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A Good Parent, a Good Leader?

25 Jun

What’s surprising is that the same skills are needed for both jobs!  Good leaders demonstrate the skills of supporting their employees and guiding them. This means that good leaders are present to employees who are either going through a difficult situation in their personal lives or are under great stress in the workplace. Enormous amounts of stress in the workplace can result from a hostile work environment with cliques or gossip among peers or with egotism displayed by supervisors. A good leader is aware of dysfunctional group dynamics and will seek to address this situation through mediation preferably by a third, unbiased professional. Egotism, on the other hand, is almost impossible to be aware of in oneself, and egotism — or narcissism — is a fairly common phenomenon in the workplace and in families. It would take the intervention of a person with higher authority to deal with a destructive narcissist.

However, supervisors can be open to allowing for some flexibility (even if it’s just 15 minutes of “flex time”) with stressed out employees. This bit of leeway plus having an open door and nonjudgmental attitude can go “yards” with helping employees feel understood. When an employee feels understood, s/he will demonstrate a “buy-in” for the current project and will experience a reward that may mean much more than a bonus! We at Beyond the Horizons Consulting would be happy to brain storm with you about the kinds of creative rewards which will result in a win-win outcome for leaders and employees!

Let’s now look at the skill of guiding employees. Guiding an employee can be applied to (1) skills sets necessary to the job; (2) proper ways of communicating, both in verbal and in written expression; and (3) the employee’s growth as a person. Nowadays skill sets are often learned through online courses or webinars. However, some skills are best learned hands-on or through demonstration by a supervisor. We need to remember that individuals learn on different channels — visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and so on. An apprentice chef, for example, may learn much more on the kinesthetic channel, checking out the texture of the foods s/he is preparing.

Teaching the proper way to communicate is likewise possible through online courses and webinars. However, we at BTHC also see that in-person workshops would have an important role. In these workshops the facilitator can demonstrate proper and improper communications through email, for example. Videos with actors demonstrating the verbals and nonverbals of person-to-person communication can also be powerful. What cannot be done in other learning formats is small group practice. Situations and roles are distributed to the participants, and their playing of the roles allows them to experience first-hand what is involved in a particular communication.

Probably the most difficult area in guiding employees is helping the employee grow as a person. Here the supervisor needs to hold the employee responsible to his or her job description. In addition,  a good leader needs to “hold an employee’s feet to the fire” in terms of making the employee accountable for behaviors the employee has agreed to. Guiding an employee also involves making available resources for them to learn new skills and encouraging them to take advantage of such opportunities.

In the workplace today we are faced with a new generation of employees — the millenials. The millenials are in their early twenties and have largely grown up with only a measured amount of support BUT little to no guidance in their lives. (This is the crucial connection between leadership in the workplace and leadership in the family!) Their parents have in most cases both had to work to provide for the family. After the age of 12, many of these young people have been “latch-key” kids with time on their hands after school and no parental supervision. They may have little self-discipline. Often they present as “bored,” and they surely do not have a clue as to what will be expected of them in the workplace. Unfortunately, many have been given many privileges, such as expensive electronic devices, at an early age, and they view such amenities as their right, not a privilege. Our upcoming generation has probably had few if any chores to complete in the household, again because the parents were too busy either working or dealing with their own “dramas” at home or in the workplace to make the children accountable for reasonable tasks within the family. This leaves us with a couple of intriguing questions: (1) Who will teach our future leaders? (2) Will these future leaders — supposing they will develop leadership skills — be able to motivate their millennial employees?


Some Little-Known Facts about Personality Type

11 Jun

We at Beyond the Horizons Consulting can’t overestimate the value of the MBTI personality type indicator to teams in the work place and in the lives of couples and families. We are close to concluding our series on personality type a la Carl Gustav Jung, and the mother-daughter team (Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers) who put the Myers Briggs Type Indicator together. However, we would be remiss if we didn’t share some information on personality type throughout an individual’s lifetime and also some statistics you, dear reader, may find interesting as you contemplate your own personality type.
Many people ask, “Doesn’t my personality change over the course of my life?” The answer is, Yes and No. If we look at midlife as being sometime around age 40, we can make the general statement that a person is usually “established” by this time in life. We can think of a person establishing him/herself in terms of creating a longstanding relationship; perhaps having children to raise; having a satisfying career; having a home and an extended family — i.e., a community — with whom to relate. These are the outward signs of having “deep roots” as a person approaching or already in midlife.
Some of the inward signs of establishing oneself are a comfortability with self; an acceptance of one’s strengths and weaknesses; an openness to relate to others of different temperaments; a willingness, indeed eagerness to grow beyond one’s limitations.
In terms of personality type, at midlife a person is clear about who they are. They use their dominant function in their work and personal lives, and are clear about their needs to relate to others and to have alone time. Their lifestyle preference (organized, planful and, goal-directed versus spontaneous, playful and in-the-moment) would also be clear to most individuals when the differences are pointed out.
What is not as well recognized is that ideally we are all on a path to incorporate some of the opposite qualities into our “self-portrait.” Thus Introvert and Extrovert each needs to incorporate some of the opposite way relating to the world. The Introvert ideally needs to begin to challenge him/herself to relate to more people as acquaintances and thus gain a larger circle of “friends.” The Extrovert needs to spend more time in self-reflection and thus bring a greater depth to personality.
In like manner, the Intuitive needs to make greater use of facts and figures and to state things in a simpler manner, more understandable by the large majority of persons. The opposite personality function — the Sensor — needs to begin to see the bigger picture, get a sense of the long-term effects of decisions, and so on.
Likewise, the Feeling person needs to begin to not take things personally, to look at events more with impersonal logic rather than his/her own feeling-determined values. On the contrary, maturity for the Thinking person will mean that s/he will begin to make decisions occasionally based on values that are personally important (e.g., based on compassion) over against values held to be universal by the dominant Western society (e.g., what action brings in more money).
Finally, if one has been a Judging type with strong organizational skills and clearly defined goals, midlife may bring an openness to being present in the moment, to doing things spontaneously, and to playfulness. A Perceptive type, on the other hand, may well find a goal to strive for, instead of just going with the flow.
Often when a person retires or switches employment at midlife, new aspects of personality emerge. A person who has had to put on an Extroverted persona for a customer service job, for example, may now discover an Introverted side which likes to go for a walk alone or sit and reflect with a journal.

Why Are Introverts Harder to Understand?

12 May

Is it just because Introverts are quieter that they are harder to understand? No, and it has nothing to do with the number of decibels of their voices either! Introverts don’t purposely keep information from their listeners. It’s a matter of using their considerable gifts in their private, inner life.
With an Extrovert, what you see is what you get. If they prefer to begin their decision-making process with Thinking, then that is what you will notice about them. You will hear the phrase, “I think …” and you will clearly see that they are using universally held principles and ideas to make their decision. Likewise, if Sensing is their primary process, you will hear them enumerate facts and figures effortlessly. Or if Feeling is an Extrovert’s primary way of making a decision, you will hear numerous feeling words and will experience a passionate commitment to their language. Finally, if intuition (N) is the Extrovert’s primary decision-making mode of operation, you will experience broad, visionary statements which present a panorama of the theme under discussion.
With an Introvert, however, that person’s modus operandi is “hidden” in the Introvert’s inner world. Here are some examples:
1. ISTJ: An Introverted Sensing, Thinking personality. This person appears to others as a Thinker, but while this is true, his/her primary function is Sensing. This person has a deep inner world of sense impressions, in other words, a great memory for all the kinds of details one can receive through the five senses. Until you know this person quite well, you will be unaware of the deep well of sense impressions s/he carries beneath the cool Thinking exterior.
2. INFJ: An Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling personality. This person presents a Feeling self to the world. People think of him/her as a warm, caring person. However, this exterior belies a deep Intuitive self, which operates on the inner plane.
3. ISTP: An Introverted, Thinking, Sensing type. This person presents as Sensing. What people notice about the ISTP is how s/he is readily able to pull up data to support any project. What they do NOT notice is that in this person’s inner world s/he is constantly planning and putting into motion logical plans of attack.
It truly is harder to get to know someone who is Introverted. But it’s not any planned deceit on their part. It is simply because they use their favorite process — Thinking, Feeling, Sensing, Intuition — in their Inner world. It will take time for you to get to know them on that Inner level, how they make their decisions, how they perceive things. But perhaps it will be well worth it in our world of frequent glimpses and surface impressions!

How Do You DO!

9 Apr

Are you more organized and goal-oriented, or more laid back in your daily behavior? These opposites define another Myers Briggs dimension — that of life style preference. Interestingly enough, this pair of opposites cannot be attributed to Carl Jung. Instead it was developed by Myers and Briggs, the mother-daughter team who put together the personality type indicator!
This dimension of personality type is extremely important to figure into relationships. Let’s look at why.
People who are quite organized and like to pursue goals in a systematic way are very different (opposite, in fact) to folks who live their lives in a spontaneous, relaxed manner. Myers and Briggs used the terms Judging and Perceiving to signify these opposites. These names, however, do not adequately describe the differences in personality type.
First of all, the Judging types are not necessarily judgmental, although they may be. They may often use “constructive criticism” in their interactions with others. We can say, however, that J personalities belong to people who want to be organized and who have both short- and long-term goals. This makes them a more serious type than their opposite, the Perceivers. The P personality type may have these qualities: spontaneous, impulsive, playful, procrastinative, perceptive. While J types plod along, moving steadily toward their goal, P types never put themselves through rigorous “practice.” Whatever they love doing, they make look simple.
Thomas Alva Edison was a J type: He never gave up on a project. He may have laid it aside for a while, even years, but he ultimately returned to it and made it a success. Not only did he perfect the light bulb, he also developed the phonograph, the telephone, and so many other inventions which gave birth to the age of technology. His motto was one which every J personality can take as his/her own: “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”
Mozart was a P type, especially as we see him portrayed in the movie, “Amadeus.” No one ever had to admonish Mozart to practice piano. He sat at the piano and composed for long hours on end, totally unaware of time passing. People of the P type do not set goals, but they are not distractible when they are doing something they love. For them it’s spontaneous.
You, dear reader, can perhaps see why Js and Ps have some work to do in order to get along. J will want to organize even fun times — for example, weekends or vacations. P will want to “hang loose” and see what opportunities come along. Ps are definitely fun to be with as they meander through a day waiting on serendipity to land them in a sweet spot — and it usually does!
In the animal kingdom, we can think of the J person as the beaver, nature’s engineer. S/he has a goal: To mud up the dam and make it secure for his family. To that end, he chooses a tree to cut down, swims it over to his lodge, puts it in place, and then muds up his structure.
By contrast, the P person is the river otter. I see him/her sitting on a log over a stream, just enjoying the water life beneath him. Then suddenly he is attracted by a certain fish and makes an instantaneous decision to catch it, which s/he does with ease. Swimming with his/her catch to the riverbank, he munches away with utter abandon and enjoyment.
We have now completed our description of the four dimensions of personality type, and we hope that you have made a tentative guess about your own type in each dimension. We will continue looking at temperaments and types in our next article.

Feelings, Nothing More than Feelings …

1 Apr

Since you know that Carl Jung was a psychoanalyst, you might well suppose that he dealt with feelings, and you would be correct! Many people say they are sad, or frustrated, or disappointed, as if that particular feeling were all-consuming and would stay with them for the duration. Actually, though, feelings come and go. With my patients I often refer to the “dark green feelings.” These are the feeling colors of wintertime — hurt, guilt, loneliness, sadness, etc. — which will eventually yield to the pastels of spring.
Feelings go hand in hand with thoughts. If you think about someone who has been a victim, the thought experiences you portray in your mind will yield feelings of hurt, shame, sadness but possibly go to outrage! If on the other hand, you think about relaxing on a porch swing on a summer’s day, your thoughts may go to contentment, peace and overall well-being.
In general, we need to realize that we can let go of disturbing feelings and replace them with more supportive, confident feelings. This process will enable us to improve our physical health as well. I will write more about the process in a later blog. Right now I want to return to what Jung called the “opposites” of Feeling versus Thinking.
Jung noted that human beings usually act on either thoughts or feelings, so that either one of these modalities is a motivator for action. The values we hold dear (consciously or unawares) propel us to action.
In the case of Feeling, a person will hold certain RATIONAL but SUBJECTIVE values, which will guide his/her actions. For example, a person might prize courage and act in the workplace against injustice as a whistle blower. Or a person might be motivated by compassion to serve the needy or homeless. Jung emphasized that Feelings are rational motivators to action, but they are subjective to the individual who prizes courage, compassion, honesty or some other value.
The Thinking person prefers to take action or make judgments based on universally held values; that is, RATIONAL and OBJECTIVE values. Such values are widely held by large numbers of people. At the extreme, the values which derive from mathematical equations can be said to be universally true (depending on which type of mathematics one espouses!)
Thinking persons are those who calculate their path using principles which are widely held by a majority of people. They prefer using the logic of the head, the prefrontal cortex, to solve problems. In the economic world, Thinking persons often arrive at their final decision based on the cost of one alternative versus another. Thus in a Thinking world, people become statistics who can easily be “let go” if a business has a downturn.
Feeling persons, on the other hand, utilize as tools whatever they value most (for example, compassion) to make their decisions. In that sense, Feeling persons are more independent in their value systems than those who prefer Thinking. Although holding firm to principles is important to Feeling persons, probably these “heart-based” persons seek above all else Harmony in their lives and in society.

“Just the Facts, Ma’m”!

22 Mar

Are you a person who easily memorizes stats from the newspaper? Do you find yourself drawn to getting factual answers to problems? If so, you probably are like a reporter with his notepad: Who? What? When? How? Where?
These are the questions most Americans want answered. Actually 75% of the American population are Sensing types, who want their information detailed, accurate, and as simple as possible. If you are this type of individual, you will also be RIGHT THERE, grounded in the present moment. When you enter a new venue, you will probably notice everything about it — the colors of your surroundings, any accompanying sounds, the people, their mode of dress, all the details of the interior decoration, and so on. Sensing individuals are aware of everything which comes through the five senses: seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling. They are also the people who gather all the data for any project.
The opposite type of person is labeled “N” in Myers Briggs terminology. This person is an Intuitive (NOTE: N is used for this function because I has already been taken as shorthand for Introvert.) Intuitives do not so much look for answers to the five common questions listed above. Instead they seek to answer the question, Why? The person who is Intuitive is looking to understand the MEANING of the phenomena. Human beings are animals who seek meaning, so these 25% of the population are entrusted with a very important task. They are also at times termed “visionaries,” because they seem to be able to predict the future. Actually their best predictions come from their ability to see patterns in the data, which they then project into the future. For example, an Intuitive might find great meaning in “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.” S/he might see how this pattern is replicated throughout world history. It wouldn’t be the most comfortable assumption to make, but one could tease out the flaws in Western civilization with such a pattern.
True to type, Intuitive individuals do not so much live in the present as “100 miles down the road” in the future. One may not feel present in the presence of an Intuitive!
Sometimes music captures the essence of psychological themes. In the case of the Sensing types versus the Intuitive types, we might think of “You Fill up my Senses,” a lovely song by John Denver, in contrast to “Anticipation,” another exquisite melody with appropriate Intuitive lyrics by Carly Simon.
I’d love to hear from you with questions or comments. Myers Briggs material is so affirmative of persons in their essential being and so helpful in working out the kinks in relationships!

What Gives YOU Energy? Introverts vs. Extroverts

17 Mar

What gives (or takes away) your energy? Personality type has some important insights into this question. Let’s ask some simple questions first.
1. Do you find that being around a group of people is energizing?
2. Do you need to be part of a team, or even to lead a team?
3. Do you enjoy “running your ideas” by several people, either in a group or one after the other?
4. Do you find it boring to sit by yourself and “reflect” on the past day or week?
5. Do you find that being in a crowd actually gives you energy?
6. Do you enjoy talking and even being the story teller in a group?

If you answered YES to several of these questions, you may well be an Extrovert. Extroverts get their energy from people and situations external to themselves — gatherings, parties, events they attend, anything they become aware of in their surroundings.
Extroverts make up 75% of the U.S. population and are prized for their “lingo” in sales, catchy presentation style at meetings, and their “friendliness.” Extroverts may or may not play all their cards, but what they wish to share is widely known. With an Extrovert, “what you see is what you get” — that is, if they are thinking individuals, that is what you notice about them. On the other hand, if they are more on the feeling spectrum, you will see that also. These folks are usually not deep thinkers, but they have an innate ability to get their ideas out there.
Here’s an interesting scenario I often present to my clients when they come in to debrief their MBTI results. An Introvert is married to an Extrovert. They are invited to a get-together on a Friday evening. The Introvert (soon to be discussed) is hesitant to commit to the gathering but goes along because his/her partner expresses a real desire to take part in the event. Their counselor suggests that they go in separate cars. Why? you ask. Because this is the scenario that evening. (And note that this is a best case outlook for the evening.) Each arrives separately around 7:30 PM. The Extrovert quickly finds a group which s/he joins and begins actively to share with. The time advances to 10:00 pm, and we find the Extrovert at the center of a rather large group sharing one of a number of favorite stories. In another hour the party begins to break up, but the Extrovert finds it hard to “let go.” His last companions make their way to say good-bye to the host, so s/he realizes it is time to return home.
At home s/he encounters the Introvert already in bed. But there’s more to it than that! The Introvert probably drifted over to one individual or a small group of one to three persons and listened to their conversation after having introduced him/herself. The Introvert enjoyed being with this person or small group, but after a while realized how tired s/he was. Thus, s/he probably made a decision to leave the party at about 9 pm and returned directly home to relax and reflect on the day/week. Then s/he may have read or listened to music and prepared for bed.
The Extrovert may not have realized all this (we all think everyone else is just like us!) and probably wanted to talk some more about the news s/he picked up at the get-together. What a surprise to find the partner already asleep!
A little more about the Introvert: Introverts make up only 25% of the U.S. population. They are usually quiet, reflective types whose ideas and emotional depth are often ignored. Group leaders should thus make it a practice to “tease out” those folks who do not regularly jump into a conversation. Leaders must be willing to wait a while for Introverts to respond, however. I’s demonstrate a characteristic pause before answering a question. In the work arena, Introverts would prefer a career where there is only SOME interaction with people. They would have difficulty being a customer service representative, for example, but would love many types of theoretical work, serving in libraries, laboratories, or working out of their homes and only occasionally visiting the office.
One thing you must remember in looking at this aspect (or any aspect) of personality type is that there are many degrees of Extroversion or Introversion, and this determines your preferences for social interaction and career choice.
More to come! Please feel free to email me with your questions.