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Coaching Leadership Personal growth

Intuiting or sensing — what’s your personality type?

I particularly remember experiencing a paradigm shift while attending a senior leaders’ training program in Kuala Lumpur in 2014. I wasn’t in the best of spirits that morning, thanks to an insensitive remark made by one of my peers. But I did my best to fake that “all was well.”

My mind was consumed with finding way to resolve differences with my own leadership team. I had a great bond with two of them but was struggling to maintain any rapport with the other two. And both were recent developments. I haven’t a clue what had transpired.

Our first session on the second day of the leadership summit was on individual personalities and how to leverage differences into an advantage. I looked forward to this session, which was adapted from the Myers-Briggs framework, hoping to find answers to my problems.

To this day, I’m glad I attended that session. It was revelatory. At least for me. I realized the difference between being an “intuitive” person versus a “sensing” person. The former sees the forest while the latter sees the trees! As you can imagine, I was seeing the trees that the others weren’t.

I was also high on Introversion, Thinking, and Judging (not in the wrong way, alright). So, as an ISTJ I was at odds with folks who weren’t introverted or thinking. This made sense to me as I was more values-driven than the others who wanted to get the work done by any means.

Having an greater understanding of how I operate helped me not only survive that year (in terms of “office politics” and how I was navigating through the differences) but also made me take a wise-decision — to step down instead of pursuing “the office,” next term. I still believe I would have been depressed with all that was going on if it weren’t for the chance personality assessment I took earlier the year before.

Of course, a lot has changed and so has my personality. I’m a lot more Intuitive than I used to be, thanks to the evolving nature of my work. The sensing part kicks in when I’m working on solo-projects (including my side-hustle) but for everything else, I have other people taking care of the details. And I prefer it that way because I now default to intuition.

If there’s one investment you can make today (and there are many free versions available online, although I wouldn’t recommend it), let it be MBTI. It’s worth the cost and time investment. The insights you gain will help you tweak your approach to the way things are.

One of my friends (on my suggestion) took an MBTI test last year. He then went to his team leader (with whom he had an unsettling relationship) and shared the report. The supervisor was intrigued with the details as it provided insights into my friend’s personality. Interestingly, that very same evening, she took the test for herself! The next day they shared the results — my friend was ‘sensing’ while his lead was intuitive.’ For the first time in 18 months (since my friend joined the organization), they got each other! Right away, they worked on a 30-day plan to improve their working relationship and how they can leverage their “personal superpowers” to the team’s advantage.

Not only did their relationship improved dramatically, the team leader further built a case for the company sponsoring assessments for the entire team (15 of them). She got an approval and a year later, the team has broken all of company’s previous records. The best part is that the team’s still together and kicking butt, despite COVID!

I think it’s super-important to get an idea of people’s preferences and just asking sometimes doesn’t help. You’ve got to go deeper because what you think is the case just may not be the case. Let me share a perspective:

  1. All my life I’ve been told that I’ve got good communication skills.
  2. Some even believe that I’m a natural communicator.
  3. Heck, even I thought I communicate quite well, given my history, experiences, and people’s feedback.
  4. I took the StrengthsFinder assessment in February 2019 and found that Communication is #34 in the list of “talents.” There are only 34 talents in the StrengthsFinder assessment!
  5. How the hell am I communicating then? Using my top strength — restorative, aka, problem solving. Go back and re-read this post (or any post, for that matter) — it’s not a love letter, but a post focusing on resolving an issue.

Like I said, knowing and assessing are two different things. Understanding your type is critical to able to working effectively particularly now when teams across the world are focusing on inclusion and diversity. You’ll be remiss for not taking the time for a personality/strengths assessment and you will be pleasantly surprised. The devil, as they say, is in the details. And thankfully, you don’t have to have a ‘sensing’ personality to read the report!

P.S. I know there’s a lot more to MBTI or other personality assessment than ‘intuition’ and ‘sensing.’ But almost all conflicts at work or in life happen when you’re not seeing what the other person is able to see.