The Intuitive Manager

As my first post on Yowsbrain (left) pertaining to management, which I think also is applicable to project management, I thought I would pick a topic close to home. A few years ago, our company invested in some “profiling” services in an effort to increase the effectiveness of new hires by determining our current team’s “work style” makeup. The purpose for this exercise was to help us identify our individual conflict styles, decision-making styles and how these change under stress. The first goal was to see how our team was currently balanced. We could then, theoretically, use this information to hire people who would either fit into, or fill gaps in our team, thereby increasing our effectiveness and reducing turnover.

I won’t get into how that whole experiment went. But I did learn a few things about myself along the way that were confirmed in another round of testing that I put myself through with the help of a career specialist located here in Austin named Dr. David Litton. Specifically, I learned that I have been blessed (or cursed) with the gift of intuition. My natural tendency when making decisions is to quickly gather information, quickly analyze it, and then go with my gut. The “I-Speak Your Language” model of defining behavior styles, which is based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)  taps me primarily as an “Intuitor”. I should also mention that the tests revealed that my secondary behavior style is that of a “Thinker”. This is a good secondary trait to have, but since my primary is intuitor, I want to focus this blog entry on that type of manager.

The decision-making process used by an intuitor relies heavily on past experience and gut feelings. I suppose that this justifies, for me anyway, the high salaries of many upper-level managers. Their “gut” is their value-add. This style of decision making contrasts with with those leaders who rely exclusively on data and the current state-of-affairs. These are folks with a primary “Thinker” type behavior style. Which style of manager  is best? From my perspective, it depends on the types of decisions being made by that particular manager paying heed to the age, size, purpse and culture of a given organization.  A young organization working with cutting edge technology where gobs of data, models and experience are unavailable to the decision-maker, an intuative manager would be a wise choice. In a more established organization with years of data, facts, models, trends and other information available to the decision-maker, one might want to look at a “Thinker”.

For any type of manager making a critical decision, I feel it is wise to collaborate or at least get the opinion of another stakeholder or stakeholders that may have a different behavior style. According to my graduate professors at the University of Texas, diversity is key in successful teams.  They were not talking about “ethnic” diversity. In general, they were referring to “style” diversity. I don’t want to go too heavily into teams in this blog entry, however. My point is simply that since one style is better under some circumstances than others, one should leverage the value of style diversity as inputs when weighing a decision.

For example, let’s say I have a rather important hiring decision to make. I have a pool of candidates to choose from that I have selected using my “intuative” style of decision making. It is very efficient for me to use my “gift” (in this case) to quickly narrow down my choices. At this point, however, I need to confirm that the data I used and then the gut feeling that I trusted were both valid. For this, I usually ask someone who is a “Thinker” or even a “Sensor” (someone who is more sensitive to feelings and emotions than I am) to evaluate the candidates. The very best scenario involves each type of behavior style weighing in on the candidate.

So what are the positive contributions that an intuitor can make as a leader in their organization? The ability to solve problems quickly and creatively ranks high on the list. As this “idea-oriented” behavior pattern would indicate, an intuitor has faith that the best solution will inevitably present itself and that their job is to be there to recognize it, implement it and move on to the next problem. As a software QA manager, I am naturally drawn to automation, virtualization and cutting-edge testing techniques like Exploratory or Session-Based testing. I can’t stand to see my fellow team-mates or subordinates doing things the “hard way”.  If I have to do something more than once, it gets automated, period. If I have to wait a week to get a server configured, I am volunteering to run the project team dedicated to virtualizing  our test environments so that we can remove this dependency on our operations team so that we can do our job without being held up next time. I’ll take the risk that the solution might fail because the status quo is simply not acceptable. Rarely do they fail, however, because my ituition guides me through these unchartered waters that would drive a “Thinker” or “Feeler” insane. I’m comfortable in the unknown because I trust my instincts.  The other behavior styles rely primarily on feedback and data…neither of which are always available in the high-tech arena.

Another strength trait of the intuitor is the ability to see the future. I call this my “sooth-sayer” sense. It’s not so much that an intuitor can see the future as much as it is that he or she can take facts and project them out further than most people. Their vision is not normally clouded by the fog created by tight deadlines, fuzzy data or being “in the weeds”.  Intuitors  can see how things will fit together down the line in spite of these distractions. Sometimes, being under stress even helps the intuitor to focus on creative solutions with more zeal and determination than perhaps a situation that was less severe.   I have been able to help steer our organization away from bad decisions, bad technology and poor hires because of this skill. But intuitors beware. This “asset” can make other people on your management staff uncomfortable at times. I would advise all intuitors to keep a journal. It will help your credibility in the future if you can show that your “gut” is something on which your peers can trust and decisions can be made.

Intuitive managers should use facts when they can. But sometimes, technology is just too new or new roads are being paved and there just isn’t much to go on. In this case, having an intiuitor on your staff is invaluable. Intuitors should also be called upon to assist in long-range planning. Like I mention above, getting an unclouded view of the future is difficult for most leaders-especially those who are constantly distracted by the latest stock forecast or budgetary constraints. And if you are an entrepreneur looking to grow your business, you couldn’t ask for a better partner than an intuitor. They will see what you can’t. They will be objective and tell you what you may not want to hear. But you need to hear it. Heed their warnings! Take comfort in their direction. And so I’ll end this little expose with a message to my fellow intuative managers. Then again, you know what I was going to say…right?

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