order for me to serve you better, please tell me about a negative experience you’ve had with a salesperson.”

The answer defines the type of salesperson your client DOES NOT WANT.

Counselor Motivator
Had to drag information out of him/her. Too pushy, opinionated.
Didn’t seem interested in making the sale. Didn’t listen or find out what I really wanted.
Too passive. Wasn’t patient.
Wouldn’t haggle (negotiate). Only interested in results.
Didn’t get me excited about the deal.  Manipulative.
Too slow. Too fast.

If you know your natural selling style and the style your client needs, you can adapt your sales presentation accordingly. Give your Counselor clients a comfortable, respectful environment, including time to think about their decision.  Counselor clients need to know you’ve heard them. Demonstrate this by stating their needs and wants back to them as you understand them. Check with them to assure you’ve got it right and to reassure them. Help them overcome any passivity or indecisiveness. You can share your own expertise by suggesting, “If it were me, I would …..” or “If I were in this situation, I’d …. because…..”

Your Motivator clients need to know that you are focusing on results and representing them well.  Let them know how you will work for them. Listen to them and be patient. 

With self-awareness, everyone can learn to work smart. To begin managing your work style, ask yourself what structure, time, and resources you need for balance. If you’re a Counselor, ask yourself if you need movement to counteract your natural passivity. If you’re a Motivator, do you need perspective from someone else to validate your environment? If you’re a Strategist, do you have someone who can execute your plan?

Can’t you simply discipline yourself to work smart or to work hard? I’m often asked this. The answer is YES, but you will dilute your enthusiasm.  You have to count the cost, and the cost could be burnout if you do something you’re not designed to do. If the cost is the loss of your passion, it’s a heavy cost. For example, it would not be ideal for Strategists to work on a conveyor belt in a fish-gutting factory. They’d have a better chance of remaining enthusiastic and not suffering burnout if they took a supervisory role.

Before the Industrial Revolution, most people didn’t have the luxury of questioning whether they were hard-working farmers or Strategist farmers. Since we are totally free to choose, why not search all the possibilities? Why not look to be creative and for opportunities to grow?

You need a selective management system tailored for each work style: 

  • Strategists must have a system of execution (naturally delegate).
  • Counselors must have a system of movement (conflicted about delegating).
  • Motivators must have a system of perspective (don’t delegate).

You don’t need everything in place to begin working smarter. You can work toward that end. That’s why we use the term wiggling forward

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