Have you noticed how different people respond differently to change? Some go very quiet, some completely freak out, some bombard with questions, some seem comfortable with the big picture. There are various ways of understanding why and, even better, practical ways to take this into account when planning and communicating change.
Here below are some insights and tips from a friend and colleague, Richard Marshall, drawing on insights from Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). For more on this tool, check out the Myers & Briggs Foundation (http://www.myersbriggs.org/). The ideas shared here are intended as indicative rather than definitive, suggestive rather than prescriptive.
In MBTI terms, people with an extroverted preference like energetic communication, time to talk about what’s going on, to be spoken with, to have opportunity to share their own views and ideas in conversation, to be involved. People with an introverted preference like written communication, time to reflect, one to one conversations, to be asked for their views.
People with a sensing preference like real data, detailed explanation of what’s happening and why, specific information about what will change and when, a realistic picture of the future and clear guidelines. People with an intuitive preference like to know the overall rationale, a general plan or direction, opportunity to co-create a vision, opportunities to influence.
People with a thinking preference like to know the logic behind decisions, clarity in decision making and planning, a clear view of the goals and structure, fairness and equity in the changes. People with a feeling preference like to know that leaders care, that impacts on people have been recognised, how people will be supported, what values underlie the changes.
People with a judging preference like a clear, concise action plan, defined outcomes with clear goals, a structured timeframe, no new surprises and a commitment to see the changes through to completion. People with a perceiving preference like an open ended plan, general parameters, flexibility with lots of options, room to adjust goals and plans.
The important thing is to remember that every individual is unique. The same person may respond differently in the same kinds of circumstances depending on how he or she is feeling, what else is happening in his or her life etc. As a rule of thumb, check out with the individuals and teams concerned: ‘how would you like us to do this’ before leaping into action.
‘There’s value in raising awareness, but the real question is what a person or team chooses to do with that awareness.’ I made this comment to a colleague today who works in team development using various psychometric tools.
I’ve noticed implicit assumptions among some practitioners using such tools (e.g. MBTI or MVPI), as if enabling team members to understand more about themselves and each other will of itself lead to improved relationships and effective working. I don’t doubt the value of psychometrics when used well but I do want to add other dimensions to the awareness-raising equation. My sense is that fundamental and sustainable development in an individual or team only really occurs when the A of Awareness is matched by the corresponding A of Attitude and A of Action.
It’s quite feasible, for instance, that in some team environments and cultures, greater awareness will simply lead to greater competitive advantage at an interpersonal level (‘now that I know this about you, I can use it against you to my advantage’). The issue of Attitude is, therefore, really points to deeper issues of underlying beliefs, values and intention. How can we encourage and build humanistic values in individuals and teams so that they will use what they learn ethically and to mutual rather than selfish advantage?
It’s also quite feasible that team members will learn new things about themselves and others but fail to act differently on the basis of that awareness in their day-to-day interactions. It’s like the biblical notion of a person looking in a mirror then walking away only to forget what he or she looks like. The issue of Action, therefore, is really about securing commitment to new behaviour and making it stick. How can we ensure that what will feel alien for people at first will become second nature over time?
So there is the challenge. To approach psychometrics in teambuilding with a wider perspective in view and to broaden our practice to (a) inquire into values and (b) ensure implementation.
Nick is a psychological coach, OD consultant and trainer, specialising in critical reflective practice.