February 07, 2005
Personality Types
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Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor

by Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor
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By way of example the Investigative group of occupations centers on an interest in science, theories, ideas, and data. Analytical skills are important for this group and some of the common work activities are performing lab work, solving abstract problems and researching. A high score in this theme is indicative of someone who is creative, prefers to think through problems, and enjoys challenges. Some of the careers in this category include biologist, audiologist, chemist, physicist, meteorologist, psychologist, and physician.

The personal scales show how much contact one wants with people, how much risk one is comfortable with, whether one prefers learning by practical experience or through schooling and so forth.

The data bases used by different testing organizations have different number of Basic Interest Types (~25) and occupations, typically over one hundred. The SII includes data based on gender.

While one can simply take the test, people are advised to review results with trained counselors. There are no right answers. If one does not respond honestly, the result will be invalid.

A second test that is frequently combined with SII is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) inventory test. This is based on the psychology theories of Carl Jung. Jungian theory suggests that variations in behavior are based upon differences in the ways that people prefer to perceive, make judgments on what they perceive and act upon those judgments. The test measures preferences along four dimensions or dichotomies.

The first dimension is in terms of extroversion-introversion (E-I). This measures where one likes to focus his attention, specifically on the outer world of people and things or on the inner world of ideas and impressions.

The second dimension is labeled sensing-intuitive (S-N) {N as in iNtuition}. Is one focused on the presence and concrete information or on the future with a view towards patterns and possibilities?

The third dimension is thinking-feeling (T-F). Does one tend to make decision objectively based upon logic and fact or subjectively based upon personal or social values?

The last dimension is judgment-perception (J-P). Does one prefer a planed and organized approach versus a flexible and spontaneous approach in dealing with the world?

The scores on this test result in individuals being classified into 16 psychological types labeled by a four-letter code. For example, an ESFP would reflect an extravert who uses his senses to perceive information and processes the information using felling, while his orientation to the world is perception.

Counselors are cautioned not to “pigeon-hole” clients based upon personality types because there is wide variation within each of the 16 personality types. Also the classifications are binary, while in reality people are distributed along a continuum from one end of the dichotomy to the other. The detailed test results shows how far into one side or the other the client scores, i.e. slight, moderate, clear, or very clear.

If you are interested in taking one of these tests, there are several choices for on-line testing. Simply Google on MBTI or Strong Interest Inventory.

Another theory of personality type advanced by George Gurdjieff and Claudio Naranjo with roots reaching back to ancient times is based around the Ennegram shown below.

There are nine basic personality types with characteristic traits. For example the Enthusiast is Busy, Fun-Loving Type: Spontaneous, Versatile, Acquisitive, and Scattered. No one is a pure personality type: everyone is a unique mixture of a basic type and usually one of the two types adjacent to it on the circumference of the Enneagram. One of the two types adjacent to a person's basic type is called the wing.

The inner lines of the Enneagram connect the types in a sequence that denotes what each type will do under different conditions. There are two lines connected to each type. One line connects with a type that represents how a person of the first type behaves when they feel more secure and in control of a situation. This is called the Direction of Integration or the Security Point. The other line goes to another type that represents how the person is likely to act out if they are under increased stress and pressure- when they feel they are not in control of the situation. This second line is called the Direction of Stress or Disintegration.

The diagram can be further broken down into three triads (instinctive, feeling and thinking). Each triad consists of three personality types that have in common the assets and liabilities of that Triad.

Several Enneagram-based personality tests are available for personal, group, and business use.

Corporate Culture
We have reviewed the matching of personality type to occupation. However, often the decision is how well a given person will fit into a given position at a given company. Companies also have a personality type usually referred to as corporate culture broadly defined as the shared attitudes, behavioral patterns, and values. Corporate culture is made manifest through communication style (formal written vs informal verbal, number and length of meetings), decision process (consensus, dictatorial), organizational structure (breath and depth of hierarchy), degree of teamwork, appearance
(personal, workspace) and so forth. Sometimes this is carefully crafted, nurtured, inculcated into new hires and promoted internally and externally. Sometimes a corporate culture simply evolves haphazardly.

A good example of the former is Ben & Jerry Ice Cream. Consider the following excerpt from the corporate website.
“We have a progressive, nonpartisan social mission that seeks to meet human needs and eliminate injustices in our local, national and international communities by integrating these concerns into our day-to-day business activities. Our focus is on children and families, the environment and sustainable agriculture on family farms.
Capitalism and the wealth it produces do not create opportunity for everyone equally. We recognize that the gap between the rich and the poor is wider than at anytime since the 1920's.We strive to create economic opportunities for those who have been denied them and to advance new models of economic justice that are sustainable and replicable. “
In August, 2000 Ben & Jerry's was acquired by Unilever for $326 million. Ben & Jerry's is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Unilever, however the firm operates separately from Unilever's other U.S. ice cream business with an independent Board of Directors to provide leadership for Ben & Jerry's social mission & brand integrity.

An enormous amount has been written about the corporate culture of General Electric and its former CEO Jack Welsh. Other company's with well publicized cultures are Hewlett-Packard (The HP Way), Wal-Mart and Southwest Airlines.

While many firms post Mission Statements and the like on their websites or in their annual reports, it can be difficult to learn about a firm's true corporate culture from afar.

Years ago I interviewed to be VP of Engineering at Autodesk. I flew from Boston to Sausalito, CA. For the interview I wore my best suit, a dark blue pin stripe three piece suit. I met with the president of the company who was wearing a Hawaiian print shirt. During our conversation, the CFO stuck his head in the door wearing an even more garish Hawaiian shirt. I met with several midlevel supervisors or lead programmers. At the end I was interviewed by the five founders as a group. They looked like your stereotypical programmers rather than the millionaire businessmen they were as a result of a recent IPO. As time wore on, I took my coat off, undid the buttons on my vest,
loosened my tie and
so forth to better fit in. You get the picture idea. Not surprisingly I did not get the job. However, I soon landed another job in California and have been happy with the move ever since.

A well publicized example of a personality type mismatch is Michael Ovitz who was hired as Disney President by friend CEO Michael Eisner in 1995. Fourteen months after joining Disney he was fired and given a $140 million severance package. Stockholders have since sued claiming that Disney's board of directors had failed in its fiscal responsibilities by not properly scrutinizing Ovitz's employment contract and then wrongly granting him a no-fault termination that entitled him to the excessive severance package. Ovitz had cofounded Creative Artists Agency, one of the largest talent agencies representing many
major stars. At that firm he earned tens of millions annually.

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-- Jack Horgan, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.


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