Heat-seeking missile. That's how someone, whom I was trying to hire, once described me. He had gone through a final round of interviews for the position with about ten other people with whom I worked. At the end of the day and after talking with others, he sat across the desk from me and told me that he had to turn down the position. I asked why. That's when he explained "because you are a heat-seeking missile."
He told me that, after meeting with others in my organization and assessing my management style, he had determined that he could not work with me since I was such a driven Type A personality. It would just be too stressful a work environment for him.
I pushed him to explain exactly what he meant. He said that he had learned that I was extremely competitive...yes. That I was a hard charger to get things done...yes. That I was impatient to complete goals...yes. That I was highly organized and focused very much on making best use of time management...yes. That I was strongly achievement oriented...yes. That I was the classic "workaholic"...yes. That all sounded like me.
I tried to argue that we could also compliment one another, that the work environment could also be exciting and productive, that he would have opportunities to do new things, that together we could make a positive difference. But I could not persuade him.
He said that I was like a race horse with blinders on. Once out of the gate, I ran full out, my eyes on the prize, not worrying about bumping into other jockeys, just sprinting to get to the finish line. I have to admit, there was truth in that. But there was also fun, enthusiasm, energy, accomplishment.
He encouraged me to become more of a Type B person. He wanted me to stop and smell the roses, to take more time to appreciate the views from the mountaintop, to eat more ice cream. He thought I needed to be more relaxed and to put less stress on those with whom I worked. He wished that I could enjoy the journey more than the destination. And all this time, I thought I had been enjoying the journey.
In any case, I took his critique to heart and stepped back to review my management style myself.
I took a series of assessments like Myers-Briggs. I learned that I am an ENTJ, which means that I am like the field general focused on winning whatever battle or challenge is at hand. As a result, I realized that I could have blinders on when it comes to the feelings of others and that I needed to be more attuned to how my actions and decisions affected others. While I was good at getting things done, I could lapse into micro-managing and in the process cause stress among others at times as I charged ahead to complete projects and achieve goals. In other words, I tended to be a Type A personality.
So I set out to modify my behavior.
I benefitted from my executive assistant who was an ESFP on the Myers-Briggs assessment, which meant that she was more sensitive and empathetic to the feelings of others. Mixing an ENTJ with an ESFP is kind of like mixing oil and water, but we clicked. She got good at alerting me to the feelings and concerns of those on my staff. I worked at listening more. I tried to minimize my micro-management tendencies. I thought I was making progress on moving more toward a Type B personality as I took on wider roles and responsibilities.
My latest career change has occurred as I have stepped out of full-time teaching at Texas Christian University. TCU has technically referred to this change with the "r" word--"retirement." But I prefer the "t" word--"transition." I am just transitioning to something else.
So I continue to teach my Executive MBA course, consult, give presentations and serve on various committees and boards. And I am doing more personal writing, like these commentaries.
I also continue to work on my Type B personality. Therefore, I am focused on smelling more roses than anyone else, appreciating more vistas from more mountains than any other person, and eating lots more ice cream than most others do. In addition, I am striving day in and day out to continually accelerate the planning and organization of my Type B activities, to enhance the time-management of my Type B priorities, and to achieve more Type B goals. I am determined to become the most competitive, most successful and most accomplished Type B person ever!
I feel so much better.
Old habits die hard.