Myers-Briggs In-Depth: Attending and Perceiving: Sensing vs iNtuition – Part I

by Ron Potter

How are Things Going Here?

Several years ago when I was working with an automotive supplier I experienced one of the clearest examples of this function in action when I was sent to work with the Plant Managers of two different manufacturing plants.


What do you Pay Attention to?

This function was for years identified as your Attending function. “What do you pay attention to?” In recent years Myers-Briggs have gone back to Carl Jung’s (who’s work the MBTI is based on) original title of Perceiving. “How do you perceive the world around you?”

A Simple Question

When I first met each plant manager I asked each of them a simple question “How are things going here at this plant?”

These two plants were almost identical in several ways:

  • They served the same customer base
  • They generally produced the same products
  • They had about the same number of employees
  • They were just in different geographic locations

The first plant manager gave me a very precise answer:

“Things are going great. By 10:30 this morning we had 1,370 units out the door. Currently we are about 5% ahead of schedule for the day which means we’ll have the time in the morning to sit down and discuss the waste problem that we’re experiencing that’s just killing us financially.”

After spending a couple of days at the first plant I arrived at the second plant and upon meeting the Plant Manager for the first time asked exactly the same question: “How are things going here at this plant?” And I once again received a very clear answer:

“Things are going great. I think the truck industry is headed in this new direction. I’ve ordered some equipment from Germany. We should be able to get it fabricated, shipped and installed in about nine months. With some reasonable time for training I believe we’ll be ready to go and will be totally aligned with this new direction.”

What did you notice about these two responses from successful plant managers at two almost identical successful plants?

After noting that they both started their response that “Things are going great”, notice the differences.

Plant Manager One:

  • 10:30
  • 1,372
  • 5%
  • Today – tomorrow

Plant Manager Two

  • New direction
  • 9 to 12 months
  • Aligned with industry direction

What do you think happened when I asked PM 2 how many units were produced today? He said “Fred, how many units did we get out today?”

Now, here’s the real question for you: Which approach is better?

Both! I believe that if you’ve chosen to be in the business world in particular, you must balance this function or you’ll lose the business!

In this real case example, a year from now PM1 would be producing the highest quality, lowest cost product that nobody wanted to buy. And in a year from now, PM2 would likely be in dire straits because the same scrap and waste impact that was at the top of PM1’s radar was not very high on PM2’s radar.

Make it Deliberate

My experience has been that most successful business people have figured this one out even if they didn’t know about the natural preferences. What enhances this function is not leaving it to rely on natural preferences (you may not have a naturally balanced team) but to turn it into a very formal process. During your team meetings, be deliberate by asking the Sensing questions (what are the facts, what actually has happened, where are we today?) but then be very deliberate about asking the iNtuitive questions (what’s the implication in the data, where are we headed, what changes on the horizon may impact us?)


While this one seems to naturally balance, there is a hidden danger that I’ve seen time after time. Check out the next blog on the MBTI Perceiving function.


Myers-Briggs In-Depth is a blog series in which I dive into each MBTI function with more detail, providing some practical applications for creating better dynamics and better decision making. Click here to read the entire series.
Interested in an overview of each of the four Myers-Briggs functions? Click here to read the Using MBTI to Great Advantage series.

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1 comment

Myers-Briggs In-Depth: Attending and Perceiving: Sensing vs iNtuition – Part II - Team Leadership Culture March 30, 2015 - 10:34 am

[…] I mentioned in the previous post on Myers-Briggs that most successful business people have figured out that they need to balance this function.  This balancing act most often takes the form of a trusted partner, colleague or consultant. […]


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