Most people have at a point been subject to some sort of personality test at work. Myers Briggs, based on the Jungian types, being a commonly recurring name among them. Critics think it is impossible to put people into 1 of 16 categories based on this, which it is, but that doesn’t mean it is not useful to have a general idea of where on the difference scales people belong. Criticism of models usually follow the lines of “they are not completely correct, reality is more complex”. Of course, they are models and a model is an approximation of reality and not the exact reality itself.
Personally, I find it quite useful to be aware of my own preference when it comes to how I think and act and why this can have benefits and drawbacks when dealing with other people who have different inclinations. I am an ENTP (Extroverted, iNtuitive, Thinker, Perceiver). Actually, that was a lie. Most tests tell me this result, but I tend to answer the extroversion/introversion questions as I used to wish I was instead of how I am. Let’s face it, I am a slightly introverted accountant.
Super-P enters the stage
Even though I had difficulties facilitating workshops and be in the spotlight when I started at Deloitte and I still find that big group discussions generally include people speaking too much and not listening enough, I have learned to deal reasonably well with these things when I have to. Hence it is not the E and the I that has had the largest impact on me, it is the P and the J. I am a weak I (sometimes even an E) , a moderate N, a very strong T and an off-the-chart P. Let’s call me “Super-P”.
Super-P has many powers, some of which include dealing well with change that happens all around us. See, Super-P always keeps his options open which means he can duck, bob and weave depending on what is going on. Finding and understanding problems is another of Super-P’s powers which makes him a good person to have when there are things not working well in large and complicated organisations. Added benefit is that Super-P is effective in switching between topics and problems which allows him to handle multiple topics and issues simultaneously.
There is an interesting question to ask yourself to determine whether you are a super-P or not: You wake up on Saturday with the entire weekend in front of you. You have no plan at all about what you should do this weekend. Does this make you:
A. Nervous and unsure about what to do (J)
B. Feel good, means there are still options! (P)
C. Unleash the freedom! (Super-P)
The hammer of self awareness hits Super-P
“The performance on this project has been OK in general but I have received a number of negative comments as well about you that we need to go through”, Paul gave him a serious look.
“Me? Bad feedback from this project? I was killing it”, thought Super-P
“Firstly it seems like the project plan you provided to the client didn’t have much detail at all which made people feel you were not across what needed doing. Then it seems you didn’t actually follow the plan once it was agreed either”, Paul took an artificial break and looked at him.
“Detailed plans are a waste of time since they never work anyway and of course you won’t stick to them”, said Super-P. Paul raised an eyebrow.
“You get better ideas all the time along the trip and better to use them as they come available than some guesstimated timetable. That’s bonkers”, continued Super-P.
Paul looked at him and sighed, “And then there was the deliverable that was 90% finished when you decided to abandon it to do some work on different problems?”
“Well, it was more likely 98% finished”, thought super-P, “but the last 2% doesn’t make any difference to anyone. The problem is already solved for crying out loud”.
Paul looked at Super-P, this time with a smile on his face. “I know what your problem is”, he said. “you are a super-P!”
“Super what?”, said Super-P
“You are a Myers Briggs perceiver…and a highly unstructured one as well, even by P standards”. Paul was now at a full faced grin.
“Myers what?”, said Super-P
Super-P shifts gear
“Dear Lord, help me be less independent and follow established process today. On second thought, I would settle for a few minutes”
Myers Briggs type prayers (INTP/ENTP)
“Well, this was a revelation”, thought Super-P. “Some interesting observations and assumptions we can get from this”.
- Observation: Not everyone finds a fluid, highly flexible make-it-up-as-you-go-along working style to be a good thing. In fact they can find you an aimless drifter who never finishes anything.
- Assumption: Most of the people around you that provided the feedback are not likely to be idiots
- Roger that: Unstructured, aimless drifter. Super-P will have to take action.
Step 1, Super-P went home and wrote down all the benefits and drawbacks about his preferred style. It made for a decent list. Then he wrote down the benefits of the drawbacks and the drawbacks of the benefits.
Outcome: No style is generally better than another, but in relation to others and particular situations you need to choose wisely.
Step 2, Super-P figured out simple mitigation for the drawbacks. As an example, use an e-mail template that is well structured. If you e-mail someone a draft, be explicit that it is a draft and what there is left to do (so they don’t think you have simply forgotten to do it). On top of that there was just the self discipline to ignore his preferred way of working for the way that is better for the client. If the client is a detailed person, give them a detailed plan.
Step 3, Execute. Be aware of the surroundings. Use the strengths of the trait but be acutely aware of when it is not the right way to approach things.
The J-day – Super-P goes full David Goggins
“Do one thing every day that sucks”
For some people it feels completely normal to write detailed to-do lists and simply execute on them (Super-P tends to lose them before he can finish). Hence the J-day. Typically it is told that it is actually, what Cal Newport calls, “Deep work” that requires peace and quiet. That is true on one hand but for certain people (like Super-P, who is wired to think but not to follow process) following proper process with a reasonably mundane task can be at least as hard as thinking deeply. Acting out of character can be hard and require time set aside to do exactly that.
J-DAY (act out of character day, no excuses)
- Write a to-do list of everything that needs doing (often items that are 90% finished already)
- Work from home to avoid distraction (optional)
- Get the head down and work on the list until finished. Do nothing else!
- Repeat as often as needed
The end of the day
I always feel great after a J-day. Hard to say why exactly, but somewhat likely that is it a combination of the below:
- There has been some controversy, but the “The Zeigarnek effect” seems logical to me, the idea that unfinished tasks weigh harder on your psyche than finished ones, i.e. things that are open makes you worry.
- It feels good to have a lot of ticks on a list (simple as that)
- Also, it could do with the feeling of accomplishment in letting self-discipline win by acting against your nature for a day (discipline equals Freedom as Jocko Willink puts it in his book on the subject. I don’t like the book, but that doesn’t make him wrong).
Whether in the gym or in the office. Do one thing everyday that sucks.