Of all the personality dichotomies, Sensing and Intuition can seem like oil and water. That's because a person's preference in those areas determines how they process information; whether they prefer facts and reliability of evidence ('what is') or brainstorming future possibilities ('what could be'). Doing work that's out of sync with these preferences almost always leads to burnout, misery and feelings of incompetence since it impacts everything from memory and learning style to the way we create, persuade and speculate. Sensing versus Intuition is kind of a big deal.
Regardless of your personal style, managing effectively means exercising some versatility in the way you motivate and lead your people to reach their fullest potential. Here's how to flex your style to meet the specific needs of Sensors and Intuitives.
How to spot a Sensor versus an Intuitive
First things first: what's the difference between a Sensor and an Intuitive? And how can you tell who is who on your team? A personality test offers the definitive solution, but let's assume that isn't an option right now. Instead, take your cues from observation and look out for the following clues about a team member's personality preferences:
The words they use. Sensors prefer to speak literally about things that have happened or are happening. They tend to use words like 'how' and 'when' when describing something, and have a good grasp on the concrete details. Ask a Sensor how their weekend went, and they will share specific details such as places, people, sights and colors. Intuitives prefer to speak metaphorically. They are more likely to ask 'why' or 'what if' questions, and can gloss over the day-to-day details in favor of the overall big picture. When asked how their weekend went, an Intuitive is more likely to talk about big concepts like dreams and motivations.
Their information-gathering style. When receiving a new work task, Sensors will ask you to give them specifics such as times, dates, project scope and work method. Intuitives are more likely to open up a conversation - "let's explore the possibilities." They seldom take things at face value.
Their activity level. Sensors like to do things. They are more likely to be working on a project, talking on the telephone or chatting with colleagues than sitting around - always 'doing' something. Intuitives like to think, reflect and analyze. They can be action oriented, but they also dedicate a lot of time to contemplation.
Now that you know how to spot a Sensor and an Intuitive, the next step is to practice both languages until you become fully conversant in both.
Tips for Managing Sensors
Use these tips to manage your Sensing team members:
- Practicality rules the roost for Sensors. They want facts - lots of facts - and clarity to get comfortable with a subject. Don't get frustrated with their need to have details stated explicitly. Be sure to offer plenty of information, examples and data, and don't let errors of fact destroy your credibility.
- Delegate the task of delivering action plans and work that requires a pragmatic approach, linear progression, or hands-on experience.
- Keep brainstorming session short and focused. If the session is becoming too conceptual, bring it back to the task at hand.
- Give plenty of lead-in time before introducing changes, and focus on the ways in which the change will not turn the Sensor's life upside down. Focus on the actuality of the new situation.
- If you suspect that a Sensing team member needs more information when the rest of the team has moved on, schedule a follow-up discussion so the Sensor can get the details she needs.
- Support and reward Sensors for 'here and now' achievements such as winning new business, completing projects, or holding down the fort.
Tips for Managing Intuitives
The following strategies should benefit the Intuitives on your team:
- When communicating with an Intuitive, always give the 'why.' Start by explaining the big picture significance of the project, then proceed to the detail. Do not explain; ideate. Be generous with analogies, charts, storytelling and outlines.
- Bureaucracy without purpose make little sense to Intuitives, so be prepared to explain the reason why you're asking them to do things a certain way.
- When delegating tasks, give Intuitives the task of delivering strategic plans and work that involves plenty of conceptualizing, brainstorming and playing with ideas.
- Limit the time available in meetings for wandering off topic. Encourage your Intuitives to consider tangentials in their own time, then present their conclusions to the team.
- If an Intuitive suggests a better way of doing things, have them break down the change into smaller, manageable steps that won't intimidate other team members.
- Reward Intuitives for their trailblazing achievements - coming up with new ways of looking at things or their ability to see future possibilities and trends.
We're all capable of being Sensing and Intuitive
Remember, this is a spectrum. We're all capable of conceptualizing, brainstorming and dealing with just the facts before us. Those who lie in the middle of the scale will do better with being chameleons in this area. Others will find it harder to work against their natural preferences and will need more help with handling the potential triggers of working on a multi-personality team.
Leaders who get the balance right and respect the preferences of both Sensing and Intuitive employees foster a cooperative workplace. Use their skills to your advantage, and you'll build a far more effective team.