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How Do You Manage a Strong Personality?

Updated: Jan 22, 2021

Managing a staff member with a strong personality is often seen as a real challenge but it doesn’t need to be that way. Leaders and influencers are often strong personalities. In my experience, a strong personality is a positive thing – you just need to work out how the person ticks! With a strong personality you will most likely get a team member who has grit and determination, direction and drive.

While the SP (strong personality person) always seems to be in your face, not afraid to give you honest feedback, they can also keep you on your toes and help you achieve results. Just learn how to manage them! Of course, managing staff is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do but focus on the strengths of the SP and find a way to move forward.

Great managers will not attempt to manage all staff in the same way. Different personalities and different skill sets need different levels and styles of management. One size doesn’t fit all so be strategic and unpick the personality of each staff member and work out what management style would work best for them. Be flexible as a manager and keep tweaking your style until you get the result you need. I would keep the SP busy – really busy!

Whilst you may put a lot of energy into trying to manage the SP, there could well be other problems you are not noticing. Worry less about the SP and look out for other staff who on the face of it look compliant and are easy to manage but may in fact be under performing. Worse still, other personality types such as manipulators often fly under the radar and do a lot of damage before you notice it. There are less surprises with a SP as they tend to show their cards and what you see is what you get.

If you happen to have more than one SP in your business/team, this can lead to arguments as neither will buckle. Clearly define their roles, encourage them to listen to others and always show fairness towards each of them. Don't let them push you around.

Take time to listen to the SP because they will often provide informal feedback on behalf of the team. The others may be too quiet or (weak) to stand up and be counted but not the SP. You can also use them to move messages back to the team as they are usually influencers. Instead of treating them as a problem, use them to your advantage.

I have managed and worked with several SPs over the years - I appreciated the way they were upfront and honest, and I found they were often the ones that got stuff done. Not only did they have a strong personality, they had confidence in themselves and I could rely on them in tough times. They could deal with stressful situations. You can have robust discussions with them, and then get on and get the job done. The SP was of much more use to me than the diplomatic personality who only said the things they thought I wanted to hear.

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