Ops or Strategy?
I talk about introversion and extraversion a lot but another aspect of our personality that Carl Jung identified, that you may recognise from Myers Briggs profiling is the perceiving function of sensing and intuition. People who prefer sensing are more likely to trust information that is present and tangible, that can be understood by their five senses. They can tend to distrust hunches and prefer to look for details and facts. People with a preference for intuition tend to trust information that is less tangible and dependent upon the senses, that can be associated with other information, either from memory or discovered by seeking a wider context or pattern. They may be more interested in future possibilities whereas people with a preference for sensing tend to be more interested in the here and now.
I have a more simplistic definition of the two functions. For me, sensing is more of an operational approach. “Tell me what’s wrong today and I’ll try to sort it”. People with a sensing preference are great on the shop floor, working to solve immediate problems that they can see, hear, and sometimes taste, smell and feel. People with a preference for intuition are more visionary, they are less focused on the immediate issues of today and think more about the longer term strategic vision. Both preferences have great benefits in the workplace, if you’re in the right role…
This resonates for me in two of my previous roles. With a sensing preference, I was a great Ops Manager, sorting out the day to day issues of the team, talking to customers and suppliers, bringing the right people together to make things happen. Brilliant! Did I raise my head to think about the future of the team and what might happen if my budget got cut in half, which it did? Err, no. I didn’t see that one coming because I was too busy with my head down, sorting out the day to day stuff. Hmmm, not so brilliant then
In another role I was a Business Manager (a similar ops style role again) but had a senior Manager who very much had a preference for intuition, which should have worked well as we complimented each other. It didn’t though because he liked to talk through ideas, and with every one I would immediately create a list of things to do in my head of how to make that work, only to find out two weeks later that he didn’t want to do that any more! I felt overwhelmed by the anticipated workload, much of which would never happen because he’d move on to another idea. And even when we did the Myers Briggs profiling work and I was identified as having an ISTJ (Introvert, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) preference it was still more about other peoples’ preferences than mine it seemed. He was the Area Manager so if he wanted to chat things through…. I tried desperately not to make those lists in head but with some of the plans he did expect me to act on them to make them happen. It just wasn’t always clear which ones they were!
If your preference is more towards sensing and solving problems in the here and now you will be fabulous in operational roles. If your preference is more towards intuition and thinking about future, strategic plans you’ll succeed in more strategic roles, although sometimes you have to work through the operational roles to get to the strategic ones which won’t always feel comfortable for you. If, you’re in a senior or influential role with a preference for sensing you might need to lift your head and think more strategically about what’s going to happen in the next year and two, five and ten years, or employ someone to do that for you. If you’re in a senior or influential role with a preference for intuition you may need to engage more consciously with the operational issues of the day to day or risk dis-engaging your workforce. It might not be your job to fix the problems but having an awareness of them and asking how things are going is great leadership that will keep your staff engaged. If you give the impression you’re too important to care about the small stuff the people who do that small stuff might walk away from you and that’ll definitely create an operational problem for you!
By thinking about your own preference and that of the people around you, you can sometimes see why you might find it difficult to work with someone, even if you like them and as with all aspects of our personality type, differences are not wrong, they’re just different. You’re not right, just because you’re the most senior person there. All the personality types and preferences have something different to offer and without a mix of them you could be at risk of missing something. Each aspect of our personality type has pros and cons around it. I was great at Ops but part of my role was to look forward and horizon scan and I had to make a conscious effort to do that more proactively, it didn’t come naturally to me.
Your preference doesn’t mean that you can’t do the opposite thing, it just takes more energy to do it. So if your preference is for intuition and you’ve had to roll up your sleeves to help finish an important piece of work you might feel quite tired at the end of the day. Equally if your preference is for sensing and more operational issues, a team away day to think about your organisation’s strategic vision and to complete several SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analyses won’t really float your boat, but both need doing. The key is to find a balance of what you spend your time on, to identify the differences of the people you work with and to generate a conversation about preferences which might help you to think about who does what in the team. Playing to everyone’s strengths is hugely motivating and will create a highly effective and engaged workforce.
So, are you thinking about this weekend or Christmas? That might give you an idea of what your preference is. Pressie-wise, chocolate or alcohol’s always good for me, thanks! I’ll start to think about your gift around the end of November. It’s not wrong, it’s just different!
Take good care please and have a great day.
Best wishes, Karen