Task vs People

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Recently in a LinkedIn group discussion someone asked for an instrument that would identify whether leaders had a task focus or a people focus. Quite an interesting discussion took place and I was moved to post my view. Here is a blog version of what I posted.

It seems that what is being sought when asking for an instrument is a way to identify natural tendencies that are often unconscious so that they can come into awareness and therefore be under conscious control. Instruments to do this are often subject to the same unconsciousness that exists in the first place and therefore can be inaccurate. Still useful, but not as accurate. And an instrument alone without suggestions about what to do about it isn’t enough.

Task focus versus People focus is one of those dichotomies that have been identified and linked to for many years. With the MBTI® instrument a link is often made to the Thinking-Feeling dichotomy and sometime to the Judging-Perceiving dichotomy.

A challenge is that the Task vs People dichotomy is only a part of a much bigger whole so it is hard to tease out by itself. My approach would be use the Interaction Styles framework to help identify the deeper underlying ‘rules’ that being met by a focus on task vs a focus on people. Each Interaction Style pattern identifies a different Drive and Aim of that Drive as well as Talents to get that drive met. Two of the styles are time and task oriented and tend to communicate with a Directing style:

•  Chart-the-Course: Anticipate to get a desired result and talented at ‘Thinking Ahead.’

•  In-Charge: Accomplish to get an achievable result and talented at ‘Steering.’

The other two styles are more people oriented and tend to communicate with an Informing style.

•  Get-Things-Going: Involve and be involved to get an embraced result and talented at ‘Motivating.’

•  Behind-the-Scenes: Integrate to get the best result possible and talented at ‘Synthesizing.’

I don’t use an instrument, but use some videos and graphics to explain these different styles. Sometimes, just an explanation of Directing and Informing communications is enough and could even be the basis for a half-day workshop, especially with intact groups. You can read about the styles in the resources section of the website.

If you want to learn more in-depth about the Interaction Style lens, sign up for our on-demand recorded set of 4 webinars.

I also use the Matrix Insights software to help people identify their styles and target behaviors they want to change, skills they want to acquire, and new ways of relating. You can see more about the styles and how Matrix Insights works to support the model here.

In my many years of working with the 16 personality types, I have found that it helps to have different lenses that help us see these different dimensions of the personality patterns, but to always keep in mind that the task orientation of one type is not the same as the task orientation of another. There are those with a Thinking preference who are also somewhat people oriented (ENTP and INTP) and use Informing communications most often. They are not as interested in tasks as much as frameworks and ideas, often in the interest of helping people. Those with INTJ and ENFJ preferences are both people and task oriented. The task orientation shows up in the context of getting things done, but is often expressed with non-verbally directing communication. Those with ESFP and ISFP preferences may look task oriented due to a drive to action from their Improviser Essential Motivators (temperament), but they will most likely communicate with an Informing style.

Complex, but not complicated if you know the ‘rules.’ Not the rules of the MBTI® type table, but the ‘rules’ of the lenses that give us information about key aspects of what it means to be complex human systems.