Have you had this experience working with a project team? Some team members prefer to focus on the details while others focus on the big picture. It’s all related to how we prefer to take in information. Also, those who focus on details often prefer to rely on their experiences while those who focus on the big picture often  prefer to try new approaches. These are referred to as Sensing and Intuitive preferences in Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) terminology. These individual differences can be a source of frustration between team members and between a project manager and team member. For example, a Sensing project manager might be frustrated if an Intuitive team member kept suggesting new methods to address project issues versus sticking with tried and true methods. An Intuitive team member might become dismissive of  a Sensing team member’s concern over a detail if they perceive it to be unrelated to meeting the vision or end goal. The animated video we created shows a Sensor and an Intuitive discussing project alternatives during the course of a project. Note how their preferences can lead to frustration if the individuals are not aware of them and are not adept at capitalizing on their strengths. Identify the Sensor and the Intuitive and think about what each could have done to improve the interaction or what led up to the interaction.

Both of these preferences are beneficial to a project team. Intuitives can help the team establish the big picture concept and end goals for the project and develop new, innovative approaches. Sensors can help the team develop detailed plans, schedules and budgets and be sure that past procedures that worked are considered. It is useful to have the blend of the 50,000 foot flyover perspective looking over the horizon to see what’s ahead and keeping an eye on the big picture as well as the experience with all the bumps, ruts and barriers on the ground that you can’t see from 50,000 feet. Know the make-up of your team to get the value of both these preferences. I worked with a team of structural engineers who in an MBTI workshop discovered they all had a Sensing preference. Their team leader realized that could have been one reason why they had been struggling with an architectural client, who was constantly complaining that they were focusing on structural details without understanding his vision for the building. The team’s solution was to designate the role of the Intuitive in each internal project meeting to a different team member to keep probing about the relationship between the structural issues and the architectural concepts.

What have you done to make the most of your team’s personality preferences?