Embracing Opposites

I’m an ENFP. One of the senior leaders at a client is an ISTJ. That makes working together very “interesting” – the way in which I naturally interact, the way in which I typically make decisions seems to be the “right way” but Katie thinks and decides and works in a very different manner. Thus, working with each other takes a lot more conscious effort than working with a person with a style similar to my own.

It would be so easy to make her “wrong” for the way in which she operates. But that would not be fair to her, or to the organization.

Instead, we choose to understand that we are both completely committed to the organization’s mission, and to appreciate the gifts and talents that we each bring. And, based on that, we recognize that the two of us together make a powerful team. When we’re working well together, we have each other’s back. Me – I’m a visionary and possibility person. Katie’s a “do it now”, results-oriented person. I need her viewpoint and her task orientation so that the teams will move forward. She needs my vision and questions and possibilities to keep heading in the right direction. So I truly value her, BECAUSE she is so different.

Yes – it’s a lot of work. But it is definitely worth it – my life is richer because of working with her, and the organization is much better served by our collaboration.

By contrast, the 4 principals of a fledgling consulting organization had the same personality profile. In fact, that’s what attracted them to work together – they were very comfortable with each other. For months, they dreamed and talked and created and dreamed and talked and created, basking in the freedom to do what was truly important without a taskmaster forcing them to meet deadlines. But after a year, they realized that they not only had no clients, they had no prospects! Since there was not a results-oriented person in that team, they eventually dissolved.

What has been your experience in working with a person with a completely opposite type? Is a mix of divergent personality types required for an organization to be vibrant to succeed?

Gary Langenwalter

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