“As a boss, you’re a terrible communicator.”
This was a conversation that took place quite a few years ago during my corporate days. One of my direct reports had decided to give me a tongue-lashing.
Looking back, I didn’t know my own personality–I’m an INFP with a weird entrepreneurial mindset. It’s a problem, because I can’t seem to turn off this mindset. I wrote recently about how the N (Intuition) and the P (Perceiving) in particular make me an idealist, someone who is open to ideas and sees the solution in every problem. Myers-Briggs has now revealed that these personality traits are often found in entrepreneurs.
What this means is that I’m really good at starting things, building up a team, getting people excited about something brand new, and creating the vision…but then need to have someone else manage on a day-to-day basis. I’m not a detailed-oriented person. Ironically, as I’ve discovered over the past 16 years, that employee who was criticizing me for not communicating enough was only partially correct.
I’m really good at communicating, but I’m not detail-oriented enough. This create a lot of conflict for me, because I was too busy vision-casting.
With my entrepreneurial mindset, I was always thinking of new ideas and trying to help other people catch the vision. The problem, of course, is that the employees wanted to know the plan. Maybe I wasn’t mature enough enough to spend the time mapping out the vision. I wasn’t aware of a simple leadership concept: To lead effectively, you have to do more than come up with the idea. You have to execute on the idea.
My leadership skills were not finely honed at that time. It’s a lifelong process, learning how to communicate effectively and lead by example. Also, “lead” is a verb. It’s not a position or a role. Terrible leaders in business tend to think they can just hand down commands from on high and expect the minions to do their bidding. True leadership, which I’ve realized since leaving the corporate world, is about the day-to-day-vision.
Way back, I was leading almost entirely based on my personality type. I should have made one big change. Recognizing that my real passions were related to vision-casting, I should have stepped aside earlier and let someone else “manage” the employees, focusing more on the details. I should have become more of an executive leader, someone who guides the team by exploring new concepts and sets the overall vision.
These days, I’m more aware of what it means to be an INFP personality type. I know details are not as important to me but they are important to others. I’ve learned to spell things out more, to spend the time required for that. As an introvert (the I in INFP), it’s easy for me to assume people can read my mind. Facebook might be working on that, but for now, I have to talk things out and explain the process.
What does this mean for those who struggle with the same issue?
We’ve all heard of the entrepreneur who creates an amazing new product or service, starts a company, generates enthusiasm and excitement, but then can’t seem to manage effectively. Guess what? That person is not a great manager. The personality traits that helped an entrepreneur create a new company are not the same traits required to lead the company. Yet, there’s hope. Recognizing your own strengths, then figuring out how you need to change or how to restructure a team will help a company become even greater, not limited by your own weaknesses and the constraints of your personality type.
Some days, I wish I could go back to that meeting.
I wish I could have a heart-to-heart with that employee. I did build up a large team with an incredible array of skills. Maybe the person who needed to take over managing the team was sitting across from me at the table.