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FOUNDER FUEL: Is planning always the best for your team? The conundrum of perceivers and judgers

Do some of your team start to get really uncomfortable when you start changing their plans? Or others start twitching when you are trying to agree to deadlines? This is the conundrum of the Judger and Perceiver personality traits, and it could well be having an impact on your project deliverables and team dynamics. 

It turns out that whether we plan every detail of a holiday, or just love to go with the flow, it has so much more of an impact on our work style and management style than we realise. What one person may consider to be sensible planning can feel like complete micro-management to another, and this is what our second piece on personality traits and team dynamics dives into. Much like part 1 on extroversion and introversion, understanding our own work styles, and those of our team, can make us better startup leaders and empower better performing teams. 

To plan or not to plan

Myers-Briggs describes the judging and perceiving traits as “our orientation on the outer world”. Put simply, it’s about our self-management style – specifically whether we prefer a more structured and planned life, as is the case for the Js or Judgers; or whether we prefer a more flexible lifestyle, which would describe the Ps or Perceivers (alternatively called the Prospecting trait by 16 Personalities).

Judgers will want to plan their day, week, month and maybe even the next few months

Perceivers will be happier just taking things day by day

Watch-out for the labels: It must be stressed that the Judging trait, shouldn’t be confused with being judgemental. The names (decided upon nearly 100 years ago!) can have negative connotations. So rather than focusing on the name or label, focus on the natural traits and tendencies of each to inform your actions, instead.

That way conflict lies

On the surface, these traits appear all about planning but in practise they underpin how we deal with deadlines, change and even new ideas in a team. As a result, team clashes can occur. Js can be described as “het up”, inflexible and even obnoxious by a clashing P. Meanwhile the laissez-faire approach of a P can be described as flaky and unfocused by a clashing J. As with anything, some of these stereotypes may hold an element of truth, but rather than labelling people, we’re interested in how we can use the strengths and minimise the conflicts in our startup teams to maximise our chances of success. 

The Js: Take for instance a high-scale judger. They’ll have their entire week planned, will probably be a few minutes early to each meeting, and are great at making decisions. You can use this strength for keeping everyone on schedule, driving forward with decisions or for planning for an upcoming project. 

The Ps: On the flipside, a high-scale perceiver will take each new task as they come and jump around a lot more. They love generating alternatives to a plan so you can use this creativity and flexibility to deal with the curveballs that are inevitably thrown daily in a start-up. 

Much like our mix of introverts and extroverts, having these differing personality types in each team, helps us create high-performing teams. 

Spot the differences… 

Here is a quick guide to help you spot the natural preferences of those in your team:
Look out for…A natural judger will…A natural perceiver will…
When it comes to holiday talk…Have the hotel, flights and rental car booked and already be planning days outPossibly have chosen a destination, and may have booked flights, but not much else 
When it comes to weekend plans…Already know the menu of Saturday’s dinner party on Monday morningBe deciding what to do on Friday night after lunch that same day 
When it comes to deadlines…Have a project plan with tasks outlined, key milestones and dependencies mapped outBe trying their best to make the deadline, but regularly gets ‘caught out’ by unforeseen factors 
Their desk (or Zoom background)…Have an organised desk and tidy drawers. Clear desk, clear mind! Probably be thriving in organised chaos

It’s worth reiterating from part 1, that with traits we’re talking about our natural preference not a static label. As we grow and develop, we are all able to flex our style to suit our roles or circumstances and use “learned behaviours” of the opposite trait – but understanding the differences between the traits can really aid team understanding and team performance.

Applying this to your startup team 

The problem of planning and progress

The fundamental driver of a J is progress. They want things done and they’ll make a plan to get there. They may even sometimes take the less optimum route just to get it done. 

By contrast, Ps simply cannot progress without generating alternatives, which makes them great at problem-solving. But this need to generate alternatives to every point of discussion will frustrate Js who just ‘want to get on with it’.  Ps may also find that the need to generate alternatives comes at the cost of making a decision on time (or at all!) even to hit a deadline. It’s easy then, to see how these two in a project team can clash! 

So what? 

  • If you’re a J (or have Js in your team) put the planning brilliance to good use on projects and big deliverables, but flex your style with Ps so they don’t feel stifled by too many KPIs and milestones. Also, be open to Ps greatness at generating alternatives at key times in the project plan – they can amaze with an alternative that you may not have thought about previously.
  • If you’re a P (or have Ps in your team) recognise the value of Js in helping reach a decision once you’ve generated lots of alternatives. You can also smooth out project plan tensions by sending a simple email update with your progress each week as this will put the Js mind at ease that all is on track.

The conflict over control 

Sitting behind their love of planning, Js yearn for everything to be in order and under control. The challenge to this is that changes to these plans can actually be a major stressor. That means when  P comes up with alternatives it can bring out a stressed or moaning response from a J – not the best for team productivity!

By contrast, Ps will get stressed if they feel Js are trying to control their every move (something they might do if they feel the plan is going awry!). By understanding these common stressors, it’s possible to influence team wellbeing and motivation.

So what?

  • Easier said than done, but Js need to take a breath and recognise the value of a fresh perspective and accept that ‘their’ plan is not the only option. The Ps are not trying to disrupt the J’s schedule, but rather improve the quality of work being done by the team. As a leader, it can help to show that a bit more brainstorming can sometimes unearth something brilliant, even if it changes the J’s schedule. Focusing on the big picture goal can really help do this in the moment.
  • On the flipside, perceivers need to focus on closure and resist finding new solutions or alternatives when something has been decided upon or a deadline is looming. In this case, acknowledge your natural drive to generate alternatives and counter this with a cold hard look at the deadline and the goal. 

Getting going with goal-setting 

What constitutes an achievable goal and plan can be a cause of conflict between Js and Ps if not understood by leaders. Js strive for a black and white world where all ideas can be neatly packaged up and completed. Ps on the other hand need exploration and the opportunity to jump between ideas to come to the right conclusion. 

These differences can push Js to impose goals and deliverables to the Ps because they’re taking too long (by J’s standards) to set a goal. Meanwhile, Ps will feel like they can’t think through options if J’s set goals when they’ve decided one idea is good enough.

So what?

  • Harness the best of both worlds by giving roles to each. Let the Ps lead on the assessment of alternative options; then make a J in charge of coordinating the final decision and planning.
  • As a leader, if you’re looking to change the goal or plan of a J, accept that they need to air their frustrations about this change and come to terms with it. Literally give them space and this will allow them to process the change and get onboard. (If you’re the J – given yourself some space so you don’t moan at the team)

Applying this to our start-ups

To ensure both judgers and perceivers feel heard and understood, as founders and startup leaders, it’s about increasing team understanding of the traits and using their natural strengths. 

Once you’ve established who’s who in your team, these insights should hopefully help you start to adapt your own style to those around you and make the most out of theirs. This is especially important at the moment with all of our team interactions being done from behind our computer screens. 

When next planning for a pitch or even holding team appraisals, you’ll now understand their personal preferences and be able to adapt to these. With Zoom being routine now, it is especially timely to understand these differences and ensure expectations aren’t vastly different as you can’t just walk over to someone’s desk and check-in. The scheduled Zoom call may be perfect for a judger, but a perceiver may feel a bit more hemmed in, so make sure you take this into account. 

If you want a more robust assessment than our little quick guide to understand your natural traits, and that of your team, then head over to the free 16Personalities test which is a great place to start. 


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