What your type can tell you about increasing personal and team productivity

Posted 29 July 2013 by
Mark McCartney, Executive Coach, Saïd Business School
Mark McCartney

We expect employees and teams with different MBTI preferences to manage time and, more importantly, attention in the same way. Yet our experience tells us that putting a colleague on a traditional time-management course won’t work, as habits, behaviours, values and preferences run deep and are often hidden from view.

This is why I specialise in providing bespoke team and personal productivity plans for managers and leaders designed to get to the root causes of why it is now so difficult to focus on the handful of strategic priorities that matter most. According to a recent McKinsey Report, only 9% of leaders in a survey of 1,500 from across the world felt satisfied with what they had achieved at work.

Rather than starting with the vast range of tools, techniques and tips, many of which we are already aware of, it is vital to go deeper into the values, beliefs and assumptions that stop us from developing more healthy and productive work habits. MBTI type is a much more powerful way of starting someone’s journey towards a far more productive and satisfying future – one in which in which they can contribute more to their organisations.

It is important to be clear, though, that improving personal or team productivity is an ongoing process. It requires effort and high attention levels in order to notice negative habits, along with a commitment to change. Rather like the success of the British Cycling Team/Team Sky, it involves engaging in continuous, small experiments that cumulatively add up to significant changes, resulting in enhanced productivity. Simply saying you are ‘busy’ will increasingly come under the spotlight as organisations will ultimately be judged by what they produce rather than by how overworked and stressed their employees are. Furthermore, given all the technology at our fingertips, it has never been easier to simply be ‘busy’. But ‘busy’ doing what exactly?

Let’s look briefly at some practical areas in which knowledge of MBTI type can help.

When working with ‘E’s I ask them to commit to a ‘white desk policy’: nothing, absolutely nothing on their desk apart from their computer/laptop. ‘E’s are easily sidetracked as they are drawn to new, exciting things and can therefore be distracted by, say, a magazine sitting on their desk or a new project brief. And when their energy levels are low they will be tempted to ‘flit’, which further erodes attention levels, which are the key to productivity. The point is to do as much as possible to remove unnecessary distraction.

Here is another example. I worked with a creative team with a predominately ‘I’ profile but ‘E’ leadership. The ‘I’s, unsurprisingly, found team meetings and creative brainstorms very unproductive. Simple changes such as circulating an agenda 48 hours beforehand and being more specific about the decisions that needed to be made during the meeting helped to reduce meeting time, which also increased output.

By knowing your MBTI type you will better understand why you find some aspects of attention management more difficult than others, and why teams struggle to run effective meetings, or why high email volume among a team wastes time.

Mark McCartney is a European leader in the field of Productivity for a Digital Age and is an Executive Coach at Oxford University’s Säid Business School. He talks regularly on this subject e.g. at the Association of Business Psychologist’s Annual Conference 3-5 Oct 2013 Call: 0044 7747536661. Visit: www.tofocus.co.uk

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