Personality Type & The Final Flight

By: Saundra Stroope, Sr. Leadership Consultant, Executive Development Associates, Inc.



Always an avid movie fan, living through a pandemic and quarantine has taken the portion of my leisure time watching movies to an all-time high. This week’s Netflix binge watch was Challenger: The Final Flight.

Most of you know the story already. On January 28, 1986, 73 seconds into its flight, the shuttle exploded killing seven crew members as their families and the world watched in horror. What we are still trying to understand is how a top-notch team of intelligent executives, engineers, and scientists could make such a faulty decision. With a closer look, you will find even though there was a successful redesign of the rocket boosters and 15 years of safe flight, a similar decision led to tragedy again in 2003.

In 2003, the shuttle Columbia broke apart and 7 crew members were lost. An investigation revealed the problem had been known for years. Again in 2012, a whistleblower lawsuit led to a ~37 million-dollar settlement when dangerous and defective flares were sold to the Army and Air Force. The same company, under a new parent name, had data indicating the flares delivered were incapable of withstanding a 10-foot drop test without exploding. We might wonder how anyone could decide to equip our sons, daughters, or family members serving in the military with explosive equipment.

There are many ways to look at decision making and what went wrong. At the heart of effective decision-making is dialogue, thoughtful deliberation, and the inclusion of all perspectives. Companies with diverse executive teams engage in respectful dialogue, listen, and incorporate all views in order to make decisions that have the best outcomes.

Personality type is one aspect of diversity. If we apply the Myers Briggs personality type theory to decision making, we will find the best decisions are made when we incorporate both preferences that help us take in information and gather data (Sensing and Intuition) and both preferences for approaching decisions and arriving at conclusions (Thinking and Feeling).

If we take a closer look at most executive teams, we tend to find a predominance of the Thinking preference. We also know that teams inclusive of women can outperform to competition. Interestingly, the only Myers Briggs preference with a reported gender difference is the Thinking and Feeling preference. Most women prefer Feeling and step into the decision. They consider the impact on people affected – customers, employees, suppliers, and think about how it aligns to values before applying logic. Most men prefer Thinking. They step out the situation, analyze, rationalize, and apply objective criteria before considering people and values.

As you watch Challenger: The Final Flight, reflect on your own personality type. Reflect on how you personally approach decisions. Then more importantly, reflect on how you ensure that all perspectives are welcome, listened to, and considered on your team. Have you fully considered the existing data or past experience (Sensing) and all the possibilities or future vision (Intuition)? Are you giving equal time and consideration to the logic such as staying on budget or on schedule (Thinking) and the values or the potential impact on people involved (Feeling)? Is your company culture inclusive and welcoming to all personality types? The best possible decisions are inclusive of all preferences.


About the Author:

Saundra Stroope is a Senior Leadership Consultant at EDA with over 20 years of human capital experience within a variety of industries at award winning, global and Fortune 500 companies. She is the author of over a dozen works, including a chapter in a book on developing high potential emerging leaders in Integrated Talent Management Scorecards by ASTD Press.

Her expertise includes leadership development, succession planning, culture change, organizational development, career development, team development, curriculum design, facilitation, human resources, and coaching individuals at all leadership levels. She has a long track record of leading and measuring the success of talent development initiatives. Saundra’s passion for development, drive for results, business acumen, and many years of human capital experience, allow her to bring creative ideas and practical talent solutions to organizations.