A Triage of Skills PDF Print E-mail
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Dr. Heuer introduces a tool to understand training requirements and supervisory deliverables.

The Basic Concept

I always wondered how I could help people deal with the cards life dealt them. How to explain areas, where improvements are feasible, and those where acceptance and leverage is the best approach.

image Then today, I had the picture on the right in my head:

What if there is an unyielding core where the personality resides. How does a person cope with the environment?: by learning skills to serve as interfaces.

Skills fall into three categories: personal skills, interpersonal skills, and technical skills. In my mind, it is the maturity of these skills and their appropriateness to the context that determines the performance of an individual. That is why there are exceptional individuals that seem to be no good fit for a role but then perform with distinction: they have skills to match the position. Experience does make a difference!

The Core: Personality

In this proposal, I am going to only work with two tools to understand personality: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Enneagram. These two serve two distinct purposes:

The MBTI helps the individual gain two fundamental insights about the world:

  • how they interact with it (their communication style and expectations)
  • how the world can interact with them (styles and expectations of others).

In my field of expertise, Product Development, R&D, and Innovation Management, these tools have proven very powerful. Especially when trying to convince different personalities to support “the New”, success hinges on effective communication. I recently wrote an article called “Emotional R&D” about the effects of communication on the performance of an R&D department, you might want to take a look. In this article, I quote a study on the “internal barriers for innovation”, mostly through bad communication.

The Enneagram as the second tool helps to understand the motivation of others. There are 9 personality types, which all have different outlooks and desires in life. They are summed up in their “basic propositions”. I am a Tragic Romantic (thanks Kathy!), and my proposition is: “A deep sense of longing for what is idealized or unavailable. Attention naturally goes to what is missing or special.” Together with my MBTI profile as an INTP, this makes me ideally suited to do… R&D. Go figure.

This duo of Communication and Outlook now has to deal with the world, its context. To cope, skills are being developed that ease the differences between us and them. These skills are by definition trainable, though there are aptitudes, which are rooted in the Personality. I, for example, will perpetually have to work on my ability to truly pick up what the other is feeling. My wife Sara, on the other hand, thanks to her MBTI profile, picks that up straight away.

Personal Skills

These skills are used to deal with the tension between how the person wants to act, and how the context needs them to act.

If you like chaos (Perceiver in MBTI), and you work in a team where predictability and neatness is required (let’s say, a research facility), you will have to adopt techniques that help you deal with this stress. Enter tools like “Getting Things Done”. A true “Judging” personality has used some personal version of this approach for most of their life. For a “Perceiver”, this is the life saver thrown into the creative mess they call their desk.

The other way around would be a Judging personality working in a creative setting. Tools like creative morphology, TRIX, etc. will help deal with the uncomfortable ambiguity.

Personal skills are used to organize the way the person works in their own sphere. I sometimes wished I would have been given “the lay of the land” when starting a new job. It would have helped to see the needs for augmentation when starting, rather finding them out while muddling along. A good supervisor might draw up a list of suggested tools for a position to ease the pain.

I am wondering whether there is a list of personal skills, and whether it can be turned into a matrix for the 16 MBTI types. That way, a supervisor would only have to develop the list. A new team member would not even have to disclose her type. She could simply take the matrix, reference her type privately, and then see what kind of training she might need (maybe even before she starts the job). Such a matrix would also be a great job interview tool. Send the candidate the list in advance, so they get a feel for how well they fit into their new team.

Interpersonal Skills

These skills are learned to fit into a team and be productive beyond your own work performance.

The ability to listen and relate is featured high, the ability to present and convince is up there, too.

Here, a mixture of the two personality cores needs to be employed. MBTI will help you pack and package your message appropriately. Enneagram will help to understand the internal motives of the others. Sometimes, it simply good to know that the one on the other side is a “Perfectionist” and needs to be approached accordingly. I have spent many a day raging against somebody else’s presumably obstructive behavior when all he wanted to do was to make things perfect. Loads of stress and time would have been spared if only I would have known!

I wish that teams would know their collective MBTI and Enneagram types, so that they can work effectively together. Wherever it is legally possible, I urge you to get this data.

I also wish supervisors would develop a vocabulary for these skills. When I added MBTI to my team’s arsenal, I saw a marked increase in internal and external team performance. Projects were executed with less strife. Ideas were presented with more complete descriptions, resulting in less resistance and rework. Executive reviews were more pointed, impactful, and yielded more decisions.

Technical Skills

These skills are the ones you learn in curriculums at school. They are the ones we get grades in, we get hired for, we presumably spend most of our time honing.

In my experience, these skills are the ante into the game, not the actual value add. Value emerges in the modern organization when working together is effortless and effective. Personal and Interpersonal Skills have more to do with that than technical skills. They are required to credibly sit at the table; they simply do not equate performance. I have known many a fine engineer or sales person that, once thrown into a team (maybe even as the leader), showed exceptional technical prowess and little personal/interpersonal skills. The result is always the same: a drop in performance.

I wish job description would list all three skill types, and a personality type for the team as well.

Technical skills are usually well established, since they come with externally accepted measurements (titles, diplomas etc), are usually very specific to a position, and relatable by the rest of the team. I am not surprised that usually they are referred to as the “Hard Skills”, and the interpersonal skills as the “Soft Skills”. The soft stuff is harder!

An example

eRnD-InternalBarriers The diagram below shows the results of study on “Barriers to Innovation”. How will the model fare against this backdrop?

“Difficulty to Communicate”:

There is a direct line from the personal and interpersonal skills to the ability to communicate. Great fit!

“Unclear Objectives”:

The inability to generate objectives is a personal skill issue, the absence of clarity a interpersonal skill issue.

“No Culture of Collaboration”:

This is a direct interpersonal skill issue. If the team does not know how to work together, such skills are missing.


MBTI©: www.mbti.com

Enneagram: www.enneagram.com.

Wahren 2003: German title: „Erfolgsfaktor Innovation. Ideen systematisch generieren, bewerten und umsetzen“, H-K Wahren, ISBN 3540030824

Emotional R&D can be found at http://www.sarjay.com/cms/welcome/our-articles/4-articles/39-emotional-rad.html

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