Managing Yourself – Step 1: Know Thyself

Last week we introduced the concept of Managing Yourself as a way to thrive and succeed, both professionally and personally. Our post this week is the next article in that series and it focuses on the basic foundation for success: knowing thyself.

What Does it Mean to Know Thyself?

According to Dr. Travis Bradberry, knowing thyself is a hallmark of emotional intelligence (EQ), defined as “the ability to identify and manage our own emotions and the emotions of others.” This important is because his research indicates that 80 percent of how we do in life is explained by our EQ whereas only 20 percent is explained by our technical capabilities or IQ. With such compelling statistics, it would behoove us all to continue developing our EQ as best we can as part of our personal development plan. So how can we go about doing that?

Peter Drucker recommends beginning the endeavor of self discovery by asking (and continuing to ask) five questions:

  1. What are my strengths?
  2. How do I work?
  3. What are my values?
  4. Where do I belong?
  5. What can I contribute?

Questions three, four and five can really only be completed by self-reflection (i.e. spending time thinking about them, discussions with other people or journaling). But questions one and two are discoverable via some popular assessment tools. Two of the most popular for the workplace include The Clifton Strengthsfinder by Gallup and the Thomas Kilman Conflict Assessment. Both are excellent assessments and can offer valuable insights into who we are and how we can best operate in the professional world.

But the most widely used personality assessment, and perhaps the best tool for what Drucker was alluding to via his five questions, is the Myers Briggs Personality Assessment (the MBTI®). This assessment is markedly different from all others, because while they focus largely on behavior (which can change or be altered), the MBTI® focuses on “mental energy” and assigns a personality type, which does not change.

What Does the MBTI® Measure?

The MBTI® looks at four aspects of personality:

  1. How you approach the world – (extraversion or introversion). Do you prefer the external world of people and things or the internal world of ideas and concepts?
  2. How you take in information – (sensing or intuition). Do you prefer to consume specific and concrete facts or do you prefer to look at trends and patterns within the facts? An easy analogy here would be to decide if you prefer to look at individual trees or the whole forest?
  3. How you make decisions – (thinking or feeling). Do you prefer logic and consistency or do you prefer to consider implications for individuals on a case-by-case basis?
  4. How you interact in the world – (perceiving or judging). Do you prefer to keep your options open and be flexible or do you prefer more scheduling and structure?

There are 16 possible combinations of these factors (each combination = a type) and by taking the assessment and discussing the results with a certified “MBTI® practitioner,” you can discover your “best fit type.” Each type comes with a four letter acronym (e.g., ENTJ or ISFP) as well as a very detailed description. For more on each of the 16 types, visit the Myers Briggs Foundation website.

The basic idea is simple. By taking time to understand our type with the MBTI® assessment, we can be more deliberate about spending as much time as possible participating in activities that increase our mental energy, thereby enabling us to operate from positions of relative strength. Conversely, when we participate in activities that decrease or drain our mental energy, we are forced to operate from positions of relative weakness.

Why It’s Important to Fully Know Thyself

All too often, people move through life reacting to various circumstances and making big life choices based on incomplete information. The result of this is the woman who has a preference for extraversion working in a job where she sits alone not interacting with people. Or the man who has a preference for introversion who’s constantly attending meetings all day. While each may get by just fine, in all actuality, they’re both in mentally-draining positions (per their types) and the chances are good they’ll never reach peak performance.

So the argument for knowing yourself is really two-fold: First, it’s a defensive mechanism preventing us from ending up in mentally draining positions – existing day to day and getting by but never really thriving. Second, it’s an offensive mechanism geared toward making us more proactive in our approach to our lives and our jobs. Without a deliberate attempt at understanding ourselves, though, we’re forced to slowly learn through MUCH trial and error – and perhaps heartache. This leads to only coming into full realization of ourselves much too late in life, if at all.

But by being more deliberate and proactive about our journeys of self-discovery, we can make life’s circumstances more of our own choosing and set ourselves up to take advantage of opportunities that come our way.

Next week – Step Two: Goal Setting.

Brian Baskerville is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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Steph Drahozal

We are constantly doing different personality tests at work which I think is really helpful for getting to know your own strengths & weaknesses as well as your colleagues! Helps you figure out what motivates you as well as how to understand/get along better with colleagues.

Stephanie Smith

Thank you for the information that I need to focus at that area so I able to interact with my team .or coworker


Thank you for the comments Steph and Stephanie. I hope you get a chance to finish the Managing Yourself Series… Article 10 was just posted last week!