Tim is growing more frustrated and perplexed. The general manager of a small, growing organization, he is trying hard to communicate his strategic, Big Picture vision for the organization to his leadership team, but does not think that he is being heard. He does not see his communication influencing his team as he expected it would, and is wondering what to do about it.
A very useful tool for improving communication is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ®, or MBTI ®. The MBTI creates a foundation for understanding our personality preferences, which greatly influence our behavior – in particular, how we communicate.
Having a CEO, like Tim, who is looking after the long-term opportunities and potential of the organization by focusing on and communicating a vision is a great asset to any organization. At the same time, many of those on the management team of such a leader often spend their time – and focus their energy – in exactly the opposite corner of the spectrum. Charged with making things happen, these leaders are often consumed with the specifics of the here-and-now. This is natural, when you think about it, because these different styles are highly complementary, and ensure that the organization is paying attention to both the long and short term needs.
However, these differences in focus can lead to major communication problems; the way of understanding what is important is opposite, as is the type of information that is sought out to aid in that understanding. If you have ever been in a strategy conversation where one side is saying “but, we never have done that before,” or “sounds interesting, but we don’t know how to do that,” while the other side is saying “this is where the future is going,” “of course we have never done it before,” then you have experienced this communication disconnect.
While not always the case, behaviors often do reflect type preferences. In our example, the difference between the big picture thinker and the here-and-now doer could well reflect a difference of preference on the dimension of the MBTI that is call “Perceiving.” This dimension has to do with how we take in information. For a person with a preference for “iNtuition,” it is common to be focused on a big picture view, often based on concepts and theories. On the other hand, a person with a preference for “Sensing” is more inclined to perceive situations based on specific data and real-life experience.
There could be many reasons why Tim’s communication is not connecting with his team. If it turns out, through an MBTI Team analysis, that we have a significant difference in Perceiving preferences, this provides an actionable clue to help Tim communicate more effectively. And, it’s not hard to do. Rather than simply communicate his “big picture,” Tim needs to make the effort to connect his vision with the here-and-now reality of his team. If he does not know how to bridge his vision to their reality – this is the perfect time to find out.
By role-modelling a willingness to listen to his team and adapt his communication style, Tim is also showing his teammates that he is open and willing to take steps to make communication work better. This can only encourage the others to follow suit. The great upside potential of this change in communication will be that Tim may hear new information that he never received from his team. There is a very high liklihood that by incorporating his team’s perspectives, he can further improve his big picture vision.
As simple as this change is, it often does not occur. Becoming aware of underlying type preferences will enable teams and their members to make simple changes that can dramatically increase communication and improve organization performance.