Entries for year: 2010

Missing Gordon

Gordon LawrenceOur mentor and good friend Gordon Lawrence recently died from a bout with pneumonia that he was ultimately unable to surmount. He was 80 and had a full and rewarding life but I, amongst many, am having a hard time imagining life without him.

Many people know CAPT was founded in the mid-seventies by Isabel Myers, the author of the MBTI® assessment, and Dr. Mary McCaulley, a clinical psychologist at the University of Florida. What they may not know is that Gordon, who was then a Professor at the College of Education, had through prior association with Isabel and Mary already developed a deep interest in type. Early on he recognized the potential for helping teachers become better at their craft through the understanding and use of psychological type in the classroom.
 
A self-proclaimed ENTP, Gordon loved everything about teaching and learning. He taught at UF for more than 25 years before he “retired,” but honestly, there was no such thing for Gordon.  He wrote 15 books and numerous articles and publications during his lifetime. CAPT had the honor of publishing his bestselling book, People Types and Tiger Stripes, which came out in the 4th edition last year.
 
Gordon was an integral part of CAPT from the beginning. When we were incorporated in 1975 he became a founding board member. He called himself a “board member for life” and indeed he was – in all of the best ways. As a nonprofit organization, there were many times in the early days when it was unclear if CAPT had the wherewithal to survive.  On more than one occasion Gordon stepped in both financially and spiritually to help the organization carry on. Without Gordon’s steadfast support it is possible that CAPT would not have made it through those nascent years.

I last saw Gordon in November. I drove to his home to talk with him about an educational project we were considering. It was a beautiful fall morning, with the sun coming in through the windows, and I stayed and chatted about this and that for a good hour longer than I had planned. As always, I learned something new from him and as I was pulling out of the driveway my thought was, “This is something I need to do more often.” I felt so refreshed and energized by our conversation. Of course, life is hectic with more things to get done than can realistically be accomplished and I didn’t get to see him again, but I wouldn’t trade that time or that memory of him for the world.
    
This was a man with many gifts. He was so very bright, curious, engaged, wise, and committed to all those things he considered important. His gifts became our gifts and he will be sorely missed by us all.

 

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Sometimes type liberates me to do…. nothing….

By the title of this blog, you might imagine I mean that knowing type gives me permission to give myself a vacation. In a way that may be true.  Specifically, what I mean is that knowing type gives me a little bit of psychic “wiggle room” to breathe where I can see a part of my mind engaging in assumptions and judgments about other peoples’ behaviors. Or thinking I know what other peoples’ intentions are based on their behaviors. Or that I know what their behavior means to them.

Here’s what I’m saying.  My type – among other things – influences assumptions I have about what’s good and bad, right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate behavior.  It influences how I interpret others’ behavior.

Once, at a conference, I was on a panel on type and careers. An audience member had a burning question that went something like this, “Well this isn’t a question about careers, but this is really bothering me.  I see SP parents not taking responsibility for their kids. How can I get them to be more responsible?” You see the assumptions hidden in this question, right? By the way, insert anything into this sentence to make it relevant for you, for example: How can I get those _____ types to just do _______ or to see _______ this way? 

My response to the question was something like this, “Well, I don’t know your type preferences or theirs, but maybe what’s going on is that what they see as responsible, you don’t.  Or vice versa.   Maybe you have an idea of the best way to raise kids, you’ve called it being responsible, and you want to know why someone you believe is an SP doesn’t raise kids the way you do.”

This person looked at me, politely paused a second and said, “Yes, but how can I get them to be more responsible?” To which I said, “OK, assume they really are an SP; maybe they see being responsible as having the option to flex with what’s happening. And they believe that’s a good quality for both them and their kids to have. But you see responsible as something different.”  This person’s pause was shorter this time as they asked, “Yes, but how can I get them to behave more responsibly?” They really emphasized the word "responsibly” – probably to help me hear it better.

These days, when I find myself evaluating someone else’s behavior - when a family member, friend  or colleague says or does something that I find offensive, irresponsible, tactless, immature, stupid, uncaring, irrational, or curmudgeonly (the list goes on), I try to remember what I said to that audience member. And sometimes I remember to say it to myself.  Which gives me a little psychic space to hold both my view and theirs – whatever it might be.  To hold my preferred behavior and theirs.  I can pause - just pause. And do nothing.  It’s amazing how much energy I burn contemplating how others should be different, or behave differently, or be different. Wow. 

It’s really rather exhilarating and liberating to realize that I don’t know what other peoples’ behavior means to them. And when I get that, really get that, somehow, it frees me to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Because more often than not, nothing needs to be done!

 

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Treating People Uniquely

Recently I was reflecting on a quiet transformation that has taken place from how I make “people decisions” now, compared to when I was a young. Looking back, I made both good and bad decisions but the ones I remember most are the ones where I wish I had done things differently.

The instance that bothers me most took place in the mid 70’s when I was an educational consultant responsible for evaluating marginally performing kids. I was scheduled for an after school evaluation with a student when I inadvertently walked into the wrong room, where I saw a teacher’s aide smoking a joint in the empty classroom. I barely knew the man but was aware that he was a recently returned Vietnam vet who had lost an arm during the war.  How did I react? We locked eyes; neither of us said anything and I quietly backed out of the room. Without hesitation I went straight to the principal’s office to report what I had seen.  The consequence of my response, as you might have guessed, led to his firing.

I have always wanted a “do over” for the hasty decision I made that day. Why did I not talk with him first, hear his story, and learn something about his pain? For years I was reminded of my quick judgment because this man became a homeless vet. I know this because I would see him from time to time around town: a painful reminder that I could have put my principles down to learn more about his story and perhaps gain some empathy.  His decision to smoke marijuana on school grounds was a bad one but my decision to quickly report his misdeed prevented him from having an opportunity to get another chance.

As an INTP, my dominant introverted thinking judgment is my best ally for solving problems and making decisions. However, when it comes to people problems determining what is “right” or “logical” does not always deliver the ideal result. A leader needs the solid foundation of good policies and procedures but equally important is having the good judgment to know when to evaluate a problem from a human perspective.

I will always be a thinking decision maker but that does not mean that I am not aware that taking a course of action without taking the other person’s situation or perspective into account can lead to sad outcomes. The hard lessons of life…

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Synchronicity: How I became MBTI® Qualified and found CAPT

In the early 1990s I was a part of a leadership team whose job it was to roll out a quality management program at a local hospital. I had assumed the role of “facilitator” on a multidisciplinary team who had been charged with the task of improving the timely delivery of drugs from the pharmacy to the cancer unit. To make a long story short, it became clear after a few meetings that these folks saw the problems and solutions so differently from one another that to find a unified approach was going to present a formidable challenge.

One evening I was pondering the not so positive dynamics of this team when a friend of mine who happened to be an HR executive called to chat. This gave me the perfect opportunity to vent my frustrations. I can remember saying, “This team’s problems have nothing to do with knowledge or skill and everything to do with how different they are from one another as people. They just can’t see each other’s perspective.”

At this point my friend stopped me to remind me of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, an assessment I took when I was a sophomore at the University of Florida. I hadn’t thought about the MBTI® assessment in years but was glad to be reminded of it.  Perhaps I could use it to help the people on this team learn to appreciate different approaches, rather than seeing another person’s way of doing things as wrongheaded.
 
My friend went on to tell me about Otto Kroeger and Associates (OKA) in Fairfax, VA, where I could attend a training program and learn how to administer and use the MBTI® assessment. Good. This gave me the incentive to convince my CEO that the quality management endeavor would greatly benefit from what I would learn about psychological type and how to apply it to teamwork.
 
So here is the “synchronicity” part of my story…On the first day of class the instructor says, “We use many acronyms during this program and there are some you should know: APT, the Association of Psychological Type is the membership organization that sponsors conferences every two years. CPP, Inc., is located in Palo Alto California and is the publisher of the MBTI assessment. CAPT, the Center for Applications of Psychological Type, is the non-profit organization founded by Isabel Myers and Dr. Mary McCaulley and it is the training and research organization dedicated to the ethical use of type. CAPT is located in Gainesville, Florida.”
 
At that point I said to myself, “No way!” Had I flown to Virginia to take a class that was being offered in my hometown? When I returned home I made a point of visiting CAPT and introducing myself to Mary McCaulley, the founding President of CAPT. As our relationship developed she asked me to do some volunteer work for CAPT, which ultimately led to my becoming a member of the Board of Directors in 1993, and eventually becoming the President and CEO at CAPT. This was a job that incorporated all of my values and would let me practice the appreciation of differences every day. (Not so easy, by the way.) How could I have said no?

Working with Mary McCaulley was both a privilege and a pleasure. She had a passion for the work of C.G. Jung and expressed her observations with a twinkle in her eye and a lilt to her voice. I can still hear her saying “synchronicity” in that joyful tone when a series of seemingly unrelated events resulted in an uncanny coincidence. Jung coined the word synchronicity to describe this type of chain of events…and it aptly describes the journey I took to get to CAPT.

• Learn more about Jung's work on synchronicity.


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MBTI Type and Life Stories (Archetypes)

We certainly know that type doesn’t explain everything. Still, though, even though I should know better, I find myself surprised at the differences within type.

Let me tell you what started me on this. I have a lifelong friend who is an ISTJ.  He’s a psychologist – and a therapist. A very good therapist. I emphasize very good because sometimes people misinterpret career data and say silly things like “ISTJ hmm? He’d be a better accountant.”  It’s silly, unethical and just inaccurate to the research to say something like that.  Which doesn’t stop people from saying it.

The “truth” here is that in general ISTJs are indeed more tough minded than, say, INFPs – who by the way are well represented among therapists.  And in a group of therapists, there will be more INFPs than ISTJs. Just as in any sample of accountants, there will be more ISTJs than INFPs.

Here’s the deal. All ISTJs aren’t the same.  No surprise there.  From a type perspective, some have more development of Feeling than others – and from early on. They also have different life histories, families, values, interests, training, experiences, etc.  People don’t choose careers simply because of their type preferences – or even primarily because of their type preferences.

People also have different life stories – different narratives about who they are, what they’re about, and where they’re going. Jung talked about some of these kinds of stories – or themes – and referred to them as archetypes.

Warrior for example is a universal archetype. Healer is another. Leader is one more. Sage is yet another. There are many, many stories – many narratives, many archetypes.

My ISTJ psychologist friend – for example – has a life story that is very much about being a healer. This – at least – is one of the reasons he’s a therapist. It’s one of the reasons he feels warm and caring. It’s also true that other archetypes/stories do take precedence at different times with him (warrior for example when he’s practicing his martial art). But in general he is quite different from the ISTJs I know who identify with a warrior narrative – who have also chosen a career that’s consistent with that narrative, like the military or law enforcement.

And so an ISTJ with a healer or caregiver story looks, feels and behaves quite differently from an ISTJ who is living more a warrior narrative, or a ruler narrative. In the reverse, we might also say that the warrior narrative looks different and is lived differently depending on whether the person is an INFP or an ISTJ.

My ISTJ friend finds it reassuring that it is “ok” for him to be a therapist.

But he knew all along that’s what he was going to be.  ;)

 

• Learn more about which archetypes are active in your life, and what story you are living.  

 

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