Since working with a larger team, I’ve noticed that everyone has a natural tendency to be either a project person or a perpetual person.
Project people are motivated by getting to the end. They enjoy planning out what needs to be done, get a kick out of ticking off items along the way, and get immense satisfaction from seeing the end result. Then, they’re ready to start the next project.
Perfect tasks for a project person would be planning the Christmas party, setting up a relationship with a new supplier, or overseeing the creation of a new website.
Perpetual people would struggle to plan out a new project, and would find it demotivating to get to the end just as they were getting the hang of something.
Instead, they enjoy keeping things running. They like having a mastery of the skills needed in their part of the business, and they enjoy the the challenge of maintaining their high standards in the face of the always-changing obstacles that pop up each day.
Of course, perpetual people will make changes and improvements to how things are done – but they like broadly doing the same things repeatedly, and becoming great at them.
Perfect tasks for an ongoing person would be customer support, sales, or anything else where you’ll never get to “the end”.
Which type of person is this a role for?
It’s not that everyone is purely one type: a perpetual person won’t necessarily freak out if you give them a project, and a project person can plug away at things consistently if they have to.
But everyone has a natural disposition towards one or the other: the project person gets their satisfaction from working through different stages and getting to the next thing, while the ongoing person gets their satisfaction from consistently achieving the same thing despite a variety of challenges.
Knowing which “type” someone is will help you to put them in roles they’ll enjoy and excel at. A fantastic project person will be miserable within weeks if they have to deal with a customer support inbox that’s growing as fast as they can clear it – whereas that’s the happy place of a great perpetual person.
So when hiring for a role, consider which type of person would thrive in it – and what questions you can ask to see if someone fits that profile.