The Princess Revolution

A new generation of parents is shopping with the idea that pink and blue—along with robots, bunnies, dinosaurs, and unicorns—are for every child.

A great read from Adrienne Lafrance at The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/05/pink-is-for-boys-too/481659/

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ENTJ: the Curmudgeon Leader?

For those of you who don’t know me, let me start with an admission.
I am an ENTJ. To some of you, that means little.To many of you, however, I suspect it means a great deal.

ENTJ, stands for Extroversion-Intuition-Thinking-Judging, and is a personality type in the very interesting Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI. This scale aims to pigeon-hole, and pretty accurately too, everyone’s personality. There are limitations; of course, no abstract model can ever fully define all people. But it’s good. For me, close to spot-on.

The ENTJ type is not the rarest, but quite rare; roughly 2-4% of the population may be so labelled. The type is often called the Executive, or the Field Marshall, and it is a corner of the business world occupied by hearty, frank, decisive leaders engaged in a wide range of activities. Natural leaders in the corporate world, you will often recognise them as they lead large functions and are driven to lead more, greater, larger, bigger, better.

ENTJs are usually very handy at anything that requires reasoning and intelligent talk. They are often great public speakers, and convincers of people. Sit them in a negotiation and watch them play their often formidable role.

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Interestingly, they are usually also well informed, but (nota bene!) also excellent bluffers, appearing through powerful personalities and charisma to be all-knowing. I have to confess to bluffing on occasion (okay, okay, a lot of the time) and it is remarkable just how many other types will back down when confronted by an ENTJ’s viewpoint, put out there always with confidence and, sometimes, with arrogance.

ENTJs dominate their space. They will lead. Strongly. Decisively. Acting quickly and with vigour on anything that makes strategic sense.

Until, of course, the ENTJ encounters another ENTJ. Now THAT makes for a fun workplace! Have you ever seen those nature documentaries featuring two ‘prowess’ animals fighting – like ENTJs, such animals often have great antlers! – butting heads until one is unconscious? That’s two ENTJs working near each other.

Sometimes, but not always, one will concede something, giving a small amount of ground, or choose not to fight to unconsciousness over this particular point. But the one who thinks they are most right – and ENTJs ALWAYS think they are right – will ultimately stand ground and, just maybe, not suffer concussion.

But ENTJs, sometimes laughed at for a modicum of ‘social awkwardness’, as they often need to step back a little to size up a social situation to gauge how brusque and direct they can be, are also often the curmudgeon of the office.

Curmudgeon

kəːˈmʌdʒ(ə)n/

noun

noun: curmudgeon; plural noun: curmudgeons

  1. a bad-tempered or surly person.
synonyms: bad-tempered person;

While a rare type, everyone knows one, whether they know the letters or not. Everyone has, often without knowing the MBTI profile of the protagonist, anecdotes about run-ins and incidents with the ENTJs in their lives. To many people, the ENTJ is the boss or colleague who once bulldozed them on a point of strategy, or didn’t pay enough attention to their feelings, or forgot to wish happy birthday even when the cake is on the table.

Yes, directness is the calling card of many an ENTJ. Offensiveness too. Not to mention brusqueness. But it is not on purpose. They just often don’t have the emotional intelligence, or a well-developed ‘feeling’ side in the MBTI scale. Don’t blame them. Best thing you can do is to try to help them, actually. As an ENTJ who has been chastened after staff gave feedback on curmudgeonly behaviour, I was able to adjust. Change, even.

It is possible to help an ENTJ to develop, or be more aware at least, of the feeling side of the shop. Why would you want to? Plainly stated, your life will be MUCH easier. If you are a good worker, the worst thing you can do is have an ENTJ on your back. Helping an ENTJ see how they are squashing you is a good way to get on their good side. Or you will get fired. But if the latter, they were a nasty, abnormal ENTJ and you didn’t want that job anyway.

I am often asked how best to work with me. Yes, some people have that much gall! Just kidding. As an ENTJ with an overdeveloped thinking side, I like that someone would have the guts to come and ask me for that particular piece of advice.

For those working with ENTJs, either above, below, or beside, you need to know a few things about how to get your way with an ENTJ. So here is my twenty cents worth on how to work better with people like me:

  • Discuss first the research base for an idea. ENTJs are easily fascinated, like a cat with a string and a catnip fish on the end, when new knowledge is in the offing. Get them excited about the research base for your idea, the possibilities for new information, and what that might mean for them.
  • Highlight the theoretical background. ENTJs love theories almost as much as they love new and powerful research, or playing Scrabble. Lay out the theory behind your idea, talk about contributors, thinkers, and philosophies, and you will quickly have their eyes as wide as dinner plates.
  • Demonstrate to them how what you want to tell them fits a strategy. ENTJs are very focused on implementing a strategy. For ENTJ and strategy, think pit bull and old shoe – or side of beef – and you are in the right area.
  • Show how your idea will increase competence. Nobody, and I mean nobody, loves improving competence more than the ENTJ. You can tell this, because if you show them a weakness in your competence or, god forbid, you actually act incompetently, they will not hesitate one bit to chew you out over it. ENTJs do not tolerate incompetence, fools, or making the same mistake twice. Show them how your idea will improve competency, and you will have a firm supporter in them.
  • Indicate the far and broad-reaching possibilities that arise from your idea. Got some big thoughts about major change? Hit them with it. Got a ‘star chart’ to lay out the new universe (the one showing the universe as it will exist once your idea is implemented)? Start unrolling it. Convince them there is a wide new world out there waiting to be conquered, and that we could be first, and they will have your back.
  • Show that it has intriguing and fascinating possibilities. As I mentioned, ENTJs are fascinated by the world not yet explored, or conquered. Fascinate them, bedazzle them, with fascinating new information, and they will yearn to learn more. Faster than you can say ‘Engage’, your project idea is up and running.
  • Be a credible source of information. While the ENTJ is an excellent bluffer, don’t forget they are (almost) always incredibly well-informed. Hungry for knowledge, ENTJs are hard to bluff. So know your stuff; they might rely on your info in front of the board and woe betide the inaccurate advisor.
  • Expect arguments. Arguments with ENTJs are absolutely unavoidable. Breathing conflict in preference to air, the ENTJ incites battles. That does not mean they want to defeat you. They, in fact, want you to defeat them! Yes, the ENTJ wants above all else to learn, and will challenge anyone, openly and directly, to show them another way, demonstrate new facts, convince them you are right. They respect a fight, as long as it takes them forward, helps achieve their strategy.

So, do these things and you will have an all-conquering ally or champion.

If I can be personal for a second, one funny thing about being an ENTJ is not knowing you are socially awkward. The ENTJ does not know, for example, they  intimidate people just by ‘being’. Many other personality types, especially the many with actual feelings, are cowed by the openly brash and sometimes abrasive confidence of the ENTJ. Brusqueness, rudeness, offensive directness, are all tell-tale signs of an ENTJ on a rather bad day, or one not in touch with their ‘feeling ‘side (and there are many such!).

As an ENTJ ( or the inadvertent victim of one), you might be vulgarly curious to know one of the most difficult times for an ENTJ. The 360 degree staff evaluation. Why? Because suddenly, the ENTJ is confronted by a lot of staffers and peers who confess to having had their feelings somewhat trampled by the rampaging leader. And ENTJ’s are not normally knowingly offensive. It just happens when empathy is lacking. So, go easy, but take the chance to remind an ENTJ how they made you feel. It might change things for the better in the workplace.

I hope by now, Dear Reader, that you realise ENTJs are a powerful force if they are on your side, or you are on theirs. If they are your leader, you are in really good hands. They will not only take you places you’ve never been before, or even imagined being, but they will personally lead any charge into uncharted territory. Let’s be honest, an ENTJ will lead you to the very mouth of hell if their deliverables are in that balmy neighbourhood.

If you need a project advanced, and it makes sense to the ENTJ, you have a natural battering ram to push it through the senior ranks and get it done. If you need someone to help translate the idea you had into corporate strategy, and then go see it brought to the Board, the ENTJ is your person.

Famous ENTJs who, when I name them, will automatically make you realise who the formidable type you are dealing with is, include: Margaret Thatcher, Aristotle, Winston Churchill, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Aung San Suu Kyi, Joseph Stalin, and Rahm Emanuel.

ENTJs, the loveable curmudgeon of the office, who can lead you to new worlds like nobody else can. Fear them! But enjoy them in equal measure.

The Non-Linear Career; celebrate diversity

A lot of people ask me how does it work to have a career that seems to have major dog-legs every few years, and even some massive career changes along the way.

The secret is “the non-linear career”.

Don’t get me wrong. It is neither easy, nor for everyone. It is, for example, not the type that headhunters and executive search firms go for because they dogmatically follow criteria that are all geared to find one person who has done one thing their entire professional lives. It is also not the one that fits into the boxes of, for example, UN employment forms with the multiple choice paths. It is not for the risk-averse. It is not the professional life for those who think about their pension.

So, then, what is a non-linear career? What does this dog-leg CV look like?

Allow me to describe mine as an example. I started my full-time professional life as a soldier, then a Federal Agent, I served in Australia, China, and Mongolia. That’s the first dozen or so years of my career.

But before that even, at uni and high school from the age of about 14, I was sales staff and sales management for the family book store, unloader of freight from semi-trailers, kitchen hand at Pizza Hut, stacker of shelves at Woolworths, touch rugby referee, puller of beer at the Newmarket Hotel…you name it.

The last dozen or so years of my career, since the start of the Noughties, the rollercoaster ride gets wild: human rights expert, human trafficking expert, policing advisor, business developer, organised crime advisor, intelligence advisor, international development professional, non-profit advisor. In that time, titles came and went, including Chief Operating Officer, Managing Director, Director, Technical Director, Team Leader, Principal Consultant, Advisor, Principal Advisor, Strategy Advisor, Planning Expert, Founder, Partner, Evaluator etc. The list goes on.

And yet, despite working experience in more than 45 countries, having lived for long periods in 9, recruiters don’t see a thing.

In contrast, the linear path – the one that works for HR people – looks like this: work hard, don’t make waves, stay on the boss’ good side, wait for promotions, go to company picnics, and look to change employer only when necessary, and only after putting in enough time right where you are.

This is not a secret career path, and of course this path, even if formulaic, works fine for some people. Indeed, it is the one many people take. But it is not the only path, and not the best path for all.

For many, including me, the non-linear career offers an opportunity to explore. There is wide world of professional experience out there, and some of us want to taste it. Just as some people want to travel and some don’t.

For the successful non-linear, it is important not to worry about each job leading seamlessly and successfully to the other on paper. If you are the explorer, seeking experiences the world over, you will have a dog-leg CV; no doubt about it. Accept it. Relish it. And be ready for the hard bumps and surprising turns that sometimes come with rollercoaster rides.

The non-linear career path can be recommended for those who have a spirit for adventure, a high threshold for risk, and relish living without much of a safety net.

By way of encouragement, providing some ideas for the red threads in your career, including some of the most important features the non-linear bring to each role, are:

  • As the original finder of the waters of opportunity in the professional desert, you see opportunities where others might only identify problems.
  • As a ranging problem-solver and overcomer of obstacles the world over, you tend to intuit where the obstacles are. And instead of focusing on the dimensions of the obstacles, your glass-half-full style causes you to focus on how to get past them in ways that don’t burn bridges behind you. But, if someone forces you to burn a bridge, you do it.
  • Your strong sense of independence and self-reliance means that you (most of the time) believe in yourself and your ability to handle and learn new things based on what you’ve been able to accomplish in the past. The key is to communicate this well-founded inner confidence naturally and effectively.
  • You always have been, and will remain, the path-finder.
  • You are not risk averse. The non-linear is not afraid to take on calculated risk and fail. But when the non-linear does fail, as everyone does who ever took a chance, you know how to take it in perspective, brush it off, and move on.
  • Your lack of fear gives you freedom. When a boss doesn’t see your qualities, or fails to reward you, you quite easily look for ways to move forward and even grow, and you don’t take offence at not being seen for what you could bring. Your inner freedom lets you move on; no regrets.
  • Having had to compromise and solve problems in dozens of contexts, you look for often inspiring ways to make things better without blaming others. You are the definition of the solutions-oriented individual.
  • As an expert in blending into a range of cross-cultural situations and making it work, you are a communicator. And you learn to publicise yourself effectively. You don’t sit back and wait for someone to notice you. You know that just won’t happen. You let people know about things you’re working on by making it part of an interesting story. As a classy communicator you share your experiences without bragging.
  • You know that in all jobs, in all work places, in all countries, there are things to enjoy. You can find those little acorns and relish them, even if you don’t like the job, the workplace, or the country. You are a survivor, and survivors survive on the acorns. Do your work well and with a great attitude, but also keep your eyes and ears open for something else you could suggest to take on that might do more to float your boat.
  • As the experienced communicator, you know how to connect to people in a trusting way and build relationships that are mutually beneficial.
  • You are decisive, so you usually know when it is time for you to pack up and move on. And you do it without fuss or apology.
  • You work without a safety net, and usually don’t even think about whether there should be one or not. You know in your heart that you will always find a way, even if you cannot see a picture of it in your head. Yet.

One of the greatest challenges to a non-linear career is recruitment and ‘the HR people’. When someone with a non-linear career gets into a room with the hiring manager, things start to happen. Their sense of adventure, initiative, spirit, passion, and ingenuity makes them shine. But until then, HR people reign. And they usually screen the non-linears out of the field. On the rare occasion the non-linear candidate gets an interview, often they are on the other wide of the world precisely because their careers take them places, so they will still not get in the room. They will often be relegated to the dreadful, death-affirming, non-dimensional Skype interview.

The approach for the non-linear is to showcase in your CV, the cover letter, and in words (if you land an interview), that you really understand what the employer needs, and by emphasising what you bring to the job, including the non-linear features of resilience, adventure, ingenuity, good humour; i.e. your transferable skills and values. You might not have been in the one place for 20 years, but you know how to work in 20 cross-cultural contexts!

Don’t worry too much about what you don’t have. Role criteria are checklists designed to find a 5-legged sheep in a field of 4-legged sheep and, eventually, they end up employing a 3-legged one. If you meet the criteria, then fine, but if you don’t, there is always a chance a hiring manager will see through the HR checklist mentality, so go for it anyway. Remember that when you go beyond the criteria and define what it is the hiring manager wants, they are often recruiting because they need to change it up. Something hasn’t worked in how they did things before. And the non-linear knows all about changing it up.

Looks for ways of getting the attention of the hiring manager first; circumventing HR. The hiring manager often carries a pocket veto; if someone in the field intrigues them enough, they can overrule HR and push for shortlisting the non-linear. This has happened to me when I seriously diverged from the advertised criteria, but conceptually offered a solution to the hiring manager’s very real problems.

Identify and intrigue the hiring manager; it pays off. Early in the recruitment process, try to find out who the hiring manager is, and approach them with a brief message about your claims, and ask whether despite having these strong experiences you should apply. A good hiring manager will look well at the broader nature of your experience, and the candour of the approach, and help you get shortlisted.

Another of the great obstacles in non-linear careers is self-doubt. I have to say frankly, every time a change is coming on, doubt sneaks in, like shadows creeping in on your peripheral vision. When re-writing your CV, something non-linears have to do frequently, the point is to identify those things that have carried through your career; roles, titles, and locations might have changed, but there are ‘red threads’ running through your career, those transferrable values and skills mentioned above. Highlight those red threads and that will help banish your self-doubt.

You’ve got game. And you know it. So just bring it.

The third great challenge to be overcome is the tendency, especially when considering the next big thing, to drift back to the norm. My advice is to celebrate your very own diversity. When you follow a career path based on things you loved doing, things you felt strongly about, or undertook risky journeys to get new experience, and put to good use those skills you most enjoy, and when you make an effort along the way to manage the obstacles and next steps, at the end of it you will be surprised when you look back.

I often get great praise on, and quite some satisfaction from, my dog-leg career path; people look at it and see a book or a TV series (even if, to me, it looks like a boat built by committee and held together by gaffer tape!). Without being melodramatic, the non-linear is exciting to outsiders; the trick is to get your non-linear CV past the HR munchkins and into the hands of people who really want to hire top talent.

In the non-linear career, you need to celebrate your very own diversity if you are going to feel contentment and find success.

In all long, non-linear careers, if you draw a line backwards, you can actually see a path. It is called the road less travelled.

Male Trailing Spouse Interview: Expat Survival Guide

For those interested, here is a very brief interview for the Expat Survival Guide; the views from male trailing spouses

The Male Trailing Spouse series – Brian in Iran

No Shame: The Science Behind Why Most Australians Feel Okay About Tormenting Asylum Seekers | Junkee

Are you an Australian wondering how such a large number of your country-folk can be so hard-hearted to asylum seekers?

Are you a Border Force member wondering where the soul of organisations such as Customs and Immigration went?

For me, it is bewildering to see Australians talk about sending those fleeing war back to the nothing that there is for them in those warzones. More than 95% of those arriving to Australia by boat are found to be genuine refugees. As someone involved in stopping the boats back in the late 90s from China, dealing with genuine economic migrants, not refugees, the differences are stark. Stop the boats as intended in the earlier China case has nothing whatever to do with stopping those fleeing war to find safe haven; the governments since have adopted the slogan without any sense of what it means.

Linked is a very interesting read on the application of Stanford University Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology Albert Bandura’s theory of moral disengagement

via No Shame: The Science Behind Why Most Australians Feel Okay About Tormenting Asylum Seekers | Junkee.