This is the third post in my series on the four public speaking personalities. We’ve talked about Reliables and Helpers, and today’s post is about the Improvers. (For another valuable angle on your public speaking personality, learn whether you’re an Introvert or an Extravert.)
“If I Only Had a Brain”
Just as Dorothy Gale, heroine of the Wizard of Oz, represents the traditional and loyal Reliable style… and the Tin Woodman, who wanted to feel his heart beat, represents the values-driven Helper… the Scarecrow, whose head was supposedly stuff with nothing but straw, represents the strategic and logical Improver.
Like Helpers, Improvers are a small group; just 12% of the U.S. population. But their impact is out of proportion to their numbers, because Improvers like to invent, innovate, and improve the systems that run our lives (think Steve Jobs). Two-thirds of Improvers are men, but women Improvers are also very successful in corporations, and in fields that reward a mix of objectivity and innovation such as journalism, tech, entrepreneurship, and the law.
Are You an Improver?
It’s not always easy to identify your public speaking personality — many people relate two, or even three of the groups — but what you long for is often a good clue: Reliables wish they were more reliable. Helpers want to be better people. Improvers want to be even more clever.
They also want you to be more clever, and will push hard to make sure that you get there. An Improver boss can be quite a challenge, because no matter how well you performed yesterday, today is a new day and the bar has gone up. (The phrase “continuous improvement“ was no doubt coined by an Improver.) And while a Reliable boss will praise you, in their low-key Reliable way, for taking a tried-and-true approach to your work, an Improver will want to know why you haven’t tried something new!
- The great communications strength of Improvers is their ability to notice patterns that others have missed, and envision creative solutions to complex, systemic problems.
- That strength can become a weakness if the Improver’s impatience with other peoples’ intellectual limits comes across as dismissiveness or contempt.
So How Do You Talk to an Improver?
Rationally. Although Improvers (also known as “Rationals”) are independent thinkers, they respect objective decision-making. The best of both worlds, for them, is a creative idea that’s supported by a solid analysis or strategy.
Competently. There are many situations in which having the right title, the right experience or the right credentials are sufficient to get you heard. Those situations do not involve Improvers! With them, you’ll need to earn the right to have your viewpoint taken seriously. They will expect you to know what you’re talking about, and to ably defend your position — and they might attack your position just for fun.
System-ically. Like their Helper cousins, Improvers are concerned with creating a better future; but Helpers focus their visionary efforts on individuals, while Improvers focus on systems. Everything from computer architecture to fixing the country’s infrastructure are fair game. If you want to capture an Improver’s interest, talk to them about transforming a system.
If You Have the Improver Public Speaking Personality
By now you’ve probably noticed that the biggest communication challenge for each of the four public speaking personalities is understanding (or perhaps “bearing with”) the ways in which the other three personalities talk and think.
This can be particularly tough for Improvers, who don’t (to use a Biblical phrase) “suffer fools gladly.” So if you’re an Improver, remember:
- Make sure that your objectivity doesn’t make you look arrogant or aloof.
- Consider starting your explanations at the beginning, and simplifying them. (These Three Tech Questions will help set the stage for a more sophisticated discussion of your topic.)
- Stay focused on why your ideas are right, and leave out the part about how every else’s ideas are wrong!
The most effective public speakers get that way by building on their strengths. So be sure to emphasize the excitement of your message, and downplay any frustrations that might turn off your audience. You, and they, will be happier, and your public speaking skills will… continuously improve!