>Why aren’t we all highly effective then?

>I’m revising a course I’m due to deliver next week called ‘Making a Personal Impact’. It’s aimed at juniors in the workforce to give them more understanding about how to make a better impression and impact so that they get noticed and become able to move up the corporate ladder. As part of the course I’m doing a piece on what it means to be pro-active and as I was searching the interwebs, I was directed to Stephen Covey’s website http://www.stephencovey.com. He’s the author of the best selling book ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. The book was first published in 1989, has sold over 20 million copies, and has been named the #1 Most Influential Business Book of the Twentieth Century” according to his website.


Let’s fast forward to the here and now. A lot of authors have written about and blog regularly about how to be effective and the latest ten rules for doing so. I take issue with the continuous rise of such things, least of all because they tend not to be evidence based, more anecdotal, and this means there’s no real fix. The better works try to be scientific in their approach but still fall foul of not following an effective or repeatable process. Anyway that’s not what I’m blogging about.
My question today is around why we’re all not conforming to the multitude of theories in existence that tell us how to be successful and/or effective. Well the answer is pretty simple really. The companies and organisations we work in just don’t support these theories. Business 101 tells us that companies are in existence to make money. In order for that to happen, those same businesses look for the kind of people who are willing to put in the time and effort to make things happen. That’s a broad brush comment which is meant to include all manner of behaviours such as selling, collaborating, seeking new business, delivering on time, etc.
Part of that demand for success means sometimes those businesses have to overlook the desirable qualities that are oft quoted as being the corner mark of an effective person. Do you want a CEO who is able to make hard decisions, communicate them out and keep a business surviving, or a CEO who spends time ensuring staff are being cared for, relationships are well maintained, and may miss opportunities to sustain business success? I’m trying to present extremes on purpose.
The problem is the habits of highly effective people are often in conjunction with other behaviours that aren’t quoted or discussed. Some of these highly effective people are task masters. Some are sticklers for discipline. Some are really picky about details. Some just care about big ideas and big promotions. Some just railroad others into accepting their way of thinking. These are all traits which many executives possess but no-one really takes the time to recognise.
One psychometric tool I’ve come across does attempt to redress this. It’s called the Hogan Dark Side and is developed by Psychological Consultancy Ltd. It’s a good tool which encourages seniors to look at what may ‘derail’ them. What this means is, you may have a trait, e.g. gregarious and energetic, and this may be a great strength of yours. There may be circumstances you encounter which inhibit this strength continuously and make this person derail by forcing them to behave in ways that are uncharacteristic and damaging. For example, they start to go out for drinks far too often, during lunch and then after work, they spend too much time talking to colleagues and socialising rather than doing work, they try to get involved in company social events and miss meetings and deadlines.
But that’s just one tool and it’s not used widely enough to be recognised by the wider working world. My concern is that people go out and buy self-help books on personal success and how to be the next millionaire but they’re not being told the full story of what list of traits are not talked about.
To further this line of thinking, I’m going to make a rather bold statement. We wouldn’t have experienced the financial crisis across the world if all those workers in the banking industries truly exhibited the qualities of highly effective individuals, being genuine and not looking for personal financial gain. Instead, those industries promote and expect behaviours along the lines of: look out for yourself, get a big bonus, don’t collaborate, keep information close at hand, amongst others.
So where does this take us? If a company wants its staff to truly be displaying the qualities that seem to be in high demand, it needs to be explicit about that in a variety of different forms. The company should have a set of values that are clear and understandable by all. There needs to be a behavioural competency framework that outlines what’s expected of everyone in a very practical way. There has to be a clear and unbiased promotion process, succession plan and skills matrix. Review periods have to be mandatory and the opportunities for learning and development made available to every member of staff.
I’m not saying all companies are bad at doing this. If anything the Great Place to Work Survey by the FT shows us clearly that there are a lot of companies striving to get it right and perception from their staff show this to be the case. What I am saying is this needs to be built into every company so that we can have the kind of effective business and quality of workforce that we seem to be looking for.

>The Myers Briggs Type Indicator for everyone

>So I’d rule the world with the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. I think it’s a fantastic psychometric tool that can help you understand so much about yourself. I qualified to use it in 2005 I think and have been using it at every opportunity since! I often reflect on my preferences and what I’m doing to either strenghten them or develop my non-preferences. So what’s the purpose of today’s blog? To keep it simple and easy for everyone to read and decipher.

I won’t go into the history of the MBTI. As important as it is, I want to focus on the preferences.

So firstly, are you an ‘extrovert’ or an ‘introvert’? It’s important to remember that although behaviours are what are observable, behaviours alone do not dictate preference. For an extrovert, they gain their energy from people and being active and interactive. That can take any form deemed appropriate. For an introvert they gain their energy from their own world. That means removing themselves from normal activity to have time they can use to reflect and find that energy they’re looking for. Both are fully capable and often display behvaiours that are described as ‘extrovert’ and as ‘introvert’. Because of this, people often say ‘I’m both’. Poppy cock. Do you prefer using your left or right hand regardless of how well you may use either? It’s the same principle. We have a natural pull that means we either gain our energy from others (extrovert) or from ourselves (introvert).

Next is do you have a ‘sensing’ or ‘intuiting’ preference. A sensing person is someone who tends to prefer things such as facts, practicalities, data, proven methods. An intuiting person is someone who tends to prefer things such as ideas, interpreting meanings, finding connections. It’s startling how observable the behaviours are for a sensing person compared to an intuiting person. Sensing people describe things very literally, do things practically and enjoy working according to tried and tested methods. Intuiting people like to work with uncertainties and find out solutions to problems in interesting and creative ways.

The third set of preferences are ‘thinking’ and ‘feeling’. A person who has thinking preference is someone who makes decisions about the world using logic as their key vehicle. A person with feeling preference uses their personal values system as their driver for making decisions. A thinking person is all about the process and making sure it works – business first, relationships second. A feeling person is all about harmony and ensuring that others are consulted – relationships first, business second. What I like best about trying to figure this set of preferences is how people see themselves. They define ‘feeling’ as being ’emotional’, or ‘thinking’ as being more ‘rational’ where that isn’t how Myers and Briggs define it at all. You can display just as much emotion/passion and rational thought using either thinking or feeling preference.

Last is to consider if you have ‘judging’ or ‘perceiving’ preference. A judging person likes to plan the world they work in. For them it’s all about schedules, keeping things on plan, having closure with things, being tidy and very deliberate about what they do. A perceiving person likes to work in a way which seems to make no sense. They have rough plans, out of date to-do-lists and generally seem haphazard in their approach to the world. The best example of thinking how the two differ comes in seeing how weekends are planned. A judging person will know what is happening in the weekend to come from Friday evening through to Sunday night. They will have times things are meant to happen, who with, when, where, and how. Perceiving people will have an idea of what’s happening over the weekend and will likely finalise plans minute before the next event is meant to take place.

So that’s an overview of the MBTI. The next step normally is to assign yourself a 4 letter ‘type’: E = Extrovert, I = Introvert, S = Sensing, N = iNtuition, T = Thinking, F = Feeling, J = Judging and P = Perceiving. A possible 16 types exist. There’s no best or worst type. It’s all about helping you to understand how you best operate. You are then able to define how best to work best with others. So for example, my type is ENFP. This is technically defined as extroverted intuiting with introverted feeling. That means nothing if you haven’t been through a formal training process to understand ‘type dynamics’. For me though, it helps me to think about what my strengths are, how these influence my life decisions, what weaknesses I’m likely to display and how I can employ methods to counter these.

The great thing about the MBTI is that it’s easy to understand and gives an easy overview of self-awareness. If you take the time to study it further though you begin to understand more about yourself, insights into your own life and how to use the tool to help you do more.

The downfall of the MBTI though is that too many people think they get it when they really don’t. Language becomes easily confused. They try to define others according to MBTI behaviours when they don’t really understand the language. Because there are 16 types, people feel they are blocked in and pigeon holed. The classic response is, “surely I’m all of these things at different times in my life?” This line of responses is mainly due to a lack of appreciation for the tool.

So hopefully the above gives a brief overview to the MBTI. There are a lot of available online resources to help find out more. If you want to get a true picture though please find someone who is formally qualified by OPP in the EU or CAPT in the US. They will give you full feedback on the tool, give you the full and proper questionnaire to complete and help you go through a full self selection about what type best fits your personality.