A big part of any leadership role is knowing how to influence others. Not to manipulate or cajole but to influence so your team can work more cohesively. Because we all see the world differently, not everyone has the same ‘influence buttons’ but the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) gives us clues how to frame an argument based on style or ’preferences.’
We covered preferences in more detail in this post on How to use the MBTI In Your Professional Development but today we’re going to focus on Thinkers. And speaking of preferences, if you prefer to listen, you’ll find us chatting about this on this podcast episode here.
First a quick recap of what a Thinker is and how you can spot one. Thinking is part of the decision making dimension. Thinkers make decisions based on thinking and logic while Feelers make decisions based on emotion and feelings.
So Thinkers are rational. They're very good at weighing the pros and cons. They're firm but fair and they're interested in data and things as opposed to people. They like to spot the flaws in any argument or approach so you need to be prepared for some challenging debate in your interactions with them. They will happily bring principles into a discussion and often present as skeptical. They are also likely to be impartial in a discussion - logic trumps loyalty!
On the basis of that description they may sound difficult to deal with. Of course they can be but given that half the population are Thinkers you obviously already have strategies to interact with them. You will need these strategies even if you are a Thinker yourself.
First and foremost, it pays to stand in your power when interacting with a Thinker. This doesn’t mean to be aggressive or imposing, just to be confident. To a Thinker, a lack of confidence can often be interpreted as incompetence and that can be a red flag for them. So pump your chest and stand in your power and all should go well.
By now, you probably have a mental image of a Thinker or two on your team or in your workplace. What you’ll notice about them is they are more task focussed than people focussed.
Send a Thinker to the shop to buy some milk and that’s just what they’ll do. They’ll come back satisfied that the job is done as that is their measure of success. Send a Feeler to the shop to buy some milk and they’ll need more than just the milk to be satisfied. They’ll literally want to milk the experience by interacting with others, having a chat, smelling the flowers and so forth. That’s their measure of success.
So you can see already that influencing a Thinker vs a Feeler is going to need different strategies. We’ll cover Feelers in a later post but in the meantime, let’s get the lowdown on influencing thinkers and you can witness how your persuasion skills improve in the days and weeks to come.
Just give them the facts. Thinkers understand facts. It’s their language. They can measure them. They can verify them. Even more exciting, they can list them. That’s Thinker paradise.
So the facts you’ll need to have on hand will relate to things like time, money, resources. We will save $15000 if we do it this way. We’ll improve our ranking position by 10 points if we do it that way. You’ll be able to increase staff output by 10% if you use this software.
Lead with the facts.
We already know that Thinkers like a list so, as you can guess, they love it when they can have two lists. Pros AND cons. That’s Thinker heaven.
Pros and cons are great because you can compare them. You can weigh them up. You can evaluate them.
A word of warning though, if you don’t find all the cons beforehand, the Thinker will find them for you. So better for you if you can come up with all the cons in advance and have your counter arguments prepared. Fail to do that and you’ll come across like a politician in a press conference and will have to fall back on your spin to get you through. Come prepared though and the Thinker will respect your case and give your argument due credit.
Principles are a strong reference point for Thinkers. So if the objective facts of a situation are ambiguous they will then look for an overarching principle to help with their decision making.
For example, if you are dealing with a minor misdemeanour, the facts might make the situation seem unimportant, but the principle might relate to something more critical like deception or dishonesty. Chances are that the Thinker will make their decision based on the principle rather than the facts in this case. We’ve all heard (or said) the line, “If we make an exception this time then we’ll have to make an exception every time.” More often than not it will be a Thinker who says that.
If you’re a Thinker you will have already spotted that we said this already in the tip about the pros and cons. Yes we did but it’s that important that it’s worth repeating.
The default position for Thinkers is to think about why it won’t work or why it can’t happen so you’ve got to be well prepared for that.
Though Thinkers have a preference for facts and figures, don’t make the mistake of thinking they are heartless. They do still have feelings so at times when emotion should prevail, e.g. when laying staff off, you’ll need to adapt your style accordingly.
And keep in mind that the emotional impact of an argument can still factor into the logical evaluation of a Thinker. They won’t dismiss the emotional impact on others as being irrelevant but they are less likely to let their own emotions determine their decision.
Do not underestimate the value of influence. It’s the hallmark of a great leader. If you cannot influence you cannot lead, it’s as simple as that. So put these tips to work. Become skilled at identifying the Thinkers and Feelers in your team then notice how much more effective you can be if you put these tips into practice. After all, practice begets competence and you know that Thinkers respect those who are competent. 🙂
*These tips are adapted from “Introduction to Type and Communication” by Donne Dunning, published by CPP Inc.
5 Tips to Effectively Influence ‘Thinkers’