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ENFJ Preferences at Work


ENFJ Preferences at Work

“Warm, supportive, and friendly, ENFJs work well when they can focus on people’s aspirations, develop organized plans to meet goals, and maintain integrity as they work.”(1)

With every new project I work on, every new team I meet in a workshop, every new client I coach with, I try to establish a connection. I open up, heart on sleeve. I may share private information, in an effort to make the other people comfortable to share a bit of themselves with me, too. I hardly even think about it. It’s not a calculated attempt to manipulate, it’s an expression of my extraverted Feeling function wanting to harmonize and connect with others.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it backfires.

As a young Executive Assistant in Spain, I received this piece of advice:

“You really shouldn’t be so friendly with everybody. You should be guarding (your boss) a lot more! You can’t just let anyone in who needs to see him. You need to say “no” more.”

That was a tough pill to swallow, because concentrating on the needs of only one person on a team of, say, 20, significantly narrowed my mood barometer. It’s true, at the time, before learning about emotional intelligence, self-regulating, and simply becoming more mature, my moods often depended on the people around me. When you’re a sucker for positive feedback (and a glutton for punishment), putting all the connection eggs in only one basket is dangerous.

More recently as a self-employed coach and trainer, I find that I indeed find tremendous joy in making plans on how to reach goals. My friends make fun of how many notebooks I buy (I have 3 paper calendars on the go right now, plus Charlie Gilkey’s blog and project planners online), but I use all of them – and even keep most of the information straight. It’s fun to map out what I want to be doing over the next 30, 60, 90 days. What seemed overwhelming looks a lot less daunting and more doable once it’s divvied into action steps, black (as well as red, green, purple, orange, and blue) on white. By the same token, what seemed simple in my mind becomes a lot more concrete and tangible once I try to pin down and describe all the moving parts. 

Again, the tone of my self-talk often depends on how much I got done. If the day or week were spent on emergent tasks, I might write down what I already did just to be able to cross something off. The rest will get postponed. 

Of course I get a sense of satisfaction once something is done, no doubt about it. But it’s also true that the older I get, the more easily distracted I seem to be. It’s hard to get motivated by myself: although I know the work I want to offer is valuable and helpful for people, I still need accountability to get things done. Deadlines, actual clients, my accountability teams, and my coach are helping me with that. It truly takes a village.  

Still, the integrity piece I find most important of all.

During my apprenticeship to become a Foreign Language Secretary, I rotated through various departments. I liked HR best, because I loved how fellow apprentices would pop their heads in with questions or issues, and I was able to help them on the spot. Instant gratification and happy customers – what’s not to love? That’s when I decided to study HR Management, motivated in part because I thought I could do it all better than the department was doing things at the time.

I know, that’s an ENFJ cliché right there, but it’s true.

Once I studied HR and started working in recruitment, however, it became clear that my idea of what an organization should be doing for its employees, and what was actually happening in business, were worlds apart. As Otto Kroeger wrote,

“Inevitably, as they accept promotions, they find themselves at odds with corporate realities: profits, productions, cutbacks, and the like. The more ENFJs rise to the loftier positions within the organization, the more they may be setting themselves up for a struggle between their personal demands and organizational demands. (…) Hence, when an ENFJ is present, no matter what the product or mission, the people involved will be important and human dynamic will be made a central part of the process.”(2)

I know now that taking time to reflect on my values and critically analyzing other potential stakeholders’ goals can save me a lot of worry and doubt. Staying true to myself while continuing to maintain harmony with others is a lifelong quest, and one that I love exploring in the world of work and careers every day - for myself and my clients.

If you have ENFJ preferences and these descriptions resonated with you, why not join me in a webinar specifically for ENFJs and how we can fall in love with our jobs again. You can learn more and sign up here.

(1) Hirsh, Elizabth, Katherine W. Hirsh, Sandra Krebs Hirsh: Introduction to Type® and Teams, 2nd Edition, CPP Inc., 2003

(2) Kroeger, Otto with Janet M. Thuesen: Type Talk at Work – How the 16 Personality Types determine your success on the job, Delacorte Press®, 1992

Image: Vintage National ad, flickr, Creative Commons, by pds209



You’re more prejudiced than you think

Pic Credit: Master Isolated Images

Pic Credit: Master Isolated Images

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 sense of relatedness can trigger them.

I like to start my cross-cultural trainings by saying that it’s completely normal to have stereotypes. We’re simply wired that way – when someone looks different or we don’t know them, our first natural reaction is that of protecting ourselves. This might show up as mistrust and fear. Our brains release stress hormones to shut off logical thinking processes so we can react faster from the more basic fight-or-flight modes.

Stereotypes become problematic if we only take negative information about a people, or if we insist on them and believe that every single German is always punctual, or every single US American is a cowboy. Thankfully, with a little conversation, understanding can be improved and people can often find things they have in common.

Your nose is the best doorman

Our brains make a call whether the people we meet will be friends or enemies without our conscious input. Your nose is a great tool here. For example, you’ve probably heard about the smelly T-Shirt experiment, where scientists were able to show that we’re not attracted to the smells of our own relatives, which makes us more likely to choose mates from other tribes. Helps with genetic diversity and adaptation.

Just like some hormones alert us to the fact that strangers are different, we also have hormones that influence our sense of connection. Mothers giving birth, for example, experience a strong release of oxytocin. This helps with so-called pair bonding and generally encourages maternal behavior. According to Wikipedia,

For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as the "love hormone". There is some evidence that oxytocin promotes ethnocentric behavior, incorporating the trust and empathy of in-groups with their suspicion and rejection of outsiders.[3] Furthermore, genetic differences in the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) have been associated with maladaptive social traits such as aggressive behaviour.[4]

Other research even shows that when you deliver oxytocin via a nasal spray, you are significantly more likely to collaborate with strangers (Kosfeld et al, 2005).  

In-groups make all the difference in China

Yes, you guessed it, there are cultural differences to how much we trust strangers. In countries where e.g. respect is allocated by achievement, it is easier to enter into business negotiations with people you don’t know, as long as they can prove a strong track-record of success and doing their jobs well.

In ascription-oriented countries, especially if there’s an orientation towards the community as well, people have to rely on well-established relationships. “Guanxi” describes the Chinese concept of your network, where “nei” is your in-group, and “wai” is your out-group. Without “Guanxi”, you won’t get anywhere, as British supermarket giant Tesco recently discovered. Getting into the in-group takes time, and many a cup of tea over pleasant conversation, before ever talking about business.

The redeeming quality of prejudice and stereotypes is that once you know they happen at an unconscious level, you can work on making them conscious.

Question your assumptions.

As a society, I believe we’re moving toward a more integrated view. TV, the internet, and globalized business are all helping us be more exposed to cultures from all over the world. We’re learning about different points-of-view and behaviors simply by going to our local deli, exotic restaurants, or working with international team members.

While your first reaction may be “oh, weird”, the more you eat at that restaurant or the more you work with that new person, the more you will get to know them. Your brain will become more familiar seeing faces that look different from the one it sees in the mirror, and gradually, our ideas of in-groups will broaden.

At least that’s what I’m hoping. Since it has taken millennia to form our self-protection circuits, getting to an unconscious openness to strangers may take a while longer. But I also believe that a lot of prejudice is learned, so we can definitely educate our children to question their assumptions.

Like this teacher did:




Extraverted Intuiting Ne

Ne doodle You use extraverted Intuiting or Ne when you're brainstorming. When you're projecting ideas into the future. When interpreting alternative meanings and seeing options. When finding commonalities among those options. "We have a pot of rice, what could we do with it? Oh, I know, we could add beans, corn, and cilantro and have a Mexican fiesta! Or, we have brokkoli and thai paste, if we get some coconut milk, we could have a thai curry. That reminds me, when we go to the store, we need to get toothpaste and a screwdriver. I want to get started on that arts project. We can do it together after dinner!"

ENTP ENFPFor people with Ne as their dominant function, they cannot not see -and want to explore- potential possibilities. Virtually anything you say will trigger a whole host of connections between seemingly unrelated items, and the opportunities they hold. Expats preparing for an assignment using Ne are likely to imagine all the possibilities they are going to have in the new country, and what they'll be able to do and accomplish.

If Ne is in different positions in your type dynamics, below is an overview pieced together with only a few items taken from Understanding Yourself and Others, An Introduction to the Personality Type Code, by Linda V. Berens and Dario Nardi. Let me say this again to be very clear: the description of how Ne can be expressed in the different positions is not exhaustive and only meant to give you an overview. I would love to have you comment below how it shows up for you.

Extraverted Intuiting Ne

If you'd like to practice your Ne skills, take some time to brainstorm up ideas without censoring yourself. Take five pieces of unrelated news headlines and try to find a connection. Play "Six degrees of Kevin Bacon".

Repeat the exercise to train your brain and establish new neuronal pathways.

Brain on NePS: Here's what your brain, or at least the upper area of the neocortex looks like on Ne: it's like a Christmas tree lighting up, all areas firing more or less simultaneously. Your brain can also show this pattern for non-Ne activities: when you're drunk. :-)

I got certified in Dario's Neuroscience of Personality program last year, and highly recommend it. If you'd like to do it, find dates near you here.