The Best Laid Plans

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The first time I did the Myers-Briggs test, I was lucky enough to be part of a workshop led by a very good facilitator. For each element measured by the test, the facilitator divided us into several small groups based on our test scores and gave us question to discuss. For one question, he asked us to plan a vacation. One set of groups had plans and lists. They talked about getting guidebooks and asking people for recommendations. They made reservations and itineraries. The other set of groups picked a destination, and perhaps a time of the year to travel, and maybe a method of travel and that was about it.

Those of you who know your Myers-Briggs know our facilitator had divided our groups into ‘J’s and ‘P’s.  I’m a ‘J’ and felt completely understood when the facilitator commented that J’s like checking things off our lists – so much so that they often added something we’ve already completed to a list just so they could check it off. I resemble that remark. If you don’t know Myers-Briggs here’s a description of J – Judging and P – Perceiving. “People with the Judging preference want things to be neat, orderly and established. The Perceiving preference wants things to be flexible and spontaneous. Judgers want things settled, Perceivers want thing open-ended.”

This particular website goes on to say something that I have found to be true, “The differences between Judging and Perceiving are probably the most marked differences of all the four preferences. People with strong Judging preferences might have a hard time accepting people with strong Perceiving preferences, and vice-versa”. Judging and Perceiving preferences would seem to be either/or propositions. However, like all four elements of the Myers-Briggs these are a spectrum and even the strongest J can be spontaneous and the strongest P needs a bit of a plan to accomplish complex tasks.

As with so many aspects of our lives, we need to be able access both kinds of behaviors. We all need to be able to develop complex plans and we also need to be able to change our plans as circumstances and needs change. Being able to access both types of behavior is a leadership skill and it’s one we have needed over the past months. And it is looking more and more like this is a skill organizational leaders will need this fall. As I write this, Travis County, just up the road from my home is now at Stage Four risk level. Stage Four recommends masking and social distancing in all circumstances which is not what most people were planning for. Plans made for a lower risk stage may need changed. A colleague who tests positive may necessitate changes in classroom or office procedures. A family member who is exposed to COVID may lead to changes in our individual plans. No matter how thoughtfully plans were designed, we may have to be more spontaneous and flexible to manage the situations of the fall.

Take a moment to think about your preference when it comes to planning. It might be worth your time to make certain you reach out to people who have the opposite strength. Leaders always need to be able to find a way forward when the best laid plans go awry. It may be more important this fall than ever before. Best of luck to everyone!

Take care,


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