Why Entrepreneurs Should Better Understand The Psychology Of Their Collaborators
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Are people reducible to specific bundles of traits and characteristics that make them behave in a certain way rather than another? That is a question that psychologists seem to more or less agree on. In fact, psychology is built -since Carl Jung- around the attempt to understand if we behave in a certain way because we have a tendency to think before acting, or act and then think, to get motivated by the surrounding context, or by the release of a certain energy from within, and to express ourselves through speaking, writing, and so on.
Jung set up, as early as 1921, the two main traits of "extrovert" and "introvert" as tendencies within the personality, which show an individual as being either dominantly action-oriented, group-based and speech-bent, or thinking-oriented, individual, and writing-bent. Jung warned against misusing these types to state that because we are this or that type, we are never able to function otherwise. Instead, what he meant was that, generally and within certain circumstances, we have a tendency to use a process of thinking, action, or sentiment that is oriented this way or the other.
Psychological types are tools to understand how different people function in and process the world around them. They are, according to Jung, in no way means to fix behavior or reproach a certain behaviors or tendencies of a person. Introverts and extroverts are tendencies to release/get energy from within or from without, and no more. They are not "good" or "bad," but rather different ways in which people deal with action, thinking, and feeling, and how they prioritize the sequencing of those when they are their normal selves.
Jung identified two functions about how we perceive the world around us: we feel it, and assess its meaning to us, which he called sensation. The other function is intuition, which is the tendency to use inner sensing (without external evidence) to assess and give meaning to things and events.
Besides the perceiving functions of perception (sensation and intuition), Jung identified what he called "judging" functions: "thinking," which he defines as "that psychological function which, in accordance with its own laws, brings given presentations into conceptual connection.” The opposite of thinking is "feeling, which is also a kind of judging, differing, however, from an intellectual judgment, in that it does not aim at establishing an intellectual connection, but is solely concerned with the setting up of a subjective criterion of acceptance or rejection."
On the basis of these functions, Jung was able to set up psychological types using the above cited dichotomy of attitudes, namely extroverted ("defining the self in relation to the outer world"), and introverted ("defining the self in accordance to the standard of the self"). Hence, the eight famous types: extroverted and introverted versions of sensing, intuition, feeling, and thinking types.
The American psychologists Katherine Cook Briggs, and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, known as Myers-Briggs, used Jung's types to make all possible combinations of extroverted and introverted sensation, feeling, thinking and intuition tendencies to produce their famous sixteen character types. The Myers-Briggs types include "the Inspector," the formal, honorable, calm introvert, the "Counselor," the idealist and profound introvert, the "Provider," the stereotypical cheer-leading likeable extrovert, the "Doer" as an extroverted "personality… governed by the need for social interaction, feelings and emotions, logical processes and reasoning, along with a need for freedom,” and many more.
Jung's eight types and Myers Briggs' 16 personalities may sound too nerdy and forced psychological pigeonholes that may not rime with the reality of human life, but they are just indications of inclination and orientation. Personalities may be more or less complex than any of the types described by the Swiss psychoanalyst and the American psychologists after him, but the reality is that we may have all in us an inclination to process the world through sensation or intuition, judge it through thinking or feeling, and are or are not open to talking about it- or any mild or strong combination of all of these traits. It looks dichotomous and forced, but we should think about it more as a continuum, rather than as an either-or.
The entrepreneur works with collaborators and has to manage people. S/he is a leader, and as such, has to set targets, mobilize teams to reach them, and motivate them individually and collectively to achieve the objectives within reasonable time and in an efficient manner. To be able to set up teams and assign them tasks and motivate them to do the job, s/he needs to understand their character, personality, attitude and way of thinking and doing. Here are some tips, gleaned over from a group of practitioners, of where understanding of one's collaborators' character is essential not only for HR management, but for productivity and the realization of objectives as well.
1. Use character types to hire the right people for the job at hand
Understanding how people process information, how they react in certain situations, and how they communicate about them is important for you as an entrepreneur looking for the right people to do the right job. That means that you know what you want. You have done your homework and have the best job description for the tasks at hand. Hamid Bentahar, CEO of Accor Hotels Morocco, said in an interview with me that what he looks for when hiring are "people who can ‘read and touch' the client on an emotive level." For Bentahar, clients are no longer considered as being all similar; they are different, and the need is for talented individuals (they are "artists of the heart, ‘heartists’” according to Bentaher and Accor) who can understand this difference, and value it to provide the customer with the best and most memorable experience. These "heartists" need to be of a specific type: they are able to "read" clients, they communicate well, they are at the "service of the heart." These are skills but also character traits- the "heartists" are extroverts, use their "guts," and are all about feeling.
2. Types are useful for improved management of people
Mehdi Jerten, a Dubai-based HR expert, told me that human resources management is all about psychology. For him, managing people is about understanding where they come from in a psychological point of view: the more you understand their character, the better you serve their needs (and thus serve the organization). Jerten thinks that using psychological types helps throughout the human resource process from "recruitment, to retention, to employee engagement, training and development". Jerten quotes Dale Carnegie, who said that "when dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but you are dealing with creatures of emotion." Emotions are associated with memory, character, and personality, and those differ from one person to another. For Jerten, the psychological lens will help you fathom those differences, and deal with how they could be motivators or hurdles for the situation at hand.
3. Understanding the psychology of people helps with solving conflicts
Marina Fanning, co-founder and ex-VP of the DC-based Management Systems International (MSI), is a great believer in using character types in management. Having worked with her for over ten years, I was able to see first-hand how Fanning uses her understanding of her people's personal traits to deal with workload assignments, performance, and interaction at work. Fanning reduced Myers-Briggs' type to four simple traits: extrovert or introvert, using either their guts or their minds. She confided to me that this simplification was enough for her to learn about people, and find the best way of motivating them or managing their needs and expectations. But for Fanning, the Myers-Briggs types are most useful in dealing with conflicts. Most conflicts have their origin in personality and style- substance could be a problem but those problems are compounded with "personal stuff." According to Fanning, relating conflict to character traits will give you clues as to how to deal with the "stuff" that creates the escalation that most conflicts usually fall into.
4. Use types to value difference
Extroverts are not better than introverts, and vice-versa. There are jobs for which extroverts could be not the right choice: back office, research, scheduling, IT programming, etc. At the same time, for jobs like hotel reception, operators, tour guides, communication staff, introverts would probably not be the right choice. Jagdip Singh, Group Chairman of the New-Delhi based Sigma conglomerate, told me that when hiring new candidates, his companies consider confidence levels as important but they look for all types of personalities: the extroverts fit in well in the positions where relations with stakeholders are important, while introverts serve better in research, teaching, and other positions. According to Singh, personality traits are the cherry on the cake, when you have made sure that the required technical skills are there. Personality traits are different from socially acquired life skills, in that they are deeply ingrained in the psyche, but are great to get the employee to give the best of themselves.
Psychological types may seem simplifying categorizations obeying to a dichotomous logic that is forced upon a more complex reality. But I think that there is a sense in which we obey to certain psychological rules that exist upon a continuum ranging from one extreme to another. As people managers, you are not trying to build psychological profiles of your collaborators. You are simply trying to understand them to better serve them, so that they serve the organization more effectively. Build your own objective idea about each one of them; keep challenging it till you get the right picture. Remember: it is only an indication, it is not a basis for evaluation (or discrimination). But it is a good gauge- it helps you get entry points of how to deploy your people, motivate them, and help them solve problems.