Thinking versus Feeling in the Workplace

I was working with a group of 4 clients this week, the start of an eight month leadership development programme. The objective of the first session is for them to get to know each other better. The session starts with a quick introduction to warm them up to sharing and for me to connect with them before the ‘heavier’ stuff.

I always ask “share something about yourself that no one here knows already.” They said since they’ve been together all week and had some virtual meetings before arriving there’s nothing new they can share. I challenge them to think a bit more and then I stay silent being ok with the required reflection time. Amazingly they always come up with something ranging from mentioning a guilty pleasure (romcom movie addiction, indulging in cat videos on-line) to the profound (orphaned at 6 years old). There’s always learning in what they share – for themselves and others.

One of the tools we are using during the programme is MBTI/Golden Personality questionnaire. In the coaching profession many of my colleagues have strong F or feeling preferences for decision making being described as warm and empathetic. I’m not one of those coaches. I have a T or thinking preference. This group is also all T, thinking. Unlike me though they are all E, extroverts, which are described as talkative, fast-paced environments, think out loud and enjoy being the center of attention.

It was interesting how the group reacted when someone mentioned something emotional – like being an orphan or unable to have children or not being happy in life. The other participants said nothing, unusual for extraverts. My natural tendency would be to say nothing, as an introvert I process the comment internally, as a coach I want to role model empathy and being ok with emotional depth. So that’s what I did – “thanks for being open and vulnerable, how do you feel about that now?”

We will see how the comfort with emotion progresses over the programme. That’s one of the areas I enjoy when coaching – helping head-smart people learn to lead more from their hearts to inspire their teams.