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WFH Week 5; J’s and P’s in a VUCA world

VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) – yes, we know it can get a bit over used – but this definition of the post-Cold War era has definitely found new resonance in the current climate. For those of you less familiar with it, VUCA focuses on the unpredictability of events and conditions outside of the normal controls of the organisation But, the impact of VUCA doesn’t just affect leaders – it can be felt keenly throughout the business potentially impeding decision making something which is certainly affecting everyone throughout organisations at present.

In coaching sessions this week it’s become clear that as teams move out of ‘scramble mode’ and begin some first tentative steps into thinking ahead, the usual constructs for planning are having to be reworked and ‘VUCA rules’ applied. The conditions that seem most unmanageable though are also the very same that often generate the most creative and inspired solutions. As a client of our quote only today, ‘Well, it is a challenging time, but adversity also breeds innovation and some great things have been happening too.’ So, in this time of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity how are MBTI Judgers and Perceivers (the planners and the experiencers) doing?

For J’s this, in many ways, can feel like familiar territory. Devising plans and schedules is an obvious preference of theirs and so to work through what the stages of release from lockdown and recovery might look like is a task they’re more than capable of and one most will relish. Where it becomes less appealing is the constant revision necessary or the multiple solutions needed in our present VUCA state. To the outside world J’s appear decisive, they like to have things settled and not in limbo but, as with all MBTI dichotomies there’s more at play than what we might first assume. Internally J’s may feel very able (and willing) to flex and adapt to new information amidst the flow and flux of data and opinion swamping our daily lives at the moment. Part of their challenge will be their innate desire to make sure processes align to plans and are adhered to in the bubble of WFH.

For P’s in search of alternative options and other ideas, there’s a wealth of material to go at and they may actually feel energised by the need to ‘avoid taking a hard line’ too quickly, keeping several routes open. This after all is their domain. Rather than being corralled into position, P’s may well be enjoying this period of exploration and speculation, utilising their preference to best effect. It’s important not to misread this as being indecisive or sitting on the fence though – P’s are every bit as capable as J’s in coming to a conclusion and considering the scale of upheaval at present, may even be craving closure on some levels.

Tips for P’s:

  • Influence the business to see the value of collecting additional data in order to make decisions – but keep testing and questioning the validity and rigour of the information. And know when to stop!
  • Recognise that acting with pace in the current climate can be an advantage and as such some deadlines, however short, are necessary
  • Inform the team, don’t surprise them! Think about how you keep information flowing and communication channels open. Make sure people know where your thinking is at and where your focus is. Teams we’re working with are finding the short, regular ‘virtual’ sessions much more effective and efficient than the old lengthy weekly meetings

Tips for J’s:

  • Pay attention to and enjoy investigating the ideas coming in and being shared rather than focusing on the decision or deadline
  • Inject into the tasks and projects definitive milestones and closure and use these to keep your J fed and engaged
  • IJ’s in particular who tend to favour gradual change based on accurate and adequate information may find inspiration in partnering with an EJ who will be more likely to want to move quickly, but will still enjoy seeking out the practical value of any ideas suggested

What we’ve heard – E’s and I’s in isolation

E (extravert) and I (introvert) in MBTI is all about where we get our energy from. E’s choosing to look externally for their energy sources and I’s preferring to look inwardly for theirs. It’s important to remember that everyone spends some time extraverting and some time introverting and we shouldn’t confuse introversion with shyness or reclusiveness. They are not related. But, no matter what we thought we knew about the preferences of E’s and I’s, even we’ve been surprised by their reactions to WFH.

Don’t assume it’s just E’s that ‘hate’ working in isolation, we’ve heard the same from plenty of I’s too. The I’s we’re speaking to are missing the ‘easy’ connection they have when colleagues are close by. Instead I’s are having to consciously make the first move, emailing less, calling in more – some days it can feel relentless. Unable to ‘absorb the atmosphere’ or ‘read the room’ before crafting their response, I’s are having to jump into the mix regardless. But, there are things that make it easier including being part of a truly trusted and trusting team. Lockdown is proving to be a real test of just how comfortable we are with those we work with – after all, we’re now spending time in each other’s kitchens, living rooms, spare bedrooms – how could we not know more about each other by the end of this?

Left to their own devices I’s also face the danger of overthinking everything. Turns out that having too much space to reflect can be as challenging as having too little. Many of the I’s we’ve spoken to are finding their tendency to be introspective almost overwhelming as the day progresses. Never the less there is also a genuine joy in spending time away from the office and for some there’s a real sense of anxiety at the thought of going back to the office routine.

Hearing colleagues talk about WFH being the new way forward is of course filling some E’s with dread. But not as many of them are climbing the walls as you might expect. As long as energy needs are fulfilled with plenty of virtual contact going on some are quite enjoying it, particularly if they also happen to be a J as well. Time to talk things through and then time to get on and DO IT! But, a lot of the E’s we’re in contact with have referenced the impact of lockdown in and out of work. For E’s unable to connect to their wider network as they would have done before the lack of interaction is tough. Whether you’re a leader or colleague make sure you’re reaching out and checking in – and it absolutely doesn’t need to always be linked to work. In fact, even better if it isn’t sometimes.

And finally, nobody we’ve been talking to – E or I – is missing the commute!