Making decisions – how do you go about it?

In previous posts, I’ve talked about various preferences on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. One of the dichotomies that I find most difficult to explain, is the Thinking-Feeling preference. I find it difficult more so because although you can explain the differences in the preferences, my trouble arises when I try to markedly help someone uncover which is their preference. I’ve gotten better at it, and quite enjoy the challenge.

Let’s recap on some important things to understand with the MBTI. It’s a self-assessed questionnaire, so there is no right or wrong answer. If you think you’re one preference over another, you are the best judge of this. A facilitator can only help to describe the preferences and do nothing more. Preferences are the key to understanding how the MBTI should be understood. We can learn a range of behaviours over time and this can cause confusion over which preferences you have. Finally, the MBTI is not a recruitment tool and should never be used as such. It is only for raising self-awareness and understanding how to interact with others more effectively.

The thinking/feeling dichotomy then is focused on how someone makes a decision. Essentially, are they guided by logical, objective thought, or guided by their values and relationships with others? There are some interesting exercises I’ve done to help facilitate this discussion, and I’d like to share the scenario for one of these:

You are the captain of a team who have progressed to the next round in a tournament. You have 12 people to choose to be part of the team from a potential 20. a) how do you make the decision to choose the 12? b) how do you communicate this to the team?

In order for this exercise to be effective, a group of people need to be split according to where they think their preference lies. That is, have those who think they have a thinking preference work together, and those who think they have a feeling preference work together. Those who are unsure should float between the two groups.

There are a number of things to observe in this exercise which inform and confirm which preference each group is likely to have. From the thinking group they are likely to start drawing up a list of criteria almost immediately. They will consider factors such as individual performance, ability, success in competitions, attendance at training, and overall performance. They will be quite clear in their language when discussing these factors, and pretty much be in agreement that this is the way to decide who the 12 should be. In communicating with the team, they may choose to do this either individually or as a team, but will be quite clear that the decision was made according to the criteria. Again the language will be quite direct, and to the point, supported by justification of the reasoning.

From the feeling group, there will be a lot of discussion around the topic, and this may seem to go on for more than is necessary. For this group, the decision will rack them with concern over how people will feel about getting picked, about not getting picked, about morale, about team performance as a result of the decision. They will want the team to be fully engaged in the decision making process. As a result, they may decide that the decision be made by being open with the team about the task ahead of them and that 12 out of the 20 need to be chosen. This will feel to them to be inclusive, meaningful, and provide input from the players themselves. An alternative to this approach may be a set of criteria that focuses on team ethic, individual attitude, collegiate nature, willingness to help others. In either case, the language used to describe and communicate will be focused on the team, feedback will be an integral part of it all, inclusive language, and reasoning will be supported through benefits to the team and potential success in the next round.

I find this exercise really brings out the preferences quite clearly and people can decide quite quickly, after having done this, which preference they have. The challenge I have with this dichotomy in particular is how it can easily be confused that having a feeling preference means you are more emotional than if you have a thinking preference. And this confusion only arises because of the terminology used. In fact, emotions play just as important a role in both preferences. We are all intelligent enough to understand that emotions are manifest through many forms when communicating – body language, actual language, actions taken or not, facial expressions, laughter, tears, anger. And when having to communicate a message, from either preference, you can be equally passionate and enthusiastic about your point of view. The key difference is that one preference will use direct, clear, unambiguous, objective language (thinking), and the other will use language that focuses on relationships, creating harmony, is values based, and inclusive. (feeling).

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It’s not that difficult working in a Judging world

I last wrote about how we work in an extroverted world when thinking about how we understand MBTI preferences. In today’s post, I’d like to take a look at how we understand the world of control and lack of control > Judging and Perceiving in Myers Briggs parlance.

As always, it’s important to bear in mind the key about preferences. Please run off and have a read of the post if you need to remember.

So the world of work is an interesting one. We come to work and are told that we need to be set objectives for our probation period. Make sure you have set meetings with your new starter so you can make sure they’re getting on well. Have a review meeting at the end of the probation. Set new objectives for the end of the year. Set more review meetings over the course of the year. Have weekly updates. Create workflow plans. Have to-do lists. Milestones are important. Projects must have clear deliverables. It’s all about hard and fast rules that make sense. And God help you if things aren’t SMART.

This is all about the world of judging. We need to have process, it has to be cold, calculated, and it has to be purposeful. But it’s not as clinical as I make out. There’s a reason for all this pain staking close to OCB (obsessive compulsive behaviour) type stuff. It’s security for the person who has a judging preference. And that security is vital for the person’s sense of ‘getting things done’. It’s not actually about control, or about tight deadlines, or anal behaviour – that’s just a lack of understanding about what makes this person tick.

And we can all do with understanding. Our behaviours are often indicative of some other level of reasoning that we need to be sure we have understood. This is where the MBTI can help (amongst other tools, but I’m clearly plugging for the MBTI here). As I’ve described before, it’s not solely about one set of behaviours. We’re all capable of displaying a complete range of behaviours. We have to first identify preferences, which then allow us to uncover meaning behind behaviours.

What about the kind of person who doesn’t work this way? You know the type. The one who enjoys what I’ve heard referred to as ‘wiggle’ time? I’m that kind of person. I don’t like restrictions. I am as laid back and care-free as they come. Deadlines? Pah! Milestones? *sends shivers down my spine* Planning? Huh? To-do lists? Erm… Yeah, that’s right I AM A JUDGING PERSON’S WORST NIGHTMARE. How can this person possibly work? How can they possible exist? WHAT THE FUCK DO THEY DO?

Well, just as above I’ve said it’s about security for the judging person, for the perceiving person, it’s about being comfortable with ambiguity. That’s the best tag line I can think of. A fuller description is > being comfortable with a lack of structure. What does that mean? It means that if you give a piece of work to someone who has a perceiving preference, don’t shit yourself if they’ve not made a move on it. They will, they’re just not fussed about when. It’s not they don’t care about the deadline, for sure they do. After all, it’s still understood it’s a business model they have to work within. They’re just happy to make it happen in their time.

And that’s where the internal battles arise. ‘You need feedback because’. ‘You’re a slacker because’. ‘You’re too focused on process because’. ‘Don’t worry it will get done’. As much as there is room for argument, there is room for understanding. The unfortunate thing, though, is that not everyone has access to someone who understand things as I’ve described them. If you spot it, hopefully the above can help. If you spot it in yourself, take the time to consider the above better.

As always, please ensure you work with someone who is fully qualified in using the MBTI, and not someone who has had secondary or no training.

Explaining MBTI preferences

One of the biggest difficulties people have with the MBTI, is the concept of only being one or the other. “Surely I’m both and I can do both” is the biggest argument against the ‘preference’ argument. Well, yes, you can. Naturally, in life, you grow to learn how to do a variety of skills and you learn where you abilities lie. The nature of ‘preferences’ though is about which we ‘prefer’ to do.

The insights you derive from the MBTI centre on your understanding of ‘preferences’. The classic signature exercise is a great way of visualising this task. If you don’t know it, sign your normal signature. Now sign it with your other hand. There are clear and obvious differences. The purpose of the task isn’t about the differences though. It’s about the feeling of writing with one hand over the other.

Our development means we often just do things one way, because that’s the habit we’ve developed. It doesn’t mean we can’t do the other things though. If we practice it enough, we will be able to, and that’s important.

Equally important though, is the balance we have in our lives. We cannot constantly practice one preference, either consciously or sub-consciously. Our psyche just doesn’t allow it. Everything about the human physical condition is about achieving balance, and our psyche is no different. I had a great discussion with someone once about his confusion of being an introvert or extravert. His confusion lay in his excessive display of extravert type behaviours over a sustained period of time, and his sudden change to a career as a lone consultant. One of the reasons I suggested this happened was because he had excessively practiced his extravert preference, and his psyche was forcing him to regain balance by practising his introvert preference.

On a more daily basis though, we see this in practise in the variety of tasks we do. This starts from the moment we wake to the moment we sleep. We will, and do, practise our preferences constantly. We just know that we prefer to do one thing more so than the other. The significance of deciding one over the other is about accepting that we have a preference.

We work in an extroverted world

I’m a big fan of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. I trained in it several years ago and have been mentally ruling the world with it ever since. It’s a powerful psychometric tool that offers a very understandable way to interpret the way in which we see the world around us, how we understand it, how we describe it and how we work within it. It’s one of the most popular psychometrics used and has been translated to over 50 languages.

I’ve written previously about how the MBTI can be understood by everyone, and it really can. Although it is a psychometric, and official training is mandatory, it doesn’t mean it can’t be discussed outside of the ‘club’. Indeed, I’ve often found colleagues who aren’t trained in it understand it so well, that their insights into where they identify preferences can be astounding.

I want to talk about the work context specifically, and what the Extroversion/Introversion preference can offer us in this context. The title of this post sums it all up really, but it’s worth exploring why and in what way. First, though, let’s clarify how the terms are defined in MBTI language. The key points to remember are:
– It’s about being one or the other
– It’s NOT about strength of one over the other
– It’s about where our energy comes from
– We can learn to do both, but will always have a preference of one over the other
– We will do both daily, that doesn’t mean you are both
– We will differ in the nuances of what behaviours we exhibit dependent on our preference

The world of work is a buzzing hive of activity. It has to be in order to survive. If you’re a sales driven organisation, everything in your being is about connecting with and interacting with others in order to convince someone you have something they need. You have to communicate and you have to display gregarious type behaviours. If you’re a customer service driven organisation, you are all about listening to and offering a service to those seeking you out. You have to listen, provide information, suggest options, and be engaging enough that they walk away feeling they’ve got the answer they needed. If you’re an administrative organisation, everything you do is about process and policy. That involves iterations of documentation, meetings galore, and checking requirements against what’s produced regularly. There are few organisations where displaying extroverted behaviours isn’t a core part of how you operate (libraries I guess?).

That’s all obvious though right? Right. So what does that mean? It means we’re effectively blocking out up to half of our working population and subjecting them to working practices which just aren’t suited to the way they like to work. Sound obvious? Well it might sound obvious, but how many of you know what to actually do about it?

How do you deal with these behaviours:
– The person who is quiet, softly spoken and doesn’t really say a lot. They’re pleasant enough, and actually very personable, but they’re just quiet.
– The person who in a meeting will say nothing throughout the meeting, even though you know they have an opinion they can share, but they’re not.
– The person who won’t initiate conversations, or social gatherings
– The person who doesn’t attend team/company do’s. Not because they have other commitments, they just don’t.

I could go on. This is a basic list of introverted-esque behaviours. If you’re reading that list and thinking – I could manage that by, or I could include them by, or they are missing out on so much because, you’ve really missed the point of their preference.

The preference of an Introvert drives them to not have a need to do all those things and more. For them it’s perfectly fine to just be by alone, to not attend team/company events, to have time off when you go home. They’re not conflicted by it, and they’re certainly not feeling like they’re missing out. These assumptions are all driven be those of us who are extroverted.

How do we help then? How do we make them (introverts) like us (extroverts)? You don’t, and you can’t, and stop thinking as if it will happen. This is the core of what the MBTI offers us in understanding the extroversion/introversion preference. We demand (informally) everyone to act in line with extroversion. We forget that not everyone wants to act that way and it’s perfectly acceptable for them to not. If we can be conscious of this, then we can foster a better team environment, and better working practices. As my old boss used to say, he learned to be a professional extrovert, but he didn’t stop being an introvert.