by Guest Blogger Renee Calvert
Some of the best afternoons I’ve spent are the ones where I went for a rambling walk around the city where I lived. These walks had zero planning beyond a cursory knowledge of the local bus schedules and a basic idea of what neighborhood I was planning to explore. It wasn’t uncommon for me to leave my apartment at noon, head out to San Francisco’s Mission District or Haight Ashbury, duck into whatever shops looked interesting and meander my way home, arriving back several hours later.
My mom, on the other hand, does not like to spend her time this way at all. When we go out or take vacations, there is always a schedule or at least a rough outline of where we’re going, what we’re doing, and when. These differences stem from our different Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) styles – our first three letters are the same, but she’s a “Judging” J (she prefers plans, schedules, and orderly execution of actions) and I’m a “Perceiving” P (meaning I prefer spontaneity, flexibility and “going with the flow”).
Reconciling our differences has its ups and downs, as was explained in an earlier blog post. I know for certain that my preferred lack of planning, unorganized filing system and frequent assertions that I’m “cool with whatever” can be frustrating for her. I also know that she understands that I can find her planning what to wear several days before an event, her insistence on consistency and her need to have details locked down and confirmed way in advance to be stifling. It’s not a bad thing that we have this difference – in fact, our differences often end up helping each other out.
But being a P in a business setting can be a challenge. The responsibilities and rigors of an ordinary business day greatly favor those who prefer organization. People with a P preference are often seen as flighty, lazy or irresponsible. This is, of course, a misconception, as people with P preferences get their work done too. But in a setting with a lot of deadlines and organization, it can be a challenge to overcome the natural tendency for last-minuteness. To survive, P types can’t crystallize into the mindset of “this is who I am and I cannot change it.” No, P types must sometimes adopt and accommodate J behaviors.
It’s tough. When I first began production on my Master of Fine Arts thesis in animation, I faced what felt like a pretty big challenge. Traditional animation is a very de riguer process. In order to make a character move believably, you have to break each motion down into beginning and end poses, time it out exactly, figure out weight and movement through space, and then draw each frame (24 total in a second) with precision, checking to be sure that proportions and placement remain consistent. But you can’t just roll up your sleeves and start that process out of the gate. First, you have to plan out the exact length of each scene with a storyboard, jot down the exact number of seconds on a chart, write down the exact fraction of a second each mouth shape is formed in a line of dialogue, and schedule it all out to ensure that your production stays on schedule. All in all, it’s a very J process.
Making schedules, creating orderly files and checking off task lists makes me cringe. I can’t stand sitting around and planning out what I’m going to be doing tomorrow, much less over the course of the year. And yet, in order to be successful in completing my thesis project, I knew I had to overcome that compunction and do it. I made extensive to-do lists and diligently crossed off completed jobs. I sat down and charted every frame of animation (and found that I actually do like the process of charting dialogue). I planned and re-planned when circumstances required me it. And I finished the entire minute and a half of my project in full color at the deadline I had set a year and a half before, the first in my department to do so.
Exercising behavior out of your type can be difficult, but ultimately rewarding. After all, the whole point of Myers-Briggs is to understand and hone your strengths, while also pinpointing and improving your weaknesses. And when people like my mom and I try to meet in the middle and use behaviors outside of our type, it creates harmony and happiness for everyone.
I realized that a little J behavior isn’t going to kill me. In the aftermath, I’ve tried to foster more organization and planning in my life. When we went to Europe for business and a little pleasure, I assumed the responsibility of booking the hotels and planning our daily activities. And in return, Mom agreed to a few days where we didn’t have anything planned but just wandered around the city and found interesting things to do. We both had a great time, balancing each other out nicely.
Renee Calvert is the Art and Communications Director at People First Productivity Solutions. Keep connecting with the people and priorities that matter most to you! As a leader, it’s imperative to understand why and how to show ever person that you care about them. Learn more about how you can CONNECT2Lead. And be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Lead Blog for weekly tips and techniques on leading with a people first approach.