How I Make the Most of My Career As an INTJ
I used to cringe at the thought of making calls. I would tell my close friends that I hated small talk and would avoid any and every opportunity to interact with strangers, especially in a group setting. The thought of having a more than a five-minute conversation on the phone, even with someone I knew well, used to freak me out.
Now I have one to two-hour conversations for a living, and sometimes it is difficult to get me to shut up during my sessions. I genuinely and thoroughly enjoy facilitating conversations for my clients and surprisingly leave my favorite ones feeling energized and excited.
If you know anything about the INTJ personality type, you might find it a bit curious that I’ve been able to ‘overcome’ a lot of my innate preferences and behaviors. It actually amazes me when I reflect on how far I’ve come. I wanted to share what I’ve learned about myself, especially now that I’m a full-time coach and consultant (in addition to a Myers–Briggs Type Indicator - MBTI - certified practitioner) that has INTJ preferences. The MBTI is a personality assessment that has four preference pairs - Extraversion/Introversion, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling, and Judging/Perceiving.
Please note that I leverage assessments as a tool for reflection and to start conversations to move people forward. Assessments do not define you or your capabilities and the results should not limit you and should not be used as an excuse for behavior that does not serve you or your goals. In this post, I use the MBTI because it is one of the common and easy to communicate personality frameworks.
Many people are amazed to learn that I’m not a complete extrovert. I’m loud (the stereotype of extroverts I know), can think out loud pretty well and explain things verbally when called upon. That has taken a lot of practice. I try to remind myself that everyone approaches things differently.
I have always been aware that having conversations can be very tiring for me. In my previous job, I was responsible for building a business. Beyond leading teams, I focused on sales and business development. I had to learn to schedule my meetings with a break in between, to recoup. After each meeting, I would be drained. I felt like I was putting on a show for clients. Now that I run my own export-focused business, not only do I do sales and business development, but I am also using my own name to convince people to work with me. The technique of creating buffers in-between calls and meetings is something I still use every so often, especially after hosting a large, very interactive workshop.
Reflect on how you feel during the day interacting with people. If you notice your energy waning from having back-to-back business meetings throughout your day, create buffers between calls and meetings to regain energy for your next engagement.
My preference for intuition is one of the main reasons why I think I enjoy my coaching and consulting work. I love learning and applying new things. Every conversation I have is different, and every time I work with someone, I have to change my approach to help my clients achieve the results they want. Sometimes my desire to focus on the big picture means that I can jump to conclusions. My mind races with potential solutions and ideas that I just want to share. Coaching, which has taught me to be present and slow down, has forced me to rely more on facts and focus on what I perceive using my five senses (Sensing) rather than my own insights and imagination. I have to focus on my client’s agenda, holding back my desire to solve their problem with my own ideas.
Do you find that you often rush to make suggestions? Focus first on taking notes when your intuition presents a number of potential solutions in your head during a client or employee meeting. Then, later on, reflect and reshape your initial ideas to account for your client’s agenda and realities.
One of the reasons I was interested in becoming a certified coach was to become better at empathizing and engaging others. For the longest time, I would simply state that people were just too complicated and that I preferred coming to conclusions based on my own logic. By becoming aware of my tendency to overlook personal and social values, it has been easier for me to see it in my clients. I now try to leverage both Thinking and Feeling focused approaches to make sure I can consider how my decisions or behaviors might impact people.
For a time, I allowed my newly found Feeling abilities to overtake my Thinking preference. I constantly allowed others to be involved in my decision making and was consumed with what others were thinking. I have found a better balance now and have a series of questions I ask myself around my own thoughts and my intentions.
Become aware of how you make decisions. Take a second to step back from the situation and take an objective view. Next, take a second to step into the situation and take an empathetic view. Has your perspective or opinion changed?
For as long as I can remember, I have believed that my time is money. I am even more focused now that I have conversations for a living. A lot of my clients like that I am structured and can help them stay accountable with a plan. Though I can control when I engage with clients, coaching and consulting has forced me to become more spontaneous (Perceiving) in terms of how I respond to client concerns. I have to stay open to new information my clients give me and change session agendas and approaches accordingly. It used to upset me, and I would end sessions because they were not going the way I thought they should. Now I seamlessly shift gears and keep my options more open.
Incorporate both Judging and Perceiving approaches into your work. In addition to coming up with a plan and being structured, how can you make sure you consider other options? Have you given yourself space for some flexibility and midcourse corrections?
Starting my practice has allowed me to use many of my innate preferences to my advantage. It has also forced me to engage with other approaches that do not come as naturally. What have you learned about yourself building your business or team? In what ways have you worked to leverage your preferences or check in to see how feeling ‘comfortable’ might be holding you back?
Want to take the first step in increasing your self-awareness? Download the ‘What Do I Like Exercise’ worksheet here.
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