People with a Perceiving preference – that's the "P" in their Briggs and Myers four-letter personality code – are spontaneous and adaptable workers. These types thrive in dynamic and ever-changing environments and may seek out employers that offer flexible working arrangements so they can remain wide open to schedule changes. If you need quick-thinking people who can respond resourcefully to changing situations, it pays to get a "P" or two on your team.
The downside is a tendency to be both easily distracted and thoroughly stifled by limits and rules. Without the proper strategies in place to support them, Perceivers may feel constrained by "the process" and have a tendency to get sucked into an endless vortex of procrastination.
With that in mind, here are six strategies for bringing out the best in your Perceiving employees.
#1: Don't Suffocate Them With the Process
Judgers love rules, process and procedures that keep them "on time and on budget." Perceivers do not. Open-ended by nature, they'll question the need for standard operating procedures that limit creative thinking, and prioritize the need for flexibility around change. Doing something for the sake of "the process" is endlessly frustrating to them –insist that they do tasks methodically in a pre-planned order, and your Perceivers may become hostile towards your inflexible approach.
Barring a few, your Perceivers will accomplish tasks better and more quickly if you give them the objective of the task, and leave them alone to perform it in their preferred way to the best of their ability. More than a few Perceivers have got themselves into trouble by arguing about the "stupid" way things are done, especially when they're given no autonomy to steer away from traditional work systems.
#2: Provide Clear Benchmarks
Perceivers are enterprising problem solvers who enjoy using their hands (Sensing Perceivers) and their creativity (Intuitive Perceivers) to explore various solutions. To get the best from them, you'll need to strike a balance between allowing them to come at problems in a non-traditional way and providing some sort of structure and work plan. Left entirely to his own devices, a Perceiver may waste a lot of time deciding what to do next which can negatively impact your ability to deliver a project in a timely way.
Perceivers may come to resent having a "Judging" type of structure imposed on their work, but you do need a criterion of measurement. In the absence of a strict schedule, consider implementing a status update system to keep the Perceiver on track with key milestones and focused on the essentials; this keeps the momentum going after the day-to-day drudgery of a task starts to show. One tip is to set a series of mini-deadlines ahead of the genuine deadline. This allows the Perceiver to work in bursts while leaving a nice buffer to correct some pieces before the true deadline is due. What they get done in the hour before each mini deadline is amazing!
#3: Quit the Pointless Meetings
Days that are clogged with pre-planned meetings go against the Perceiver's natural desire to be flexible, which causes endless frustration. If you want a Perceiver in a meeting, make sure the meeting is essential – don't clog the calendar with excess baggage. Ideally, you'll go one step further and allow the Perceiver to carve out significant blocks of time in their day for creativity and free thinking.
#4: Shake Up the Job Description
Perceivers get excited by change and may grow restless if they have to drudge through the same old tasks day after day. While it's likely there'll be some repetition in their job role (and a Perceiver will have to find ways to cope with that) you can provide relief by by allocating novel challenges when they do occur. For example, can you give your Perceivers an opportunity to work on a diverse range of projects simultaneously? Are there any side projects, committee memberships, social events or community outreach events they can get involved in? Can they work across several departments in a way that will both enhance their skills and meet their desire for change?
#5: Keep Your Eyes Off the Clock
Clock-watching and a strict 9-to-5 schedule (with an hour for lunch) is a disastrous recipe for frustration and may cause the Perceiver to become worse at her job over time. Perceivers are not clock watchers. They tend to be far happier when permitted to come and go as they please and will typically will seek out non-static environments where they can work from 7 until 3 one day, burn the midnight oil the next, and then work from home the following day.
This variance can really keep you on your toes as a manager, especially if your Perceiver falls into the "all or nothing" category where they throw out massive volumes of work for a period followed by a period of rest and recharge. Recognize that these ebbs and flows are all part of a Perceiver's process. If possible, allow your Perceivers to work flexible hours or at least take unscheduled breaks whenever they feel boxed in. You may be surprised at the volume and quality of work a Perceiver turns out when she's allowed to leverage her desire for personal freedom.
#6: Watch Out for Burnout
Perceivers have a fierce wandering eye so if a new challenge captures their attention, they're going to grab it with both hands. Sometimes though, their eyes are bigger than their stomachs and they end up biting off far more than they can chew. This leads to long working hours, excessive amounts of overtime, dithering over which project to prioritize, and delivering work that is rushed or of poor quality – all of which is avoidable if you keep an eye out for signs of burnout.
Such is the Perceiver's love of novelty, that even when she's completely snowed under, she may not let you know. So, you must read the signals that a Perceiver is stretched too thin. Does he appear to be drifting? Has he become hyper-focused on checking boxes or playing it safe? Is he getting paranoid about all the things that could go wrong? If you spot these signs, it's time to have a colleague step in and help on certain projects. Could you prioritize, delay or delegate some tasks to help lighten the load?
Many Perceivers think they have to act like a Judger to succeed at work but that's not necessarily true. With the right support systems in place, they can easily have the flexibility and spontaneity they crave and still turn in projects by the deadline! Whatever your own personality type, if you are managing a Perceiver, follow these six tips for drawing out the best in them. Everything that's great about the Perceiving preference, such as adaptability, a laid-back demeanor and throwing out those innovative curve balls, is much easier to leverage if you cut them some slack and allow them to come at problems in their own way.