Communicating as a Leader

Success in the Workplace: Your Interests, Personality, and Communication Style Do Matter

Kelli Smith asked:

The key to finding a successful career is to begin your search in a field about which you are passionate. In order to pursue your true aspirations, it is imperative that you know what type of work suits you best and where your true interests lie. Matters that you feel most passionate about are those in which you will most likely invest yourself wholeheartedly and have a genuine interest to push for progress and success. While this may seem like an elementary concept, in all reality it is too often overlooked. Far too many people find themselves on a career path in which they can find no interest, foresight, or direction.

According to a recent Harris Interactive Survey, only 45 percent of American workers are either satisfied or extremely satisfied with their jobs, 33 percent believe they have reached a dead end in their careers, and a mere 20 percent feel very passionate about their jobs. Knowing your interests and the things you value is essential to choosing where you plan on spending the bulk of your professional life.

In order to examine which career path is appropriate for you, consider taking the Strong Interest Inventory (SII). Developed in 1927 by psychologist E.K. Strong, this inventory has 317 items with three-choice answers that score results by your interest level in the following six general occupational themes:

• Realistic–practical, physical, hands-on, and tool-oriented careers

• Investigative–analytical, intellectual, scientific, and explorative


• Artistic–creative, original, independent, and chaotic careers

• Social–cooperative, supporting, helping, and healing/nurturing careers

• Enterprising–competitive, leadership, and persuasive careers

• Conventional–detail-oriented, organizing, and clerical careers

The SII will help you plan for the many different stages of your career, and helps match your interests with satisfying career opportunities. With over 75 years of research to support its methodology, the SII provides you with basic interest scales, the similarity between your answers and those currently working for 211 career classifications, as well as your personal style.

Getting to Know Yourself

Have you ever worked on a team project and had a lackluster experience? How about an experience where everyone seemed to click and things fell into place? The common thread in any project is, of course, the most important one–the people! You personality helps to set the team dynamics. Possessing a keen understanding of your personality type is a good indicator of what makes you tick, and, more importantly, how to predict how those with whom you work operate and view the world. Know your personality traits, your flaws, and your fortes. This will help you identify areas where you excel naturally, and others where you may need to compromise or shift responsibility to meet the objectives of an on-the-job assignment.

The ABCs of MBTI

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is also a commonly used personality indicator. The MBTI uses psychologist Carl Jung’s theory of personality types, which assumes that variation in your behavior is orderly and consistent, due to basic individualistic differences in how we use perception and judgment. The system classifies respondents in one of following 16 four-letter personality types:

• Extraversion (E) versus Introversion (I)–extroverts focus on the outer world, while introverts focus on their inner world.

• Sensing (S) versus Intuition (N)–sensors place value in information gathered directly, while those who favor intuition place more value on possibilities and patterns with the information they receive.

• Thinking (T) versus Feeling (F)–thinkers make decisions based on logic while feelers first examine the people behind the decision and any special circumstances.

• Judging (J) versus Perceiving (P)–those who judge prefer to make decisions, while those who perceive are open to new information and options.

When you understand your personality type and natural preferences, you can approach your own tasks in a manner that suits your needs. This self-knowledge can be of value to you in the workplace by giving you the expertise to thrive within the organizational culture and the understand the wide variety of personalities you will most likely interact with on a regular basis.

Talk the Talk

No matter which career path you choose, all jobs rely on clear communication at some level. Just as there are many personality types, so are there many communication styles. Knowing your communication style can be a powerful tool in communicating your ideas effectively. According to Southern Illinois University’s Mental Health Web, your communication style falls into one of the following three categories:

• Passive Style–you communicate by putting the rights of others before your own, thereby minimizing your own self-worth, you are a passive communicator. Passive communicators imply that their feelings are not important, and are often apologetic and timid in tone. Non-verbal clues include lack of direct eye contact and poor posture.

• Assertive Style–you communicate by ensuring your rights and maintaining the respect of others’ rights, you are an assertive communicator. Assertive communicators typically exude confidence, maintain eye contact, and have relaxed posture. This type of communicator generally places value in both the communicator’s and the target audience’s message.

• Aggressive Style–you communicate by ensuring your own rights, but neglect others’ rights, you are an aggressive communicator. Aggressive communicators imply that the listener’s opinions are inconsequential and exude a sense of superiority. Typically, these communicators use ‘you’ statements and have rigid posture.

It is important to note that you can adopt different communication styles depending on the audience. By being aware of which communication style you most often favor, you can adjust your style to communicate effectively with your target audience–both in the workplace and in your personal life.

The Impossible Dream?

Regardless of which tools you choose to use to further your self-knowledge, it is important to have a solid sense of self-awareness. This sense of self enables you to establish and maintain meaningful working relationships in your career. Being cognizant of your interests, personality traits, and communication style is a valuable part of this process. In the famous words of Cervantes’ Don Quixote, “make it thy business to know thyself, which is the most difficult lesson in the world.” If you can tackle this lesson, any hurdle you face in your career path will surmountable. With adequate self-knowledge, almost any career goals are possible.

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