December 20, 2014

Panning for Gold in a World of Tips and Suggestions

panning for goldWho feels overwhelmed by all of the tips and suggestions out there about how to be more effective in work and in life? Blogs, books, and articles.  100 Great Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Ask! (That’s a lot of questions!). Do This in the Morning and Be Productive All Day!  Webinars. Ted-Ex Talks.

All of these are sources of useful information and they are potentially sources of information fatigue. Too much to do.  Too many tips to remember. Too many ideas to put into action. What am I supposed to really do?  It’s like panning for gold.  Rarely do these sources of information result in an action plan that will bear resilient behavioral change.  Wouldn’t it be great to develop your own personal wisdom around what you need to do?

An article in Forbes magazine (June 2013) titled Why Leadership Training Doesn’t Work , makes essentially the same point. Developing a knowledge base and degree of self-awareness is only the first step.  Behavioral change requires most critically, a plan of action that you help design (mainly to tap into intrinsic motivation) and movement.  It simply can’t stay in your head.  You have to build the new mental-behavioral muscle just like would build a muscle in the gym.  You have to act!  That’s how you really learn!

One of my clients who is an emerging leader in the education industry recently brought this truth to light.  She was part of a leadership program that my partner, Dr. Jane Kise and I use called, Intentional Leadership.  Here is the protocol:

Step 1 (The Awareness Phase): The protocol begins with assessment including determining personality type-to articulate natural strengths and increase awareness around probable inborn blind spots. It also includes an assessment of emotional intelligence-to gauge how the “people skills” of leadership are currently being used.  Another way to describe these skills are interpersonal intelligence (the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations and desires of other people) and intrapersonal intelligence (the capacity to understand oneself, to appreciate one’s feelings, fears and motivations).

Step 2 (Determining Leadership Priorities): Each leadership role calls for a different set of leadership priorities.  Using the ILA card sort, 40 such priorities are reviewed and discussed with the client.  First it’s narrowed to 10/40.  Then 3/40 which forms the basis of the goal setting.  In the coaching conversation, the number can be toggled slightly however, the fewer goals you have, the higher your chances of succeeding with each.  Moreover, the leadership priority might be something that you want to address in one small part of your leadership role, as was the case with my client.

Step 3 (Goal Setting/Follow-Up With a Coach):  The protocol then explores exactly what the client wants to accomplish, determining what strategies, and what in settings this new behavior will be practiced.  An integral part of this process is to look at the self-assessment data.  Will any of these leadership priorities tap into my strengths?  Likewise and even more critically, how will my blind spots factor in?  Could they potentially derail me if I don’t plan for them?

Case Study:

My client, a rising and well-respected leader in the education industry took the MBTI Step II personality assessment and verified as an INFJ.  INFJ’s are introverted, and tend to be brilliant, complex, emotionally self- aware and empathetic.  Yet, they tend not to be naturally assertive.  Indeed, the lowest EQi sub-score for this leader was assertiveness.  She sorted through her leadership priority cards and settled on fair-mindedness and accountability as leadership priorities she wanted to address.  The INFJ type tends to lean toward harmony and avoid conflict but in a complex leadership role, my client recognized that she needed to develop these skills too.

How do you develop these skills though when your natural tendency is to seek harmony.  Do you change and become a different person?  Absolutely not!  Being able to achieve harmony in group is a gift.  Keep that in your back pocket!  And intentionally develop the other complimentary skill, that of assertiveness, to use as needed.   Ultimately, this leader made the goal to practice assertiveness in one setting.  She was on an advisory committee that met once per week.  This would be where she would start. The best part is that a specific, mindful, practice of a new skill has a way of making that skill stick- thus making it a go to possibility when a different situation called for it’s use!

My client reported to me that her goal was exactly what she needed.  She was able to practice her new skill carefully and feel successful doing it because she was giving it special focus in a specific situation.  Further follow-up found that she was getting used to using this new skill in other situations:

“At first it was difficult to speak up when I wanted the meeting to go in a different direction. I did realize that it’s ok because it’s not my usual style but one that I was motivated to develop when I needed it.”

I am the biggest Twitter feed addict on the planet. My morning always involves a scroll through Twitter to catch up on the news and read various new articles on the brain, leadership, business tips and trends.  I can also say that there are so many suggestions that it is impossible to rely on information alone to craft your life and career.  You really do have to give it some thought, clarify your intentions, and set a few reachable goals at a time.

For more information on the Intentional Leadership Protocol.  Click here

For more information on my partner, Dr. Jane Kise.  Click here



The INFJ Bartender

bloody maryThe MBTI is often used as a career counseling tool.  It can be an effective way to explore strengths and blind spots leading to increased clarity around career choice.   It is not meant to be limiting but often the findings are taken literally even if the individual is explicitly advised to see the exercise as explorative not prescriptive.

I know an INFJ who is a teacher by day and a bartender by night. It is true that her main occupation is in the field of education and that she is a very talented writer as well.  Still, she enjoys being a bartender and does not “hate it” as some psych type websites might suggest.   Steer clear of bartending!   Too many details! Remember, you’re an introvert!

When using MBTI to discuss career choices, it’s important to tap into an individual’s essential motivation.  For instance,many bartenders like the excitement of crowds and the party atmosphere. Some like the opportunity to create a new drink.  Some like the idea of serving.

In the case of this INFJ, she likes bartending because she works for a high end catering company so she gets to see new places and beautiful buildings.  She gets to practice the art of social chat, something that doesn’t necessarily come easily to many INFJ types, but she likes to work on it in this setting.  She also likes to create drinks and serve them in a new way.   Finally, she sees this as an opportunity to create balance in her life, and to step outside of intense, complex energy that comes with being an INFJ.

The take-away?  The MBTI is an instrument that helps you identify career options that are likely to be a good fit.   It can help you identify essential energizers in your cognitive make-up. I like to think of the career choices suggested for each type as the “favorite” in a horse race, not a storyline that will play-out exactly the same way for everyone of that type.  Always leave room for the dark horse. It’s critical to tap into motivation.   What makes you want to explore that job or career?  A conversation with a counselor or coach can help an individual identify those factors.

Always look at assessments as an opportunity to learn more about yourself.   They aren’t meant to tell you who you are but to help you find out what is true for you.  Even if a job or career seems like a mismatch, take a second look because maybe it isn’t.

What career have you wanted to try but convinced yourself that you were the wrong type to pursue it?

Pinterest and the INFJ Personality Type


Pinterest is a pinboard-style photo sharing website that allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections such as events, interests, hobbies, and more.

A few days ago, I was moping around because all of my holiday company had left, particularly my college age children. One of my daughters is a teacher and an INFJ.  She said to me, “Oh mom, quit dragging around.  Let’s make you a Pinterest.”

Pinterest, a pinboard-style photo sharing website that allows users to organize theme-based images is one of her favorite ways to relieve stress.  Even when she was a young child, pictures, particularly if they were unusual, attracted her attention.  She loved “mags” (her magazines) and the best gift she ever received was her first digital camera.  It was no surprise that Pinterest soon became her favorite social media website.

The INFJ personality type tends to rely on the visual part of the brain more often than other personality types. In fact, according to Dr. Dario Nardi’s The Neuroscience of Personality both the INTJ and the INFJ are strong visual thinkers who use the O1 and O2 regions of the brain frequently.  (“O” stands for the occipital lobe of the brain which is the visual cortex).

So, I asked my daughter how she feels after she works with her Pinterest board.  She reported that she is more relaxed and more energized after doing it.   Then she said, ” I wonder if there are many INFJ-related “pins” on the board so we searched “INFJ” on Pinterest. There were pages and pages of them!   Just to test this out further, we searched other types and found several pins for other types such as the ENFP but not nearly as many.   What’s even more interesting is the the INFJ personality type is present in only 1-2% of the population yet they had the most pins related to their type!

What’s the upshot of all of this?  First, Pinterest might be an effective stress reliever/energizer, particularly for this personality type.  Further, it might serve as a perfect way to organize thoughts and keep track of details for multiple personality types but especially for the INFJ.

I woud love to hear from INFJs who use Pinterest.  Does this sound like you?

Ann C. Holm


MBTI and Personal Branding

Once upon a time, only large companies with deep pockets could afford to effectively market their goods or services.  The internet has changed that and now there are ample opportunities for small companies or even individuals to show up on the economic radar screen.   There is enormous potential but it is by no means a ticket to Easy Street either.  Success depends on being clear about what it is that you do and what you are offering.   Entrepreneurship is hot as is the concept of personal branding.   In this fast paced world where another option is just a click away, can you articulate who you are so that someone will want to hire you or purchase your wares?

Prior to beginning my coaching practice in 2009, I had been a speech pathologist helping brain injured clients maximize cognitive skills that would lead to increased competence and life satisfaction.  It was essentially life coaching because the client set functional goals based on what he/she was trying to accomplish either in a home or work setting.  Positive feedback from clients and their families encouraged me to broaden my professional scope to include anyone wanting to maximize personal potential. After taking the required training from the Coaches Training Institute to become a coach, I opened my practice with the notion that I could coach anyone.

As it turns out, I was actually doing myself a disservice by trying to take on all branches of coaching.  Like a shrub in need of pruning, I had to trim back in some areas to find my shape.  My MBTI personality type, ENFP, was a useful tool in helping me understand why I felt the pull to expand and overextend rather than focus my energy into areas where I could be most effective.  The ENFP personality type seeks variety and new challenges but can be weak on follow-through or can lose interest when there is a lull in the action.  It was this knowledge of psychological type that helped me engage in successful personal branding exercises.

Recently, my practice and my website underwent an overhaul with an integral part of the process focusing on clearly defining myself so that I would attract the ideal client to my business.  It was helpful to work with a consultant so that I could take the process outside of myself and get some useful feedback.  As an ENFP. I didn’t want to narrow my possibilities but I did have to learn how to sprout new ideas in the context of an overall structure.  In addition, I read the book, The Business and Practice of Coaching by Lynn Grodzki and Wendy Allen that underscored the importance of identifying a niche in coaching and creating energy and excitement  around that area of expertise.

Currently my friend who is an INFJ personality type is encountering different challenges surrounding the personal branding of  her business and subsequent website release.  Certainly she wants an internet presence  but like many INFJ  types, she is also rather discerning  about the end product so she is reluctant to release anything unless it is carefully crafted to perfection.  The  INFJ  type often relies on his/her dominant intuition function to see another possible way to improve on project thus adding layers of complexity that can delay the final release of an end product. Just as I must remind myself that my ENFP personality type has a tendency to overextend and pursue anything new; the INFJ type may need to watch for perfectionism and sacrificing timeliness for the sake of getting it just right.

Entrepreneurship and small business ownership are more prevalent than ever in today’s economy.  The internet is a useful tool to market your goods and services.   However, this is a crowded playing field so how will you stand out among all the other possible players?   Personal branding is one way to define what you offer and the MBTI is a tool to identify strengths and be mindful of blind spots as you engage in that process.

Using Awareness of Psychological Type to Formulate Strategies

Much has been written about the importance of formulating goals to achieve success.  First, you appraise your current situation.  Next,  you decide what you wish to achieve.  Then you identify specific activities that will help you reach that goal.  Simple, right?   Unfortunately, many people fall short of their goals not because they don’t know what they want or can’t identify activities that will lead them there.  Instead they fall short because they don’t know know how to overcome the force that leads them back to their  default mode or comfort zone.

Every psychological type has both strengths and developmental challenges.  For example, an ENFP type is full of creative ideas and schemes but is also prone to losing focus and follow through once the newness has worn off.  An INFJ  may be able to mediate complex interactions among individuals but at the same time, be reluctant to intrude upon others and thus keep too much to himself.    Why isn’t  it enough to implore the ENFP to “just do it” or to encourage the INFJ to just share what he is thinking?

It is natural for an ENFP to want to move on to the next challenge because her dominant function is extraverted intuition.   Her brain is excited by new ideas, patterns, and insights. This is her default mode similar to the default settings on the computer. In the absence of a deliberate effort to bypass this natural tendency, she will enthusiastically jump from one intriguing curiosity to the next.  She may be aware that she has to finish a given activity in order to meet a stated goal.   However, the key to accomplishing this is an effective strategy to help her manage a natural tendency.

Perhaps she learns to write down ideas as they pop into her head rather than immediately following her nose to satisfy her curiosity.  With the advent of Google, it’s easy to get sidetracked by wanting to know something right now rather than later on.  Or maybe there is some mundane task like writing the bills that she often ignores in favor of a more exciting task.   Maybe she has has to take them to a coffee shop to work on them so she can be around people but not be distracted by other more intriguing stimuli in her home.

What about the INFJ who won’t share what is on his mind?  Maybe he needs to remind himself that many people he will be sharing his thoughts with are not as sensitive as he is so he can afford to be a little more forthright.  Or, he can capitalize on his effective writing skills by putting his thoughts into a letter or, using a journal to formulate what he is going to say so he is fully prepared to speak his mind.  He needs a strategy that goes beyond the goal that he will “speak up more often in meetings”, for example. He needs to know how he can do this without creating so much anxiety that he avoids it altogether.

Effective coaching has 3 main components:  1. Increased self-awareness.   2.Goal setting and identification of activities leading to those goals.  3.Strategies that will increase the likelihood that those goals will be successfully met.   Awareness of psychological type through the use of the MBTI instruments can provide needed insight on how these strategies are formulated.

The Stoic Norwegian is On the Way!

On January 28th, my husband will go to Haiti for 10 days to perform surgery on the victims of the recent earthquake in that country.  It is impossible to imagine what he will encounter when he gets there.  Haiti was not in good shape prior to this disaster but now he will probably see enough death, destruction, and human suffering that would rattle most people.  Mark is no stranger to less than optimal conditions having worked in an inner-city trauma hospital in Detroit;  several Jamaican medical missions; and as part of a team performing surgery in Honduras.  This is likely to be much worse though.  It will be hot. Food and sanitation might be limited.  There will probably be bodies not yet recovered from the rubble. The people will be desperate.   How does one keep the edge amid all of this misery?

My husband is a pretty introverted guy.  He is polite but often intimidating when you first meet him. He has South Dakota manners but he is not one to schmooze or chit chat when we have company.  Once he has said hello,  he will quickly disappear into his lair to do medical charts, look at antique cars or trains on Ebay or watch the History Channel.  However, once you get to know him, he can be quite engaging and he is actually quite a prankster.  Still, much of the time he is quite contained.

However,Mark has an incredible capacity to focus especially under the most demanding circumstances.  In 1991, during the Halloween blizzard in Minnesota, he performed 25 emergency surgeries on hands that had gotten caught in snow blowers.  He did them one right after the other for 36 hours straight. I used to think he pushed himself to the limit so he could earn “suffering points” and I would then have to treat him extra nice but I have learned such is not the case.  The harder he has to work, the more competent he becomes.  He also sets high standards for himself and those around him. At times, this can be nerve- wracking for our family. As one daughter put it, “Every time he walks in the door, I feel like I have to be doing something!”  However, once he casts his critical eye, he usually moves on to one of his projects and we can all relax!

Haiti has the right man for the job. I have no doubt that Mark will relish the challenge of repairing as many orthopaedic injuries as he can despite the deplorable conditions he is likely to face.  It is probably to his advantage that he tends to be stoic because otherwise, he might become overwhelmed.  I am somewhat concerned about his safety but I know he is wired for this type of work.  Ever since he missed the first opportunity to go because he left his phone in the car for 2 days (typical), he has been pacing around looking for the inroad.  Now that the plan is set, he is energized.  So off you go, Mark E. Holm, M.D.!  I hope they can find a bed long enough to handle your 6 foot 5 frame!  Probably not…

Since many of my blogs are about the unique gifts of each Myers-Briggs personality type, I might as well reveal Mark’s type.  He is an INTJ, the master of focus, hard work and ingenuity. I know he will use these strengths to bring relief to the victims of this earthquake. Our family is very proud of him!

INFJ: A Potentially Brilliant Diamond

The Mysterious INFJ has been one of the most visited posts on this website (I know this because a writer can access this information on Google Analytics).  I have received many emails from readers who share this personality type or believe that they may share the INFJ preferences (Introverted Intuition/Extraverted Feeling) but have not verified it yet.  Usually an MBTI assessment and a dialogue with a certified practitioner will settle the matter.   I asked a client of  mine   to share a few reflections on what it’s like to be an INFJ and he graciously offered these reflections (although in true INFJ style, he felt he could have done a better job!): [Read more…]

The Mysterious INFJ

A critical step in the reliable use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is verification of type through a dialogue between the individual completing the inventory and the practitioner russianinterpreting the results.  After receiving the results, the client will read the description of the personality type, in the aggregate, to determine if it is  largely accurate.  In my experience, I have found the INFJ  notoriously difficult to type.   Even after the verification step, the INFJ  can be uncertain that this description fits. It isn’t due to shortcomings in the Myers-Briggs  questionnaire.  It is mainly due to the rarity and complexity of the INFJ type.

Exact percentages vary but the INFJ, the rarest of the personality types, is said to account for 1-2% of the overall population, females slightly more often than males.  The INFJ has been called “The Mystic,” “The Counselor,” and “Empath”.  They are described as  original, gentle, caring, and highly intuitive. The quality of extrasensory perception, or ESP, is often attributed to them. People who have known INFJs for years continue to be surprised when yet another layer of their complex personality is revealed.  As a result of their inferior sensing function, they can be stubborn and obsess about an inconsequential detail , usually when they are under stress. Their ability to see the big picture can be affected during these times. INFJs are deeply concerned about their relations with individuals as well as the state of humanity at large. They are, in fact, sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they  are so genuinely interested in people — a product of the auxiliary feeling function they most readily show to the world (Introverts show their auxiliary function, or the function that supports the dominant function, to the world first). Still, INFJs are true introverts, who can only be emotionally intimate with a chosen few from among their long-term friends, family, or mate.   Yet, INFJs will suddenly withdraw into themselves, sometimes shutting out those closest to them. This apparent about face is  necessary, providing both time to rebuild their energy and a filter to prevent the emotional overload that can happen as they deeply experience other individuals.  This is perhaps the most confusing aspect of the enigmatic INFJ character to outsiders particularly if experience with this type has been limited.  I have 3 INFJ’s in my life, my brother, my daughter, and my best friend and I can attest to the fact that they are like Russian nesting dolls, when one doll is exposed,  another one lies inside. [Read more…]