Working with a diverse group of men and women in the corporate world offers me direct and valuable insight into people’s innate preferences and how these shape the quality of their relationships and how much influence they have as leaders with their direct reports or colleague to colleague.
They are born with these preferences of which many of us are not aware , but know innately how we prefer to interact with people, take in information, make decisions about the information we take in and of course, how we wish to approach people in our external worlds.
It is in these preferences that many leaders and their direct reports may struggle with understanding each other. Here’s what I mean. I have a client who heads up an organization with over 600 employees. This client is one of the most caring, empathetic, bright and innovative leader I have had the pleasure of serving. He has nothing but the well-being of the organization and its employees at heart. I see this in the multiple initiatives he has undertaken to build an organization that is healthy both profitably and from a human investment perspective. Developing his employees to be people who feel and know they matter.
Sadly, this leader is understood by only a handful of the very people he cares so much about. Why is this so? Simply because of his preference for introversion: he prefers to direct his energy and attention inward by spending time reflecting on the needs of his employees and the shareholders and how best to meet these needs. None of this is communicated verbally to his people; rather he prefers to communicate by writing which is seen as cold and uncaring by many of his charges.
He spends a lot of time ‘in his head’ having great thoughts which no one can read. If you are experiencing these ‘frustrations’ with such a person at work or home I am sure you can relate with the challenges and difficulties this preference for how to interact with people poses.
However, learning that we all have these natural preferences-which don’t change (what changes is how we express them) has helped this leader connect in a healthier way with his people. It is a challenge for him but he knows how and when to operate ‘in preference’ and ‘out of preference’.
For people who prefer to direct and receive their energy by focusing on their own inner world, they may find operating out of this preference to be draining and taxing. They may feel constrained in their ability to work out their ideas as they may feel they have no time to reflect and learn through this process.
However, these people bring valuable insight to the pool of shared ideas. They help keep those who use a different way of directing and receiving their energy and of course vice versa. Here’s how to get benefits from interacting with people like this. Knowing that my client has a preference for introversion he was encouraged to practice the following in order to achieve balance in his work and own personal needs:
- Create time each day to engage in reflection and working out ideas alone both at work and home. Guard this time as this is how he is energized. This is when he is operating ‘in preference’.
- When at work he will need to operate ’out of preference’ in certain situations. He can best prepare for this by writing out the ideas and thoughts he will communicate verbally to his employees.
- He can practice verbally delivering these ideas in front of people he trusts and are comfortable in their presence.
- Draw on his non-preferred ways of expressing himself in key situations. This helps him become better at communicating in this way over time. Though he is encouraged to remember he is not changing his innate preference (this can’t be done) but that he is only fulfilling the need to operate out of preference in certain situations.
- Let his direct reports and colleagues at work know he has a need for some alone time to fully reflect upon and work out ideas for problems. He will join the group and contribute accordingly.
- Finish off with ensuring at the end of each day he has set time aside to recharge and re-energize in his preferred way.
This will be a learning journey for this client however, he is up for the challenge and he knows the moments at work he spends out of preference will be accounted for and balanced with the moments he spends in preference both at work and home.
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Here’s to loving how you live, work and play!