Random books from my library

Do you already know LibraryThing?  If you are a book-lover like me, you should immediately surf to www.librarything.com and find out about it. There are more books catalogued there than in the Library of Congress, currently over 33 million books. You can also find interesting statistics on the popularity of books among connoisseurs – I was able to find out that If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller (1979) is Italo Calvino’s most popular book among librarythingers. Shame on me, I haven’t read it! Fortunately there is a female book-lover in our home who has invested in all these books I am cataloguing in LibraryThing.

It would also be nice to show you some book covers from our home library, but – being a new WordPress blogger, I’ve not yet learnt how to paste in some html code, which would then link to random booklists from our home library catalogue at LibraryThing.

Is there any use of cataloguing your books in an internet site? Definitely, because these data can be accessed e.g. with your smartphone when you’re in a bookstore and start wondering whether we already had this or that book by Jaan Kross (this Estonian author is one of the greatest novelists in Europe, but unfortunately his books are less well known in the English-speaking world) or Saul Bellow. I bought a paperback version of his Herzog over forty years ago during my exchange student year in the United States- but haven’t still read the book! Well, fortunately our female booklover has, so I can ask for her comments…

Congratulations to all readers of this blog in the United States – you now have a president-elect who is even an able book-writer.  I’ve now got Barack Obama’s second book The Audacity of Hope on my night table. It looks more political than his first book, but perhaps now that he will be the 44th president of the United States, it would not be wasted time to read about his political views. Does he now have the audacity to choose Hillary Clinton to be the Secretary of State – that we shall see in a few weeks.  It would be a fitting continuation of female secretaries of state – for a person whose talent would match the post. Should we get acquianted even with her writing skills?

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A Halloween Hello, the election is coming!

THANKS FOR STOPPING BY! It’s nearly two years since my previous posting at another address on human resources issues. Those posts have been imported even to this address, but here at https://bookeric.wordpress.com there’s going to be no limit to topics and themes – it is going to be a blog on all current issues, whether they be political, literary, ethical or psychology-related. The language of writing may be English or also my native Finnish.

In three days we will see the exciting results of the U.S. presidential election.  Judged by the results of the unofficial voting arranged outside the U.S. by The Economist at www.economist.com Barack Obama seems to have much, much more friends outside the United States than John McCain.  Of course the choice has to be made by American citizens.  Both candidates would make able presidents, but many appear to have doubts of Sarah Palin’s competence, which may be a risk, should she need to take responsibility for the presidency. I cannot but join Colin Powell’s comments about why Obama would be the better choice for the U.S. right now.

[An additional comment on Tuesday evening 4th November: The voting is right now taking place in America, people are lining up in the polling stations, and we Europeans already look forward to watching our morning news – will we hear the result in the 6 am news, or are the West Coast votes needed to ensure the result…?  Let’s hope we won’t need even a little help from the friends in the Supreme Court – remember the scandal eight years ago?  In any case, The Economist’s global voting was closed today, and Obama collected 9,115 electoral votes (97,8 per cent of all) while McCain only got 203!  Are the readers of The Economist much too young, much too educated, much too liberal – or are they perhaps on the right track…?  This result is even more surprising than the recently broadcasted 15-6 for Obama at Dixville Notch, New Hampshire.]

My appreciation for Barack Obama grew considerably by reading his autobiography Dreams from My Father, published already fourteen years ago. It is written very well by an intelligent and emphatic person.  Similar positive qualities of Barack’s personality were referred to in the recent TV documentary Obama vs. McCain, where some people he worked with during his Harvard days were interviewed.

It is also a choice between two generations – Barack could be John’s son.  It is a fact that people above 70 may have not only wisdom of experience but also considerable energy – I am between 50 and 60 and have known many high-energy persons older than 75 – but is the U.S. presidency really the kind of job in which a man of McCain’s age would thrive?  His supporters will probably say that reference to his age is discrimination (“age racism”), or that Obama has too little experience for the position, but in fact we have lots of excellent examples of persons who have entered key leadership positions in his age and been extremely successful.

Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning for even us Europeans will in any case be an exciting moment.  The President of the United States is a powerful figure who affects even the future of countless people outside his own country. If you are entitled to vote, consider what you are doing for the world.

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Where does an individual’s reputation originate?

As an HR professional who has participated in quite a few recruitment & selection projects, I have lately started to wonder how employees and managers develop – often without any planned effort – their own reputation in organizations. I am not referring to reputations that depend on different opinions, views and other issues causing disagreements, and also not to performance problems.

Some of us have developed an excellent reputation, others a less admirable one, but (so it seems to me) the reputation and the true character of the person do not always match. And if a mismatch occurs, the case in which neither the person nor her/his employer wins is when someone has a reputation essentially worse than what s/he is like in reality.

In work communities, important sources of reputation can be found by observing how people behave and interact. Social skills are a valuable source of reputation-building and should never be under-estimated.

But what about a person’s relative difference from others or from the most frequent kinds of personalities in the organization? Does for instance a person with a strongly “academic” communication style have any chances for thriving in a manufacturing organization – or the frank and pragmatic production expert at the Research Lab? Does the extreme Extravert or the Extreme Introvert suffer from being such a rare and extreme type? Do people closer to the centre of any behavioural dimensions enjoy better reputations simply because they are closer to the majority of their colleagues?

Did you ever experience that your own reputation changed, when your environment or your own responsibilities changed? As this has probably happened to many, our reputations are context-dependent, not caused only by our own actions, even though they are important as well.

Reputation is related to success. This is evident at organization level; there is even an international consulting network, The Reputation Institute (see www.reputationinstitute.com), which wants to “advance knowledge about corporate reputations and help companies create economic value by implementing coherent reputing strategies”.

There is also plenty of more or less valuable self-help literature available on impression management and personal branding, for those of us who want to start a conscious improvement effort, but do we actually have valid, research-based knowledge on the formation process of personal reputations?

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Has the Ideal Leader’s profile been found?

In their very practical and recommendable book The Owner’s Manual for Personality at Work (Bard Press 2001) Pierce J. Howard and Jane Mitchell Howard of CentACS (Center for Applied Cognitive Studies, see www.centacs.com) make a bold statement:

“…the natural leader defined in Big Five [personality traits] terms is resilient (N-), energetic, outgoing and persuasive (E+), visionary (O+), competitive (A-) and dedicated to a goal (C+).”

A rough translation of the profile of this ideal leader to Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) terms indicates that the Howards very highly value the leadership capabilities of a non-Neurotic ENTJ. This comes close to Otto Kroeger’s and Janet M. Thuesen’s nickname for one of their favourites for leadership positions, the ENTJ: “Life’s Natural Leaders” (see their book Type Talk at Work).

But, would it be so simple as this – to assume that there is one ideal profile for a successful leader? Isn’t it much more likely that different situations and even different organisational functions often require quite different types of leaders? In history, there have been many successful leaders of other types. The truth might not be quite as simple as suggested by the Howards.

Yet probably most of us would agree that the opposite of this ideal profile, an N+ E- O- A+ C- (in Big Five traits terms) or a Neurotic ISFP (in MBTI terms), would not very often have success as a leader.

The MBTI practitioner ethic emphasises that the Indicator should not be used as a screening tool in recruitment processes. Contrary to this, CentACS, a consultancy working with the Big Five personality profiling, clearly recommends this trait-based approach for use in recruitment. Oh yes, the MBTI profile is based on types, not traits, but isn’t the MBTI actually evolving towards a trait-measuring instrument, which would be more acceptable also in the academic community? That’s at least what the MBTI Step II appears to emulate, with each of the four dicotomies further analysed into five facets – very reminiscent of the Big Five personality traits, which also consist of a number of facets.

So, what direction should we take, when choosing persons to leadership positions in organisations? Besides their track record and accomplishments, should we increase our reliance on a valid personality assessment, based on measuring candidates’ traits – using the Big Five or even the MBTI – and perhaps also compare results to personality profiles of persons who have been successful in similar kinds of jobs? What’s your opinion?

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Personality testing – an American Cult?

Reading Annie Murphy Paul’s well-written but somehow suspicious book The Cult of Personality Testing (Free Press, paperback, 2005) is a worthwhile experience, but this book really provokes in me the thought that Ms. Paul is throwing the baby away with the bath water. The one and only acceptable way of describing personality seems for her to be the “life story” developed by Professor Dan McAdams of Northwestern University. All or most other schools of personality research are presented as more or less worthless.

As a European HR professional, I am not very well aware of the trends in the discussion on personality psychology on the American contintent. Professor McAdams’ approach to assessing personalities certainly seems quite valid and credible, and is most likely to offer a deeper view of the client’s personality. Based on a fairly superficial reading, the “life story” appears an extremely qualitative method. But, is there really nothing worth preserving in the earlier, more quantitative schools of personality assessment, as Ms. Paul seems to propose? No value whatever in the Rorschach or Raymond Cattell’s 16PF? Even though the late Professor Cattell had in his advanced years created some very strange sociopolitical ideas, his inventory might still be a valid tool. We shouldn’t condemn scientists merely on the basis of their political ideas, even though anyone active in the human sciences should also bear responsibility for the betterment of humanity.

As to the recent development of personality theories, both the “Big Five” theorists and the MBTI school have recently sophisticated their models by dividing the five or four basic traits or dicotomies further into 20 or 30 “facets”. This seems a very realistic direction, which might eventually mean that these two personality schools, based on different theories, are approaching each other. This type of “merging” development could strengthen the role of applied personality research both in the academia and in work organisations. But, it might also eventually lead into a future which is not envisioned by Annie Murphy Paul and other journalist-type critics of personality testing.

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How does your personality match with different jobs?

As a senior human resources professional, currently working mainly in recruitment and selection in a major manufacturing company, I have been intrigued by different theories of personality and their relevance to organisations.

So many of us have had the opportunity to do a self-assessment on our Myers-Briggs (MBTI) personality types. I did mine already in 1985. Since then, I’ve always come out as an ENTJ, an Extraverted INtuitive Thinking Judging type, no matter what version or “cousin” of MBTI I used. (To get an overview of MBTI typology in work settings, the book by Otto Kroeger & al. is a popular and practical introduction.)

Many MBTI writers have noted that **TJ types or “Judging Thinkers” excel in managerial jobs. On the other hand, an ethical use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator does not support using the tool for selection purposes. Well, who would rely on a single personality indicator when making important selection decisions? Still, aren’t we taking great risks when choosing **FP persons or “Perceptive Feelers” to managerial positions, especially if the job requires analysis and structure?

For work organisations, it is important to know about the relationships of individual personalities to success at work. As the average education level of people is getting higher and higher, education as such is no longer the key competitive advantage. The new advantages can be found in how we behave, how we react, how flexible and versatile we can be, in other words in our personality differences. Success in organisations but also in individual careers means matching personalities to positions.

My vision is to share practitioners’ and job-changers’ views on the connections between work and personality, mainly for exchange of experience or professional opinion. Even though I love relevant research on work psychology, the emphasis would not be on research, as there are already enough forums for research articles. Neither would this site be one for “believers”, whether they be MBTI lovers or proponents of other classification tools.

I believe that there are many of us in different organisations who want to understand these things better. I would welcome proposals for links to useful web pages, short reviews of relevant books and primarily stories on what has turned out to be successful in real work-life settings and what has caused disappointments.

Anyone out there with a desire to share experiences in this thrilling area of work psychology, so relevant to personal and organisational well-being?

Wishing you welcome to comment!

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