By Stephanie Carnes
Imagine that you and a coworker are not only close friends but also the top salespeople in your division. Your coworker is transferred to another division, and instead of being teammates, you are now in direct competition with each other for top sales honors and—of course—bragging rights.
How do you feel? Energized, because you will be competing against the best of the best? Determined to win, and win big? Be honest—did you even consider putting his photo on your wall to stay focused on The Enemy?
Or did you feel a bit deflated now that you won’t be teammates? Are you hoping that your friendship won’t be affected? Did you tell yourself that, best-case scenario, you can still collaborate and help each other succeed?
If you responded with energy and determination, you are probably a Thinker. If you reacted with some disappointment, you are most likely a Feeler.
Thinkers and Feelers are the terms the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality assessment uses to explain how people make decisions. Thinkers are goal-oriented, objective, rational, and impersonal—they are concerned with the outcome of decisions. Feelers are collaborative, sensitive, people-oriented, and empathetic—they are concerned with the impact of decisions.
If you are a manager, there is a 75-percent chance you are a Thinker, but the people you manage are likely evenly split between Thinkers and Feelers. The best and most accurate way to find out which types they are is to have your staff take the MBTI assessment with a certified MBTI practitioner, but if you need to figure people out in a hurry, ask yourself these questions:
1. Are they more rational and analytical, or are they more compassionate and sensitive?
2. While making a decision, are they more black-and-white, or are they more likely to identify red flags and what-ifs?
3. Are they more truthful or more tactful?
4. Do they use words like “bottom line,” “fair,” “analysis,” and “the reality is,” or are they more likely to say “I feel,” “my perspective is,” “what about,” and “I understand”?
Thinkers align more with the first part of each question, while Feelers are more closely associated with the second part.
Good managers are able to adapt their management style to the people they are managing. Here are some tips for managing Thinkers and Feelers in some of the most common areas managers face.
Motivating Thinkers is as easy as figuring out what their primary goals are: Money? Authority? Influence? Praise? Advancement? Lay out a clear path for them. If they want to make more money, let them know what they need to do to get a raise or a higher bonus. If they want to move up, tell them what classes they need to take and what projects they need to complete. Set goals for them and hold them accountable.
Motivating Feelers is more difficult, especially when you are a Thinker. Many Feelers are not primarily motivated by money and achievement, although those things may be important to a certain extent. Instead, they want to feel like they are a part of something and that their work makes a difference. Try to show them the big picture and how their efforts fit into it. When deserved, praise them for how their work impacts the company, your clients, and their coworkers. If they have expertise and wisdom, include them in decision-making. This is a benefit to you as well as your Feeler employees: They can often spot the roadblocks or potential problems before they arise, which Thinkers might miss.
When you talk to Thinkers, don’t personalize—their brains don’t work that way. Ask them what they think about a topic or issue. Be direct. Make your requests clearly. Don’t fill them in on all the backstory unless it truly is necessary. If you are communicating about a problem, ask them to walk you through the issue from beginning to end.
Communicating with Feelers can involve more give and take. You should share your reasoning—because if you don’t, the Feeler will be trying to figure it out anyway and possibly make the wrong assumptions. This is where you can bring personalization into the conversation. If you have a communication issue, ask them how they feel about it. And most importantly, show empathy.
If you are involved in a conflict with Thinkers, try to remain objective. Ask them to help you analyze the issue. Use the Thinkers’ objectivity by freely discussing what went wrong and what went right, but without blame. Avoid personalization. Thinkers see conflict as an unavoidable part of life, so it can be a net positive if you can move through it rationally.
Feelers resist conflict. Harmony is a major goal for Feelers, so anything that undermines that can be disorienting. Try to demonstrate some compassion. Acknowledge the negative effects on people—this is the Feelers’ main focus. If possible, spotlight any positive things that will come out of the conflict.
In general, Thinkers are more comfortable talking about negatives, while Feelers are looking for positives.
Ultimately, a team made up of both Thinkers and Feelers is the most effective. As MBTI expert Otto Kroeger said, “a successful company is one that balances its logical task orientation (Thinking) with an awareness of the human element required to reach those tasks (Feeling).” Learning to supervise both types is essential for the successful manager.
Stephanie Carnes is a certified MBTI consultant and the client solutions provider for The LMC Group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HR Coach: Managing Thinkers and Feelers