Breaking down communication barriers
Written by Darcey-Lynn Marc
If you have never considered the MBTI® tool as an addition to your strategic planning process, you are likely missing an opportunity to boost the depth and breadth of your discussions. One of the cornerstones of effective strategic planning is communication. The ability and willingness to gather information, share insights, challenge ideas and opinions, and distill a focused and meaningful direction for an organization are critical to this process.
Members of leadership teams and governing bodies are made up of individuals with various experiences, skills, paradigms, and preferences. These differences bring value to discussions. They also serve as filters of information and shape how information is shared and discussed. Some of the pitfalls that even experienced and skilled groups fall into include the following:
- Discounting an idea that seems outside the box.
- Some individuals dominating the discussion.
- Others not sharing information until the end of the discussion.
- Some wanting only practical, proven strategies that move the organization forward incrementally while others are looking for expansive change with the debate ending in stalemate.
- Frustration between members who are ‘over prepared” versus those that seem to just show up and dive into the discussion.
- Discussions that seem to jump from one idea to the next with no destination ever arrived at.
- A process that is prescribed, followed with no room for deviation.
- Some wanting volumes of data and information in order to move forward.
- Others seeming to make decisions based on little or no information at all.
The MBTI tool is a powerful starting point for strategic discussions. By alerting the group members to their natural style regarding information gathering, analyzing, decision making and need for conclusion versus a more open ended approach, experiences that might seem to be rooted in conflict are better recognized as simply being differences. Once individuals understand and can recognize what is different, a transformation in the discussion often occurs. Dialogue emerges rather than positional debate. The focus becomes on the topic rather than on the people. The facilitator of the strategic planning process is also better able to alert the group to any situations where the natural type is helping or hindering the discussion.
By introducing the MBTI assessment at the beginning of the strategy process, the group is alerted to any natural biases or pitfalls. If the group is predominantly Intuitive, they may risk setting direction with insufficient evidence; in contrast, a group that is predominantly Sensing might get bogged down searching for enough data to have confidence in the direction they are contemplating.
The MBTI tool provides individuals with a common language to challenge ideas and approaches taken by others. For example, “Do we really need that much evidence to move forward or is it just our natural preference to gather this evidence?” or, “Are we making too big a leap here because it feels so energizing to our natural way of doing something?”
Being aware of the type profile of the group also supports effective preparation of pre-meeting materials, ensuring that the information needs of all preferences are met rather than just a select group. This treats all members of the group equally and encourages participation at the meeting.
Looking outside, identifying the type profile of the organization and comparing this to other stakeholder groups or customers can be invaluable in building stronger relationships.
For example, one organization I worked with was struggling to understand why their client was continually frustrated with them and was sending signals that they were going to look elsewhere for a service provider. How could this be when the organization spent countless hours in meetings to improve processes, information and products for this very client? How could the client not know how important they were?
Well, when the INTP organization discovered their client organization was operating as an ESFJ organization, many light bulbs went on. The client wanted to build a relationship, be involved and participate in the changes and wanted things done sooner than later. What the client experienced was no contact… because the service provider was trying to make things perfect and then showcase them to the client. By using the MBTI tool as part of the analysis, the organization was able to adjust their approach to working with this client and built a stronger relationship, keeping them as a client.
Darcey-Lynn Marc is a long-established Organizational Effectiveness consultant and is the principal of Marc & Associates Incorporated. As a strategic consultant, Darcey-Lynn builds long-term relationships with her clients, guiding them through transformations as they grow, adapt and change.