Practical ideas for facilitating workshops & people development

Guest Blog by  Bill Long 

Do you feel like no one is listening to you sometimes?

Understanding personality types will improve your understanding of the way people gather and process information and ultimately make decisions.

Understanding basic human behaviour and factors that influence decision making processes helps us assist the farm businesses we support to achieve their goals more effectively. There are many reasons why people choose to operate farms, some far more powerful than money. While advisors tend to deliver lots of data and information in order to persuade growers to think about a change in practice, intuitive decision making processes are preferred by farmers and are fed by a range of factors including formative years and adult learning experiences, family values, beliefs, emotions, gender, genetics and needs during the various stages of life we go through.

This article discusses just one of these factors – personality type and its influence on farmer (and human) decision-making process.

Creating frameworks to describe human behavioural patterns can be a useful way to anticipate individuals’ responses to situations. Understanding personality ‘types’ can help our understanding of likely behaviour and assist us in understanding our own and others’ abilities and preferences to perform tasks. Once some of these behavioural patterns are understood, we can tailor our approach to supplying and using information with individuals.

Strachan (2011), reports on one of the few attempts in Australia to define the rural culture using the Myers Briggs type indicator. The data source of this study came from 3000 farm managers and employees working in six major agricultural industries across Australia over a 15 year period.

The profiles of people working across a range of agricultural industries were compared with the Australian standard sample.

Table 1. Distribution of “temperaments” in selected rural industries. Strachan (2011)

Beef 57% 25% 13% 5%
Cropping 52% 25% 17% 6%
Intensive 57% 22% 15% 5%
Australian sample 42% 13% 26% 18%

The” SJ” temperament (52%) describes a culture that is less likely to adopt new ideas and will resist change. Decision makers within “SJ” temperament need to be convinced of the need to change. As a group, “SJ” adults tend to define themselves by their experience and they have a deeper investment in its value. Unless there is a clear and desperate need to change, “SJ” types prefer to stick to set procedures, established routines and historic precedents to guide them and prefer practical, concrete problems rather than theoretical or abstract concepts involved in adoption of new ideas. The ideas need to be complete, packaged well, have the relative advantage for change clearly evident, need to be compatible with current practices and thinking (not too way there), simple to adopt with a short term return on investment obvious. They are the most risk adverse type.

The “SP” types (25%)are impatient with abstraction and theories, often have a “do it now and fix the details later” approach to problems and take a flexible and adaptable approach to organising their time. They don’t mind taking risks and like the “SJ’s” like concrete problems and prefer guidelines and take a step by step approach to problem solving and learning.

The “NT” (17%) type strengths include problem solving and understanding complex systems. They enjoy pioneering almost anything and like to start new projects and may have trouble sustaining interest after the design phase. They value logic and knowledge. Intuitive (N) types are more likely to tackle new ideas –they are willing to “have a try” at new technology without having the fine detail “packaged “for them. Often the detail simply isn’t there. This may not be the most successful approach to long term business success as the “cost” of new learning in farming can be extremely high. Being the “first” to try new technology often results in mistakes being made along the journey resulting in crop damage and lower yields.  This type is the obvious type to approach to try the latest technology.

The “NF” (6%) types value authenticity, integrity and harmony – may see their life as one long search for meaning. They are great participatory decision makers – focussing on the people in the organisation. They have energy and enthusiasm for the things they believe in and can have a tendency to ignore problems in the hope they will go away. These types could be approached to organise group events and collaboration on new ideas. They engage well with others.

Although these frameworks tend to categorise individuals as having certain behavioural traits, it is important to recognise that these traits or types are really ‘preferences’ to type. It does not mean that individuals can’t behave differently. By creating awareness of one’s preference to automatically react or behave in a particular way, we can train ourselves to deliver and respond in a different manner if desirable.

Recognising that we don’t all think the same way is the first important step in delivery of information. Just because we might like information presented one way, that doesn’t mean others have the same preference. We can modify our message delivery techniques to include all personality types and get our message across more quickly and effectively.

With approximately 80% of the farming population being “S” types, it is of little surprise that new and innovative technology that might excite an “N” type may take a while to be adopted.   Think about the way your information is packaged and presented. And after that is done, consider some of the personal reasons (values, beliefs etc.) that might influence decision making process.

Now they’ll listen!

Comments on: "The Pioneers get the arrows – the Settlers get the land" (2)

  1. Great to have some of the work you have been doing in your research shared here Bill. I have taken the liberty of sharing this blog with the CEO and GM of Beef and Lamb NZ. It’s always good when you Aussies can teach us Kiwi’s a thing or two. Seriously unpicking and understanding why we as individuals make decisions then understanding how others may make them is vital if we are going to move agriculture forward. Using psychology including personality types isn’t something that we have embraced in the ag sector. We tend to be dismissive of ‘that sort of stuff” thinking it belongs in corporates. Hope Jeanette will let you feature again as a guest and can’t wait until you have finished your research Bill and for the next instalment.

  2. […] Personality type analysis has been carried out in agriculture, this has been discussed in an earlier blog. Farmer personality types […]

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