Work Traits

Pragmatism

Pragmatism

Being pragmatic means you live in the present moment and make decisions based on what’s happening right now.
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Pragmatic thinking: realism for the present moment

Pragmatism means you focus on the present situation and make decisions for the ‘here and now’. It’s a realistic, practical viewpoint that means you want to know what’s happening today, this week or this month.

You’re concerned with current realities, rather than past experiences or future goals: What resources do we have in place right now? What do we need to do today? What’s the most pressing matter for an immediate result?

Rooted in the present moment, you’ll be highly attuned to what you’re seeing, hearing and feeling in the present moment. Roles you might flourish in could be customer service, operational management and anything focused on live decision-making (like air-traffic control).

In F4S: Present

In F4S: Present

Your motivation to reference the present moment, the 'here and now' in your work and in business.

Your motivation to reference the present moment, the 'here and now' in your work and in business.

The only true thing is what's in front of you right now.

Ramona Ausubel
Ramona Ausubel

Leaders known for pragmatism

Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister of New Zealand since 2017, Ardern is one of the most popular heads of state the country has ever had, reaching an all-time high in the approval ratings midway through 2020. 

Her socially progressive outlook and attitude of ‘rational empathy’ has led to her gaining many admirers, especially on the international stage. But it’s her pragmatic attitude towards challenging events that has generated real results. 

After the Christchurch shootings in 2019, Ardern rapidly introduced stricter gun laws to the country, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, her swift and decisive leadership meant the country effectively eradicated the disease from its borders within a few months. Even after severe lockdown measures, citizens of New Zealand remained broadly supportive of her actions.

Jeff Bezos

The world’s richest man - and not without his critics - Jeff Bezos built Amazon into the  worldwide e-commerce behemoth used by millions around the world. 

An important driver of Amazon’s success is its incremental approach to growth. Data is utilized and analyzed to inform agile, short-term changes. Experiments are run to see what works best. With millions of transactions each day, each customer interaction is an opportunity to optimize current operations. 

Bezos is far from short-sighted: he’s made hugely ambitious long-term bets including that of Blue Origin, his spaceflight services company that plans another moon landing by 2024. But everything he does is based on the present; what’s happening now? How can we do it better immediately? What steps do we need to take right now?

Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler is an American actress, writer, director and comedian. Trained in the ultimate present-focused art form - improv theatre - she went on to appear on Saturday Night Live and win countless awards for her prolific artistic output. 

Making people laugh is a serious skill, but doing it on the fly is even more impressive. 

As well as driving her success with improv comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade, Poehler brings this in-the-moment talent for joy wherever she goes; she was known for starting impromptu dance parties in the makeup trailer on set for cult TV comedy Parks and Recreation.

The benefits of pragmatism

Realism

Tempering dreamy expectations means pragmatists usually don’t waste time on unrealistic goals.

Competence

This trait comes with a high aptitude for allocating time, resources and people to where they’re needed most in the moment.

Reliability

Making decisions under pressure is your forté, because you’ve got all the information you need at hand.

The blind spots of pragmatism

Negative

A focus on the realism of the current situation can be perceived as a negative viewpoint to have by more future-oriented folk.

Dismissive

Bringing your present focus to a group can be seen as restraining ambition and tempering lofty goals.

Short-term thinking

The here-and-now being top of mind means you might not be great at mapping out future visions to achieve your full potential.

How to be a pragmatic leader

1) Use current-centric language.

A simple linguistic switch can put you in a more pragmatic frame of mind. Try to use phrases like ‘here and now’, ‘in the moment’, ’today’s agenda’, and ‘immediately’ in your notes and messages. These can help you focus on what’s happening now that you should pay attention to.

2) Reduce forward-oriented phrases.

If you’re tempted to use phrases like ‘future’, ‘ahead’, ‘eventually’ and the like, you’re probably paying little attention to the useful present data in front of you. Remember to check your communication towards others to avoid the downsides of this, like a lack of specificity.

3) Structure your day.

It might be helpful to systematize your decision-making more to help you return to the present. Creatives and visionaries are especially prone to losing focus in favour of ideating and ruminating. So try to build in time blocks each day for looking at information, considering reports, and letting others know what you’re up to.

4) Use data to your advantage.

Sure, you might be reining in the visionary talk a little, but just because you’re being more present-focused and realistic it doesn’t mean you can’t still inspire. Think about how you can present current data in an exciting way to illustrate positive trajectories that you and your team are on.

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