Entries for month: November 2010

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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