Jungian types, personality pigeonholing and finding my pathway and ‘contribution’


The past few days I was at a training course on management development.

A very interesting course, even though I still don’t believe much in training and even though the trainers admittedly mixed up management and leadership (though among many others Forbes reminded us this year that these two fields are quite different).

The training touched upon many things but among others the ‘Jungian types’ – based on Carl Jung‘s work which also led to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The training associates the types with colours e.g.

  • Cold blue (analytical type, introverted and thinking),
  • Fiery red (authoritarian type, extraverted and thinking),
  • Earth green (caring type, introverted and feeling)
  • And sunshine yellow (innovative type, extraverted and feeling).
The 8 personality types from Jungian's work (Credits: CapGemini)

The 8 personality types from Jungian’s work (Credits: CapGemini)

Turns out I’m a sunshine yellow. I kinda saw that one coming. But the analysis of my personality based on the two questionnaires I had to fill out and on the feedback I received from colleagues was bluffingly real.

And as we deepened the analysis of who we are (and as a result how we should manage ourselves and others) it also became clearer that my kind of role is really ‘motivator’ (on the central right hand side of the wheel here on the right).

The problem with personality typologies…

There’s some use in looking at peoples’ behaviours from such lenses (and again the analysis made about me was incredibly accurate). But there are also some issues with these personality types:

  • The risk of pigeonholing people into personality squares: Obviously the first issue is that if people believe too earnestly in this stuff, they start boxing themselves and other people in neat squares and expect them to behave just according to that lens. “Oh you’re a cold blue so of course you think this way”…
  • The single lens bias: Related to the above, there is a danger in using any lens as THE lens – whether it be psychology, astrology, Jungian types, gender, age or any other lens. Each of these framings contains some truth and taken all together they probably give a much more accurate picture of who we really are, but any one of them individually falls short of the complexity of our identity.
  • The relativity of our personas: Let’s even push aside the idea of using various lenses and assume that these Jungian types really work. The problem is that we behave differently in relation to different people. So for instance one person may be really creative when surrounded by not-so-creative people, but find themselves much less creative in the presence of other dynamic creatives. Ditto with introversion and extraversion etc. etc. We adapt to every context. We don’t stick to our box because the other people in the box define how we behave.
  • The danger of static analysis vs. dynamic personalities: Finally, and I’ve already made that point about not judging people because we change, we are not static people. We are dynamic, we evolve, we change, we challenge ourselves and others, we adapt, we anticipate. And that’s why the people-pigeonholing issue is indeed a problem.

Now that this is settled, it’s also fun to think about what this particular lens brings and certain behaviours that are inspired by certain personality types as in…

A (piss) take on Jungian types ha ha ha

A (piss) take on Jungian types ha ha ha

OK so now that leaves me with the final part of this post, a more introspective part about how I’ve myself evolved from where I come to where I’m going.

Finding my contribution, my gifts and how to share them

First of all let’s establish one fact: being an extravert is not necessarily a given. I’ve learned it myself. I was so introverted as a child that my mother was really worried for my (social) future. And the first time I had a real public encounter with a group of professionals coming from outside my organisation, I was so terrified by speaking to them in public that one of the group members came to me to relax me and tell me it was all ok. I had no idea then that working with and for people was going to be one of my utmost inner motivations.

But as I moved into the end of secondary school and into studies, I had started getting out of my shell and really engaging with people. And perhaps it’s something from my family (having an aunt in Mexico and a grand-uncle in Senegal) that predestined me and my modest origins to move out of my native Brittany. And actually being a Breton is a 50% chance that you end up travelling. We export ourselves exceptionally well (heliotropism might also explain part of this)…

When I started working I was not drawn into knowledge management directly. I started off working in marketing which is a field I really dislike now for all the layer of inauthenticity and unnecessary pushing to buy. But when I ended up working in cooperation development, by accident really, I started getting attracted to knowledge and learning.

And as I worked in the Netherlands, I was a victim of acute meetingitis – too many meetings all the time – and found myself more often than once irritated by the airspace that some people were taking without realising they were nibbling into it away from other people. That was a first revelation into process (il)literacy for me and a first calling to do anything in my power to redress this balance. Ever since I was a child I’ve had a strong sense of justice and respect for others. Coming to think of it I’m not even sure why.

I got opportunities to do a bit of time management and traffic management in small meetings and one of my colleagues and friends told me I really had a gift with it. Tadaa! The pathway was quietly shaping up ahead of me.

When I discovered KM4Dev it became one of the greatest sources of inspiration ever. And as I was getting into knowledge management I also started facilitating events and processes more and more, though quite rudimentarily still.

Me facilitating in 2011 (Credits: ILRI / A. Habtamu)

Me facilitating in 2011 (Credits: ILRI / A. Habtamu)

ILRI and my current boss Peter Ballantyne gave me another incredible shot at sharpening my own process literacy and my facilitation and KM skills. It’s been a great ride until now and one that made possible the next step… By now it seems difficult for most people to imagine that deep down I am or have been (also) an introvert.

The final event that set me off on my calling pathway to this very moment was the encounter with Sam Kaner and Nelli Noakes. They really touched me and inspired me like very few people do with their idea of healthy human systems and the process work that this takes. And in that process I became a trainer to give myself the ‘group facilitation skills’ training that their company Community at Work provides.

Where I am now and what inspires me is a result of all the above, and many more encounters, conversations, subtle events that have progressively shaped me to become who I am, with my gifts and with the contribution I can bring to this world.

And so this week, as we got trained in management development, one of the assignments was for us to develop a ‘contribution statement’ and I am working on it but so far the work in progress is:

I will coach/train/show/help and get people to realise their own value and to empower themselves to take better decisions by themselves (through questioning, reflection, feedback, joint work).

I will also coach/train/show/help and get people to realise the importance of togetherness regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, religion etc. and regardless of the personal affinity I have with them – because that is what unites us into a collective mind, heart and soul ‘grid’ that sublimates the sum of all of us.

I will do everything I can to get people to understand the value of communication, personal and collective improvement, knowledge management and learning so they realise that it starts with each and everyone of us and we all contribute to affecting the entire system we operate in – for the better if we build respectful, loving and generous relationships.

I will also very consciously aim at raising the ‘process literacy’ of people around me so they become better able to relate to others in synergistic ways and use learning, listening, love and fun to deal with the current and future ‘real challenges’ of our times (poverty, racism, climate change etc.).

Finally, I will try and foster a culture of listening and feedback where everyone is invited to share their thoughts and to contribute to smarter collective solutions to face the wicked problems we face.

I will do this with all the gifts that I am given and the realisation that I have many shortcomings myself and I am on the way to learn, to better connect, to better live life within myself, with others and with nature around me.

What is YOUR contribution? (Credits: KPieperPhotography/FlickR)

What is YOUR contribution? (Credits: KPieperPhotography/FlickR)

Sounds pretty text book ‘sunshine yellow/motivator’, don’t you think?

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4 thoughts on “Jungian types, personality pigeonholing and finding my pathway and ‘contribution’

  1. Hello Valerie!

    Sorry for the late reply. You understand English so is there any part of the post that you are particularly interested in having in French? Please tell me mow about your interest so I see how to best assist you…🙂
    Waving back from Abuja where I am for the week!

    Ewen

  2. Hello,

    Thank you for your comment – and sorry for my late reply I was busy facilitating an event. Thank you for these additions and for re-emphasising the original intention of Jung to see us as ‘whole persons’ made of all these colours. I reminisce in longing about the great writer/philosophers/artists/scientists of the XVth and XVIth centuries that seemed to have embraced that ideal of specialists in all styles.
    As usual the great work of someone can be interpreted in really wrong, narrow-minded ways. That’s human nature and it’s just good to remember those other dimensions that tend to lift us up and see the whole picture rather than push us down to see our toe nails. Thank you for helping us do that🙂

  3. I’m not a die-hard Jungian but in fairness to him, he does recognize that the persona is fluid… or should be. He also suggests that we (ideally) change over time. Jung tends to advocate a kind of “wholeness” where all types and orientations are eventually integrated in old age. This is a Jungian ideal that I critiqued in college.

    If everyone were perfectly “integrated” would we have the grandiose insights of a Nietzsche, the sublime highs of a Mozart or the innovative beauty of a Van Gogh?

    Having said that, I agree. To pigeonhole is not good. And many folks might misappropriate Jung’s overall theory to try to fit us into little boxes.

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