When I was first getting into executive coaching, I could not tell the difference between Myers-Briggs preference types. I began working with a client who was a high “S” (“Sensor" in Myers-Briggs language). Sensors are typically concrete. They love details and facts. They often search for all available data before making decisions. They also tend to be literal in their language.
I am a high “N” (“iNtuitive"). Us N’s tend to love the big picture. We are fascinated by ideas and new possibilities. We typically tune out when a “ton of details” are being discussed. We are known for seeing patterns and principles behind the data and jumping to conclusions. While we may be much more accurate than not, at times we do jump to the wrong conclusion.
Based on the descriptions above, how do you think our first meeting went?
You guessed it. He was going on and on with details and facts. I wanted to “cut to the chase.” I interrupted at times. I tried to steer to conclusions sooner than he wanted.
He did not feel like I heard him. I did not feel like we made much progress in that meeting since we did not complete his stated goal for that first meeting. I am fairly sure he had doubts as to how well we would work together. I was confused as to how communicate with him.
A mentor who was well-versed in Myers-Briggs helped me understand my client a lot better.
There were three tips my mentor and I came up with during our meeting that I want to share with you in case it helps you with what you do.
What To Do When You See the Signs That You Are Working with a Sensor
- Send out an agenda ahead of your meetings with them. When creating an agenda for an “S,” especially a high S, make sure that it leaves plenty of room for the exploration of facts and details. If the person you are meeting likes to plan and be prepared, they will often start to gather the facts ahead of time and will start to sift through them on their own. If you tend to tune out when there are too many details, turn on your curiosity. Say to yourself, “I want to understand how he comes to conclusions.” There may be times when you need to set a limit to the amount of exploration, but allow yourself to understand them.
- Start with the highest priority item. Even if you set an agenda that has plenty of room for the exploration of details, you may find you don’t get through all the items on the agenda. Often times the first item on the agenda gets the most amount of time. Then each successive item gets less and less time as the meeting winds down. Some items could get postponed. Therefore, always start with the most important item.
- Make things tangible. Get practical with Sensors as soon as you can. Sensors take things in through their five senses. Leverage that. Show them charts and drawings. If there are videos or audio recordings that can be used in a meeting, use them. Be specific. Say what you mean. Mean what you say.
If you practice adjusting your style to another it will go a long way toward building a great relationship.
Chew On This: Which stakeholders are High S’s? Choose one. How will you adjust your communication style when you engage them?
Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.