Staffing and Personality Type
Brad arrived the week before last year’s gala, taking on the post of chief development officer for the community hospital. His experience leading campaigns for complex institutions was a key factor in his selection as the new foundation president. Board members liked the strategic way he talked about the job. He also interacted comfortably with everyone who interviewed him.
Raquel has served on every committee for the hospital auxiliary’s annual gala. Now she chairs next year’s event—a special honor since the coming gala is its 20th anniversary.
Raquel’s No. 1 leadership priority is supporting her volunteer colleagues. She participates in nearly all committee meetings as the gala chair, and keeps everyone on track by saying the right words at the right time—often by recalling important details of past events.
While the auxiliary operates independently of the foundation, the foundation staff provides support for the annual gala. At last year’s event, Brad had noted several potential improvements. Wanting to make the 20th anniversary event especially memorable, he decided to meet with Raquel as soon as possible.
Raquel was pleased when Brad called her. Their first meeting didn’t go as she expected, however. Brad focused on his strategies to increase the gala’s net revenue—after all, revenue is the purpose of the gala as he saw it. But Raquel had trouble following his big concepts. She also felt irritated when he said nothing to acknowledge the auxiliary’s years of commitment to the hospital. She heard him imply that the gala was mediocre. When Brad showed Raquel a diagram for streamlining the committee structure, he tested Raquel’s usual calmness—especially since his whole approach lacked common sense to her.
Brad left the conversation wondering how he was going to steer Raquel. He didn’t want to know who was leading which committees and how each committee chair had earned her position—something Raquel seemed to insist on talking about. Nor was Brad impressed with Raquel’s low-key responses to his great ideas. She made no suggestions about how to shape his concepts. She actually seemed to physically retreat into her chair the more Brad talked. “Some leader she is,” he snorted to himself.
So what’s happening?
Raquel and Brad likely want to achieve the same ultimate goal—supporting the hospital. Their contrasting styles, however, could lead to a real disaster. Here’s why.
Brad’s psychological type is INTJ—often referred to as the strategist. His primary source of energy is intuition (N) with introversion, which orients him inwardly to integrate ideas and see possibilities. Whatever he sees or hears or experiences can prompt mental images of how and why it could be better. (One T-shirt motto for INTJs is “This T-shirt Could Be Better.”) In a sense, Brad couldn’t help himself when he saw how the gala he attended shortly after starting his new job could be improved.
Brad’s INTJ style also shows that his preferred way of interacting with the outer world is to organize it and create a system that will keep it going. Get the job done. Along the way, he verbalizes with logical analysis what ideas best fit into the plan. He expects others to do the same—a kind of expressive jousting that sharpens suggestions. That’s Brad’s thinking preference (T) with extraversion at work.
With his analytic and system-oriented strengths, Brad’s style also presents certain dangers:
- His strong focus on ideas can come across as arrogant.
- His critiques of how something is done can be heard as a personal criticism.
- His agility in working with ideas can make him impatient with those who don’t “get it” right away.
Raquel’s psychological type is ISFP. Her T-shirt motto, “Love All Living Life,” contrasts with Brad’s task-oriented style. As a harmonizer (contrasting with Brad’s strategist label), her leadership priority is supporting her auxiliary colleagues.
Raquel’s primary source of energy is feeling (F) with introversion, characterized by mentally appraising ideas according to her innermost values. She listens carefully to hear what people need, and she appreciates how people are different.
Raquel’s style also uses sensing (S) with extra-version. She bases her actions on the immediate facts and details, and depends on examples to gather information that is meaningful to her. She trusts what is tried and true, and will likely resist change that doesn’t begin with pointing out what’s working well. Other auxiliary members see her as one who thoughtfully helps them solve problems.
With her calm and concise manner, Raquel needs to watch out for certain pitfalls:
- She may seem detached or uninvolved to others.
- Concentrating on what is immediately practical may shut out promising possibilities.
- Her laid-back, introspective style may cause others to discount her leadership.
Suggestions for Brad
Brad will achieve much more by engaging Raquel on her terms. As chief development officer, he has more of a responsibility for engagement than Raquel, as a volunteer leader, has to accommodate him.
Brad will advance his ideas further if he considers the following:
- Slow down sharing his ideas. As an INTJ, Brad is very comfortable talking in big, future-oriented concepts, but he’s likely to leave a lot of people behind in his excitement for the big picture. A good way to slow down will be for Brad to provide details of how an idea might be applied, or share an example of how it has worked elsewhere.
- He can also slow down by learning who the leaders have been over the years. Becoming better acquainted with the gala’s history will enable him to connect his big ideas with how things have been done in the past. He can also ask past leaders to talk about how the gala has evolved over the years, to show him how past changes have improved the gala. This will help lower the feelings of risk among auxiliary members who are less comfortable with change—especially changing an event to which they have a strong emotional attachment.
- Brad has to recognize the intrinsic social aspect of the gala. Working together during the year is at least as important to auxiliary members as the money raised. Many members learned to know each other through their work for the gala. Brad has to honor this history, and pursue change through evolution rather than revolution. He will benefit enormously by having auxiliary members recognize him as a go-getter who also involves them, because they will have a lot to say about how the entire community views him and his work.
Suggestions for Raquel
Raquel enjoys how easily auxiliary members cooperate with each other. She will enhance her leadership—and provide new oomph to the gala—by paying attention to some tasks that lie outside her comfort zone.
Here are some suggestions she might consider:
- Take the initiative by contacting Brad to “continue our conversation,” inviting a couple of other auxiliary members whom she trusts to join them. Tell Brad they will be there “so he can share his ideas with them, too.” Initiating contact with someone with whom she is not comfortable will require a lot of energy from Raquel. The other auxiliary members will support Raquel in her leadership role, reinforcing to Brad the collegial way in which the auxiliary works.
- Prepare and practice a short feedback statement to open the next conversation with Brad. Her language needs to be in first-person: “I appreciate your interest in helping us make the 20th anniversary gala a success. We want to do all we can to make it special. I felt a bit overwhelmed with all that you talked about before. So I asked Marci and Alyce to help me listen to your ideas. Then we can explore together how your suggestions might become part of the event.”
- If some of Brad’s ideas are useful, Raquel needs to lead the gala committees to incorporate the new ideas. She will have to take a more “let’s look at this possibility” attitude than she usually does and practice how to talk about such suggestions. She will have to move beyond her preferred one-on-one conversational style that focuses on the other person’s wants, and articulate persuasively a more big-picture view of the event itself.
Growing the group’s diversity
Marci and Alyce joined Raquel at the next meeting with Brad. In addition to supporting Raquel in her auxiliary leadership, they brought their own personality styles to the conversation.
The increased diversity of psychological types produced at least three positives:
- The tension between Brad and Raquel was reduced, because more lenses prompted Brad to respond to the need for some key details. In a similar manner, more lenses moved Raquel to imagine some big-picture perspectives.
- Raquel felt more confident having people she trusts beside her.
- Brad had the opportunity to reset Raquel’s first impression by engaging Marci and Alyce constructively.
Marci’s ESTJ style shares extraverted thinking (T) with Brad. For Marci, this is her go-to preference that is her primary source of energy. So as Brad talks about a systematic plan for the next gala, Marci engages him with the kind of brainstorming that he likes. The difference between them comes with Marci’s introverted sensing (S). While Brad tends to explore ideas at the 10,000-foot level, Marci wants them on the ground. Like Raquel, she responds to concise information that she can relate to her own experience. For her, what’s practical is what makes sense.
Like Brad, Marci’s desire for immediate action can seem arrogant. After all, her T-shirt motto is, “I Know the Answer, the Question Is Irrelevant.” By noticing how Marci and Brad have a similar kind of outspoken energy, Raquel may back away from seeing Brad as condescendingly aggressive. We can hope this may soften Raquel’s first impression of Brad.
Alyce’s ENFP type shares the introverted feeling (F) preference with Raquel. They both process ideas inwardly from the perspective of their personal values. Sharing this feeling preference contributed to their becoming close friends many years ago. They are both energized by this kind of internalized decision-making. Alyce’s ENFP T-shirt motto, “Give Life an Extra Squeeze,” leans into the same direction as Raquel’s “Love All Living Life.”
Alyce, however, shares Brad’s preference for intuition (N). She’s quite comfortable roaming around the 10,000-foot ideas. And she is likely to talk about those ideas, since she practices extraversion with her intuition (in contrast to Brad’s introverted intuition). In fact, she gets most energized through her extraverted intuition. As with Marci, because Raquel trusts Alyce, Raquel has learned to appreciate Alyce’s big picture intuition. This can possibly bridge the initial gap between Raquel and Brad.
A bit of theory
The four characters in our case study represent the four possible pairs of mental functions in psychological type, originally theorized by Carl Gustav Jung in the early 20th century. They are sensing/thinking (ST), sensing/feeling (SF), intuitive/feeling (NF) and intuitive/thinking (NT). Sensing and intuiting, which Jung called the “perceiving functions,” are the two ways we take in information. Thinking and feeling, which Jung called “judging functions,” describe decision-making preferences. All of us are hard-wired to favor one preference from each pair: sensing or intuiting and thinking or judging. The graph above shows how these function pairs are distributed among the U.S. adult population.
Jung also theorized a pair of preferences that describe how we orient to the world: extraversion and introversion. When we use extraversion (E) we focus our attention on and get energized by the outer world of people, things and activity. With introversion (I), our inner world of thoughts and feelings is our focus and our source of energy. We always use these preferences in tandem with one of the mental functions. Or said conversely, each function always carries with it either extraversion or introversion.
The dynamic of how all these preferences work together is the genius of psychological type. As such, personality type provides a continuously generative tool for increasing self-awareness, appreciating differences among individuals and building more productive teams and relationships in any organization.