Working with Different Types of Personalities

Lawyers historically have a bad rap and are commonly accused of focusing on money, politics or complex legal challenges, usually anything but the person. However unbiased these vicious slanders may be, it’s reasonable to say that a focus on people is a key to success as a Lawyer. This is even more apparent in the modern age when the need to have increasingly effective collaborations with both the clients and the teams around us is vital to our success.

Traditionally the successful lawyer is efficient, diligent, technically gifted, precise, accurate and reliable. From a technical stance our job as a lawyer is somewhat of a known quantity – we know if we meet deadlines, keep expanding our knowledge and maintain our high standards and attention to detail we should be ok.

In the not so distant future is OK going to be enough to differentiate you from the other firms that offer the same level of technical excellence and attention to detail? Our answer is probably not – anything that can be better performed by a machine will be. Technology will help make the job easier, for those that remain. This means that, to use the old cliché, relationships will be king.

Increasingly fundamental to our success as a lawyer is the unknown quantity – the human element, that which can’t be drafted, reviewed and signed off. The fluid changing relationships with those in our sphere of influence, and those that we want to develop a trusted advisor relationship with. Success at those relationships day to day can be a challenge, and in a world where time is money and working under pressure is part of the job, we don’t often get the chance to pause, smell the roses and reflect on how we could even further improve the relationships we have on a daily basis, and so increase our chances for success.

Being able to recognise and interpret patterns of behaviour in those around us will help us start to build a picture of someone’s motivations and predilections. Once we can recognise that, without pigeon-holing someone and appreciating the behavioural flexibility we all possess to act in different ways, we can start to paint a picture of how best to relate to that person, support them and be the most effective collaborator possible.

Its useful to have a guide to deepen our understanding of the self and other – Merrill & Reid’s social styles provides us with a map and whilst the map is not the territory, it gives us another resource that we can use in better understanding the landscape of others world view and how we can best collaborate with them.

Merrill & Reid defined 4 work personality types.





1. Analytical

The analytical personality type is very introspective. They’re serious individuals that act with utmost deliberation. They have high standards which are reflected in their working styles. They are process driven and highly organised. They also often tend to have a dry and witty sense of humour.

Analytical strengths are that they are perfectionists. They produce a high standard of work. They’re organised, economical, and self-disciplined. They are risk-averse (which can arguably also be a weakness).

Analytical weaknesses are that they can be moody, negative and critical of those with different working styles. Their disposition towards analysing everything can make them indecisive. Their desire to be perfect can produce negative results as it can overshadow the point of their task.

The best ways to interact with an analytical colleague or client:

• Ask rather than tell

• Don't make demands or rush

• Give them time and space to think about things

• They like encouragement and feedback for good work

2. Driver

Driver personality types have strong and energetic personalities. They exude confidence and naturally gravitate toward leadership positions. They shoot into action, but they can overlook details. Driver lawyers are blue sky visionaries. They see where they want to take a team but they can lack the preparation of the interim steps.

Driver strengths can be found in their tenacious determination. They are independent and highly productive. They are visionaries and they’re decisive. A driver would rather make a bad decision than no decision. They just want actions toward their goals.

On the weak side, the driver can appear to be insensitive, unempathetic and sarcastic. Drivers are stubborn and typically do not like to admit when they are wrong. They can also rush into decision making without thoroughly thinking through the consequences of their decision.

The best ways to interact with a driver colleague or client;

• Get straight to the point

• Give them responsibility

• Give them independence when they execute their tasks

• Show appreciation

3. Amiable

The amiable personality type is a well-balanced individual, calm and patient. They’re typically quiet. They’re empathetic, kind, and inoffensive—amiables are people pleasers.

Amiable strengths are that they are very easy going. They fit well into teams, do not cause disruption and get on with their work. They’re diplomatic and calm and can be very supportive of those around them.

On the weak side, an amiable's need to people please can be self-defeating and consequent in them feeling resentment. It can also cause complications if they do not really say what they feel for fear of upsetting those around them. They can be stubborn, selfish and easily overwhelmed.

The best way to interact with an amiable;

• Be gentle

• Do not overwhelm

• Show support and empathy

• Encourage them to step outside of their comfort zone

4. Expressive

The expressive is also known as a social specialist. They are exciting, popular and naturally draw people to them. They want to be included and are excellent team players. Expressives want to be involved in everything from projects to social teams.

On the strong side, the expressive is very good at communicating and managing those around them. They are charismatic and persuasive. On the weak side, they can be disorganised, undisciplined, loud, and incredibly talkative.

The best way to interact with an expressive;

• Have a sense of humour

• Make sure they check their facts

• Show excitement and participate in their conversations

Of course, these are generalisations and many people will exhibit some amount, of any number, of these four work personality types. However, everyone will possess more characteristics of one type over the others.

Make a personal commitment to change e.g. After I meet with a colleague, instead of rushing on to the next thing, I will take a minute to review what personality type I think they might be.

An easy way to practice is to make a note of each personality type, and a few key points that stands out from each. Keep it in a small notebook that you carry around and look at each day. During interactions with colleagues (or personal relationships)_in daily life pay close attention to the words that are used, and how they tend to react. Try using different words, phrases and requests for help to see what resonates. As you learn to understand the signs of different types you will start to understand what works and what doesn’t. As with anything practicing will make these behaviours embedded.