Is it psychobabble? How better understanding can lead to better collaboration

By Elisabeth Goodman, 4th October 2015

Meet Diane and Tom

Diane and Tom are two colleagues who have been working together for some years now.  Their latest project is to make a new kind of widget.

Diane enjoys a good debate. She loves having new challenges to explore, opportunities to think ‘outside the box’, to break the rules.  She’s always very clear on what has to be done, will talk to others to find out what they know, and will happily delegate work to colleagues based on their skills and expertise.

MBTI extrovert
Diane enjoys a good debate

Tom is more reflective.  He likes to learn from experience, and it’s important to him that everyone’s views are taken account of.  He believes rules are important but may not always say so. He’s good at working out how something can be achieved, at weighing up pros and cons, and at ensuring that the ‘Ts’ get ‘crossed’ and the ‘I’s get ‘dotted’.

MBTI introvert
Tom is more reflective

You may recognise someone that you know, or that is similar in some respects, in one or other of these descriptions.  What is important for the purpose of this blog, is that Diane and Tom understand each other.  They understand the different strengths that they bring, as well as their blind spots, and how they can use this knowledge to complement each other and achieve great results, in this case in designing and making a new widget.

Is it psychobabble?

I write blogs because I love to explore new ideas and to turn them into something that others might find useful.

The disadvantage of putting my ideas into blogs is that I don’t know who has read them, and if they have found them of any use, unless they choose to tell me so.

Occasionally I do receive comments, sometimes they indicate that I have hit the mark.  Sometimes the comments suggest that I have not!  I received one of the latter category recently when a reader suggested that my blog was ‘psychobabble’ and did not offer him anything new.  I appreciate that he took the time to read and comment on the blog, and hope he will give me some further insights on what I could have said that would have been more helpful.

I also share my ideas in my training courses and workshops.  Delegates have usually opted to come along because they are also looking for new ideas.  Sometimes though they are skeptical, or have had negative experiences of psychometric tools.

So in this blog I am avoiding any explicit reference to psychology or to psychometric tools.  I’m simply using my two characters, Diane and Tom, to illustrate how people’s understanding of their differences can help them to collaborate more effectively.  They won’t always be as different as Tom and Diane, but illustration is perhaps most effective when the extremes are greatest.

Shall we talk or shall we think about it?

Diane definitely prefers to talk things through, with Tom, with other people who may have some useful ideas and information, and with the colleagues that she wants to help her get things done.

Tom likes to have time to reflect, to research, to plan and to evaluate.  Feedback is important to him too.  So Tom and Diane have learnt that they will be most successful if they talk to each other relatively briefly as they begin their work on the new widget, and then again once they have each done their research in their own way.

Should we focus on the what or on the how?

Tom is most motivated by working out how something is going to be done, the practicalities, comparing it to how things have been done in the past, and what he has learnt from that. He might also volunteer himself for several of the tasks.

MBTI sensing
Tom is motivated by practicalities

Diane is more focused on the goal, although she does enjoy exploring possible solutions to some of the bigger problems, and also thinking about who else could help them get things done.

So Diane will dwell on the ‘what’ they need to achieve for the new widget, and act as a sounding board, as Tom works out the ‘how’.  She might challenge Tom to think about new ways of doing things for this particular widget and to not take too much upon himself.

What happens if things go wrong?

Diane, like Tom, likes to learn from experience.  For her it’s all about understanding the root cause of any problem they encounter whilst designing and making the widget, and finding the best way to fix it so that it does not happen again.

Diane likes to understand the root cause of problems
Diane likes to understand the root cause of problems

She appreciates though that for Tom, it’s also about talking to the people involved, understanding their perspectives on the problem, and making sure that she or Tom have taken the time to explain why things are going to be done differently.

So what’s the deadline and when do we start?

Tom will be keen to start working on the design for the widget straight away. He knows how long this kind of project can take, and the importance of getting the various steps completed on time, especially if they want to deliver a good quality end product.

Tom knows the importance of getting key steps completed on time
Tom knows the importance of getting key steps completed on time

Diane knows that unpredictable things generally happen at some point in the project, new useful information or requirements may come in, and so she is used to helping Tom to adapt his plans as they go along.  Although she would be inclined to keep things more open and flexible for as long as possible, she has come to appreciate the fact that Tom at least has a plan for them to work from!

Tom on the other hand appreciates Diane’s calmness in the face of change..

The widget got made!

Their project was successful, and Diane and Tom are continuing to enjoy their collaborations.

Hopefully I’ve also managed to share some insights with you with a minimum of ‘psychobabble’!  (Though those of you familiar with psychometric tools may have spotted which ones I was working from..)

Do let me know if you’ve read all the way through, if you’ve gained anything from doing so.  And if not, please let me know what I could do differently.


Thank you to Nathaniel Spain for the illustrations.

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, facilitation, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just under 6 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management).

5 thoughts on “Is it psychobabble? How better understanding can lead to better collaboration”

  1. Dear Elizabeth

    Many thanks for the blog – I appreciate them in whatever format and having some gems of wisdom for work to help me through the week.

    Best wishes Jane Kennedy Records Manager -Tate

    1. elisabethgoodman

      Dear Jane,
      thank you so much for your feedback. I really appreciate it!
      It’s also good to know who my blogs are being read by.
      Have a great week.
      All the best,

  2. Pingback: Focus on collaboration. RiverRhee Consulting Newsletter, September – October 2015 | Newsletter

  3. Pingback: Understanding when we are at our best | Elisabeth Goodman's Blog

  4. Pingback: Exploring personality tools to enhance the diversity within our teams | Elisabeth Goodman's Blog

Leave a Comment