A few years back now I did the Myers Briggs Type Indicator assessment as part of workplace training. I’m an INTJ (introversion, intuition, thinking, judgment) in an industry where most front line staff are feelings people. Not me; in fact I lean so heavily away from the feelings end that I should topple over. About 2% of the population are INTJs; here’s what the Myers Briggs Foundation says about my personality type:
Have original minds and great drive for implementing their ideas and achieving their goals. Quickly see patterns in external events and develop long-range explanatory perspectives. When committed, organize a job and carry it through. Skeptical and independent, have high standards of competence and performance – for themselves and others.
On the flip side, they also suggest I may eat or drink too much when stressed. Hmm, can I have a cookie and cider while I think about the implications? Anyway…
Do you remember the Challenger disaster in 1986, when a space shuttle broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members? I do, and seeing it on YouTube can still bring tears to my eyes. Supposedly one of the reasons the disaster occurred was that ground staff had been chosen for the program partly based on personality type (strong go-getters who don’t take no for an answer). When an engineer raised safety concerns the rest suffered from ‘GroupThink’ and overrode him, and an o-ring failed with catastrophic consequences.
What does this have to do with libraries? I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership recently, which is good considering I’m on LIANZA’s Emerging Leaders Working Group. One of the realizations for me is that we need a really wide range of skill sets and personality types for libraries to thrive. Sure we need the strongly feelings-based people who make instant connections with their customers and want to hug kids. We need to work together to create harmonious workplaces where staff feel nurtured and valued. But if we’re to compete for people’s leisure time, fight for scarce dollars, market ourselves with vigor and a hundred other things, we also need people who question the norm, will argue against ‘GroupThink’ and who can see different ways of achieving our goals.
We need teams with a range of skills sets and personality types, and we need to make sure each person feels valued and able to contribute. If libraries fail to survive in this quickly-changing world the impact won’t be as dramatic as the Challenger disaster, but our communities will suffer all the same.
Long live diversity in our libraries, not just among our patrons, but our staff as well. Oh, and for the record, I may be right off the opposite end of the feelings scale, but on a bad day (or is it a good day?) I have been known to hug customers and comfort kids. Just don’t ask me to wear a fluffy costume for tot time