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Tips and Examples for Effective Personalized Leadership Training


Tips and Examples for Effective Personalized Leadership Training

Managing complexity, change, and strategic thinking are the most common leadership development competencies. No doubt you have spent multiple training hours on implementing frameworks and off-the-shelf solutions to help your teams be more effective. 

How did you define success? Were you able to measure a change in behavior and the impact on your bottom line?

I propose that while many existing courses about "Time Management", "Deal with Change", and "Embrace Ambiguity" have their rightful place in the Organizational Development curriculum, they're missing one crucial element: customization. 

No, I'm not talking about branding it to your company by slapping your logo on the slides. I mean actually customizing actionable implementation tips to the individual leader. 


By using Personality Type knowledge. 

"Oh my gosh, we have so many personalities among our leaders, I wouldn't know where to begin or how to get all of them under one hat. No way we can please everyone!"

Lucky you - the solution I'm proposing takes the guesswork out of it for you. 

"That's fine and dandy, but we need our leaders to commit to company goals; all root for the same goal; be team-players, you know?"

Lucky you - the solution I'm proposing will improve inner- and inter-team communication and collaboration. 

"Sounds great, but we've already committed to a program and can't really switch horses right now."

Lucky you - the solution I'm proposing works well as a stand-alone and can also be used to enhance existing programs. 

Enough teasing, drumroll please: welcome to Matrix Insights.

This brand new online platform provides in-depth personal profiles, comparison between Types, and Development Areas for each Type.

For example, "Breakthrough Leadership Skills" often come down to

  1. Dealing with Ambiguity and Paradox
  2. Managing Change and Complexity
  3. Strategic Agility

Every high-potential needs these skills to be successful. Traditionally, companies provide time management resources and operational management trainings for support. These are great and have their rightful place in leadership development, but I for one know that the same training class has different effects on its participants, and personality type is one of the deciding factors. 

To accelerate learnings from traditional trainings and make them stick better, faster, Matrix Insights provides Type-specific action items to practice building these skills. 

As such, Matrix Insights access can be added on top of existing programs to enhance content retention and engagement at the time of need, and it also makes an effective basis for one-on-one or group coaching. 

Here's an example using ESTJ and ENFJ leaders side by side.

ESTJ leaders have natural talents for organization, efficiency, and practicality. To develop the three skills mentioned above, here's a personalized approach:

Dealing with Ambiguity & Paradox
ESTJs like to rely on tried and true strategies when dealing with situations. They like to perfect what already works well and that does not always open the door for considerations to new choices. When faced with ambiguous situations, evaluate the tried and true options for responding and identify a couple of new ways to approach the problem at hand. Find others who can provide a significantly different view of the situation and who can suggest new tactics for addressing the presenting ambiguity.

Reduce ambiguity by declaring the A1.
Clarifying priorities by sorting associated tasks, identifying areas of needed information, and designating tasks by As, Bs, and Cs, where A is most important to C low importance. Even in the face of ambiguity or paradoxical uncertainty, knowing the A1--even if it is just for the day--is a clear step forward. Make a plan to revise the priorities over the course of several weeks when dealing with a complex problem as conditions will change and the current A1 may drop off the plate. Humans are galvanized around a priority and it is doubly so for ESTJs, so declare some.

Managing Change and Complexity for ESTJs
Who can provide you with alternative interpretations of information in change?  
Typically ESTJs are eager to take efficient action and to take care of the “to do list” as quickly as possible.  To do so, ESTJs need to confidently take action based on the information they have, which as a general rule, they have vetted and decided is worth their attention.  Herein lies the potential problem--speed and bias.  ESTJs can improve their management of change if they do not assume that everyone has the same perspective and if they actively solicit views from others on the change under consideration.  In fact, make a list of all of those individuals who typically see things differently from you and seek out their perspectives.  What and how will they interpret some of the messages that you are contemplating providing during change can be useful to consider.  They may even provide you with tips for making the messages clearer and more useful.

What rules of thumb make dealing with complexity easier?
ESTJs are naturals at finding “rules of thumb” to make sense of and act on situations.  Usually, their approach to complexity is to break it into smaller units of information and respond in a more tactical manner; however, this may not serve them well in terms of understanding the layers of dynamics in a situation nor will it clarify how to manage those dynamics that haven’t been fully recognized.  Usually, ESTJs have had enough experience with an array of situations that they have a useful set of heuristics or pragmatic tips for addressing similar situations in the future.  There is value in creating a  “tactics log” to identify the most typical ways to manage change and to enrich this list, ask others for their short rules for various complex situations.  

Strategic Agility
Action plan inclusive of speculative outcomes?
Make a list of five hypothetical adjustments on a product or service regarding how this product or service might look in ten years given social, technological, and economic changes. Speculate based on a few hunches and create a elevator sales pitch on each of the five hypotheticals. Discuss your explorations with a colleague and examine how this kind of process can aid strategic thinking.

Found a way to explore trends?
More often than not ESTJs require more data points than intuitive types before reporting that a trend exists. Practice projecting a trend based on three data points rather than having a large set of data to create a prediction. One of the challenges of ESTJs is to learn to create a possible trend based on a few data points so with this tip, practice the stretch.

Leaders with ENFJ preferences, by contrast, have innate abilities for empathy, mentoring, and maintaining harmony. Obviously, they would approach the three skills from a completely different angle:

Dealing with Ambiguity and Paradox
Looking for the perfect outcome?
Even though it is clear that there are no perfect solutions ENFJs often look for them. In a psychological “feedback loop” built into their type dynamic, ENFJs “see” possible solutions which are “evaluated” and found unacceptable. This prompts more interest in finding better solutions. It is important to become aware of this and to break the pattern. Create a list of the mission critical criteria to use in evaluating the available data and outlined options. This will enable ENFJs to identify what is sufficient and effective.

Energy levels unusually high?
ENFJs find that they become more energized by solving complex problems and ambiguity usually makes things much more complex. A very important strategy for keeping all this in perspective is to make note of the energy level and evaluate how this is serving you at the time. There is a good chance that taking time out and meditating--even for a few minutes--will introduce a relaxation response which has the benefit of encouraging focus and directing attention that leads to finding a successful response to the situation at hand. 

Managing Change and Complexity
Use empathy to help drive change?
ENFJs have a knack for understanding what others are experiencing.  This ability can benefit their change management tactics by tapping into the needs of others and stepping into other perspectives on the change that is to be implemented.  While such empathetic “sight” might not change the decisions in change, it can inform how best to communicate, what to anticipate, and how to respond to others finding the change difficult. 

Using cues to go with the flow in complex situations?
Complex situations are in a state of flux--the greater the complexity, the more energy is in the system where the complexity resides.  ENFJs can quickly ascertain the complexity of situations and in their passion to help contribute to improving things, they may bypass some key clues.  A useful question to ask yourself is: What factors am I emphasizing and what might I see in the situation if I changed emphasis?  What methods of monitoring shifts in the situation have I put in place? How are you observing or monitoring the primary movers, influencers, and doers in the situation?

Strategic Agility
Why the urge to decide clips your agile considerations.
Being strategically agile means being able to flex with new information or new insights. ENFJs are wired to decide and move forward, whether or not the situation requires it. When in this mode, ENFJs spend energy on deciding and acting on what is believed to be the best strategic plan at the moment. This inoculates ENFJs from paying attention to new emerging ideas. Create a strategy log or journal in which you can keep your ideas and sketch out possibilities.

Cutting loose from the values anchor.
Like other NFs, ENFJs seek to take action and make recommendations on options that align with values and ideals. This creates a drag on new energy and on agile considerations that may emerge. One of the ways to manage this is to be unambiguous about the top five values on which you based your decisions. The clearer you are about those values, the easier it is to contract choices and measure the impact on the current choice and to ask what other choices can be pursued that value those not able to attend.



Dealing with Uncertainty

Hello! Thanks for visiting and please enjoy the free info below! 

Just fyi, you can find me over at from now on, where I'm making custom lettering and calligraphy. 

This archive will be discontinued next month. 

Pic Credit: Stuart Miles

Pic Credit: Stuart Miles

Our brains are constantly at work, processing messages and releasing hormones based on often-unconscious cues. These hormones influence our moods and behaviors, and I invite you today to become a little more aware of how your openness to change can trigger them.

Last week, I wrote about how people with different personality types might handle the ambiguity of an international relocation process:

  • If there is a “J” in your Type code, you probably prefer the feeling of certainty and closure when finishing projects. You’ll make decisions quite quickly, to have a sense of certainty to build on. If necessary, decisions can obviously be changed.
  • If there is a “P” in your Type code, you probably prefer the openness and potential of new projects. You’ll enjoy staying in the beginning phases and gathering information for as long as possible, to have a sense of openness and potential as the process unfolds.

To help alleviate the feeling of stress over not-knowing in those Js, I suggested simplifying the complexity of the relocation down into manageable pieces. For example, if you don’t have an exact moving date yet, you may feel like you’re in complete limbo. This may cause anxiety, but it doesn’t mean you have to put everything on hold. Live on as normal, and make plans about the different steps you’ll have to take once the move begins. You’ll be prepared when the time comes, and seeing action items black on white will make them seem less threatening and overwhelming. In other words:

If you can write it, you can do it. (Tweet this.)

Our brains like easy

Knowing is easy, learning is hard. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so difficult to change habits – if we’ve been doing it forever, we don’t have to think about it, it’s automatic. Our brain likes automatic.

Change and doing things differently means the brain has to expend energy, oxygen and glucose on functions that it already knows how to do, so why can’t we just do it the good old-fashioned way? (Of course, when our brains start to whine is different depending on personality type and temperament; some of us have a higher threshold than others, but there’s still a threshold.) Until the new habit becomes as automatic as the old one, you’re fighting an uphill battle. The key is sticking to it.

Our brain also works a lot on assumptions. For example, the reality you think you’re seeing is to a large extent manufactured by your brain. Here’s a little experiment to demonstrate.

Your blind spot is a patch in the retina of your eye that has no photoreceptors.

Close your left eye, and keep your right eye fixed on the “+” sign.

Slowly move your head towards and away from the screen you’re viewing this blog on.


black cross and dot blind spot visual exercise.png

At one point, the black dot disappears. That’s because your brain is filling in what it thinks should be there based on what it knows: more gray marble.

Uncertainty Avoidance

As Geert Hofstede found in his research, there is also a cultural component of how we deal with ambiguity. He explains this dimensions on his website (UAI = Uncertainty Avoidance Index):

The uncertainty avoidance dimension expresses the degree to which the members of a society feel uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. The fundamental issue here is how a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? Countries exhibiting strong UAI maintain rigid codes of belief and behaviour and are intolerant of unorthodox behaviour and ideas. Weak UAI societies maintain a more relaxed attitude in which practice counts more than principles.

High uncertainty avoidance may show up in things like extensive bureaucracy, rules, regulations, and relying on written contracts. In business, people may be less inclined to take risks, and less likely to trust ideas, intuition, or improvisation. People of high UAI countries will feel that careful planning and taking all variables into account has a greater chance to predict the future outcome than “winging it”.

Pic found on

Pic found on

The personality type preference you are born with, then, may either be supported by your environment or not so much. For example, growing up with NP preferences in Germany you have probably found ways to relate your brainstorming ideas to predictable patterns, or build them on top of existing certainty.

Awareness helps

Your personality type preferences predispose you to react to uncertainty with more or less anticipation. Your brain processes visual and other information in ways that are most convenient, automatically filling in blind spots to provide a sense of certainty. The culture you grew up in may have nurtured your innate preferences, or taught you different uncertainty avoidance or embracing strategies.

Having an awareness of these factors hopefully helps next time you’re feeling helpless in the face of uncertainty:

  • Remember to simplify and divide complex tasks into manageable pieces
  • Consider that your perception may be skewed and you’re only seeing what your brain expects you to see – can you look harder (from different angles) and find hidden gems?
  • Formulate your novel ideas and plans for change by taking into account cultural bias



Embracing Ambiguity


Embracing Ambiguity

Resilience in the face of adversity as well as patience in the face of uncertainty are two essential skills happy expats have in common.

How can you practice them if you're lacking in the latter department?  

I would suggest that your personality type preferences may play a role, and an awareness of them will enable you to specifically practice those skills.  

For instance, people with a preference for Judging (J) in their type code are known to delight in

  • closing projects,
  • finishing tasks, and
  • checking things off their to-do list,
  • before moving on to the next thing.

Particularly when combined with a sequential orientation to time (one thing after another - not multi-tasking) and a preference for methodical approach to managing projects, not knowing what's next may delay getting anything else even started!

I know this was definitely the case for me when we were in the Canary Islands and hubby started the application process to move to Mexico. Mercifully, things moved rather quickly and I wasn't left up in the metaphorical air for too long. 

People with a preference for Perceiving (P) in their type code are known to delight in

  • starting projects,
  • experiencing and brainstorming options, and
  • staying open to the information-gathering process,
  • before making a decision.

Particularly when combined with a synchronic orientation to time (many things can happen at the same time) and a preference for handling issues as they emerge, these lucky ones may not experience too much anxiety over uncertainty at all.

On the contrary, their anxiety may get triggered if things are moving too fast and decisions need to be made on the spot. During ambiguous phases of waiting, they most likely keep busy by exploring all the potentially interesting neighborhoods they could move to in the new country, new hobbies they can try out, new places they can go, or new people they can meet. 

As ever, it is important to honor your type preferences.

If uncertainty makes you anxious, see if you can break down the long list of things you don't know and find little items that you do know that you can act upon. For example, whether you know you're moving at the end of the month or not, start cleaning out your clothes closet and get rid of any items you no longer need. This will have to be done anyway if you move, and even if you don't, you'll feel like you accomplished something (plus you'll have space for a new pair of shoes you'll reward yourself with regardless).  

If you're handling the vagueness well and your superior uncertainty management skills annoy your J-loving spouse, be kind. Involve them in your exploration expeditions, and soothe them if they start to feel frazzled. Remind them that this phase, too, shall pass, and soon enough decisions will have to be made. 

Either way - remember you are a team. Ideally, your skill sets complement one another. If both of you are of the same persuasion, I challenge one of you to try on the other preference for a day. That way, you'll make sure to have all the bases covered. 

Image by Alexander Duret-Lutz, Flickr, Creative Commons License.


Top 5 expat allegiance patterns


Top 5 expat allegiance patterns

Last week we talked about 6 successful expat characteristics. What about once they're on assignment? Black and Gregersen (1992) grouped them in the following five allegiance patterns.

"Hired Gun Free Agents" feel neither particularly committed to their home nor host country company, but are always open for newer and better job opportunities. They are hired international experts who might cost slightly less than a home country expatriate, but at the same time might leave the assignment on short notice if a better offer presents itself.

The "Plateaued-Career Free Agents," as the name implies, tend to not show high commitment to neither home nor host country due to their feeling of having reached a career plateau. They typically come from inside the home country and might be attracted by the financial package an overseas assignment entails, but do not see themselves achieving promotion in the home country.

In the case of an expatriate showing signs of "Going Native," the allegiance pattern shows high levels of commitment to the local operations but not to the parent company. These expatriates are able to identify strongly with the host country's culture, language and business practices. The parent company might be able to prevent "losing" an expatriate to the local operation, or indeed another company in that country, by establishing a mentor program. The mentor will be in the home country, keeping in close contact with the expatriate during his or her assignment and help them with finding a position upon repatriation.

Contrary to the previous pattern, expatriates can also leave their "Hearts at Home," feeling highly committed to the home country but not so much to the local operation. They will find it hard identifying with the host country's culture, language and business practices. "Hearts at home"rs tend to have lived and worked for the parent company a very long time and have strong ties. Their expat deal will be sweetened by using modern telecommunication, video conferencing, and regular home visits.

Probably the most desirable pattern is called "Dual Citizen." Expatriates falling into this category are highly committed to both home and host country operation and feel responsible for and comfortable with serving both "masters." It is interesting to note at this point that depending on the culture the expatriate is from, he or she might be culturally 'programmed' to be uncomfortable with having to obey two leaders.

Companies can help their expatriates become "dual citizens" by thoroughly preparing them for their assignment, giving them very clear objectives and a clear repatriation plan from the very beginning. Autonomy in how to achieve the objectives help the expatriate develop a flexibility that will make the assignment easier.

Black and Gregersen (1992) found "Dual Citizen"-expatriates to be less likely to end an assignment prematurely and to have a higher probability of staying with the firm after repatriation. They also concluded that the expectations, demands and objectives of the assignment can determine the form of commitment. If a "role conflict" occurs, it is hard for the expatriate to feel responsible for the outcomes and he or she will thus be less committed to either side of the company.

A similar effect can be witnessed with "role ambiguity." Hence a clear set of expectations and objectives as well as a clear repatriation plan are most important for the expatriate to feel safe and concentrate on a successful assignment. The authors found the "most powerful factor in creating dual allegiance" being "role discretion." The freedom to decide what has to be done how and when in order to achieve the objectives gives expats a sense of ownership and thus makes them feel responsible for their actions and the outcomes.

Any personal opinions and experiences you'd like to add? Thank you for leaving a comment!


Black, J. Stewart and Gregersen, Hal B. (1992) Serving two masters: Managing the dual allegiance of expatriate employees, Sloan Management Review, p61

Image by tiffini, flickr, Creative Commons license