In my experience, fear has always manifested itself in two distinct ways, which for the purposes of this post, I’ve labeled “instinctual fear” and “self-made fear”.

Instinctual Fear
Instinctual fear is the survival mechanism that’s hard-wired into our DNA. Its purpose is to trigger a “fight or flight” response to real or potential dangers, and it reminds us that “things that go bump in the night” might be hazardous to our health. This type of fear usually keeps us from doing really dumb things like trying to pet a rabid dog, or take a stroll down a dark alley in an unfamiliar neighborhood. For me, the hairs on the back of my neck begin to stand up as a last-ditch reminder that I’m about to do something that my instincts tell me is probably STUPID.

In situations that pose an immediate or imminent physical threat, our first act must be to suppress any panic that we feel, followed immediately by engaging our experience and defense mechanisms which enable us to run, duck, fight, shoot, or whatever actions seem appropriate given the situation. Under no circumstances should we let our instinctual fear blindly control our actions. Panic is never the best option. We need to use the fear signal as the alarm to the thinking part of our brain so that we can quickly assess our options and then act with urgency. Now I’m not attempting to insult your intelligence here, but the reason I bring it up is to re-enforce the fundamental principle that we need to control our fears and not have them control us. Fear needs to be an “adviser” and not “the boss”, and this is especially important when dealing with our self-made fears.

Self-Made Fear
This second form of fear is far less beneficial, and frankly, can be down right debilitating. These self-made fears if left unchecked can be crippling to an individual, a team, or a project. We humans fear many more things than our physical well-being. Humans (even us “wolfie types”) have brains that love to invent fears. We often think about worst-case scenarios and fret over “what might happen if…”. This is especially true when we’re in positions of authority and part of our function is to actually plan for the “what if’s”. We recognize that what we say and do can have a significant impact on our reputation, our team, the project we’re working on, and potentially, the bottom line of our business. This responsibility can blur the line between what is, or could be real, and what is “trumped-up” by other emotions, and we must constantly “check our fears at the door” if we want to make smart, informed choices about things that matter.

These self-made fears can be broken down into a wide range of phobias (if you’re interested, click here to see a huge list of them), most of which go far beyond my level of expertise to deal with and the scope of this post. I am however, pretty good at working through the fear of “stepping outside the box”, which doesn’t exactly show up on “the list”, but has many underlying phobias contributing to it.

We typically like to stay within our comfort zones at work and in our personal lives. We may sneak in an adventure every now and then; we’ll try a new type of food or activity, travel to an exotic location, or impulsively buy something for the sake of wanting something “different”. But, when was the last time that you made a bold choice about something that could REALLY impact your life or your work place…and how did you deal with it?

So who’s driving the bus?…

We often talk ourselves into taking the safe road believing that our decisions are driven purely on the basis of our experience, but more often than not, we make these safe choices because fear is “driving the bus”. We often won’t consciously spend much time in assessing the alternatives to the “path well-traveled”, because the unknown, or less familiar paths are “scary” and the voice inside our head (yes, I do hear a voice, and no, I’m not crazy…well maybe) screams “don’t do it because you will [place appropriate negative word or phrase here], so why take the risk.”

Let’s face it; there’s nothing wrong with staying in our comfort zone most of the time. We’ve earned the right to reap the benefits of our skills and experience, and frankly, to actively question everything we do would pretty much guarantee that anything we do will take longer than it should. What I’m really talking about are those situations where we respond from a place of fear and not because of sound and rational judgment.

So how do we know when we’re likely reacting out of fear instead of via a rational thought process? Often, the telltale sign is the level of angst that we’re feeling about the situation we’re facing. Think back for a moment and search your memories over the last few months and ask yourself whether you’ve come across a situation (maybe more than one) where your angst level rose high enough to make you struggle with what approach to take. Did you take the time to analyze the alternatives with a clear and rational mind, or did you allow yourself to react based on what your “voice of fear” was telling you about all the bad things that would “absolutely happen” if you took a chance. Did you take the path less traveled, or did you take the safe road? Maybe it was a career changing opportunity, or a product feature that your team was proposing (or struggling with), or the realization that you made a mistake that you had to “fess up to”. How did you behave? If you handled the situation calmly and rationally (even if you ultimately chose to take the safe path), then congratulations! You didn’t let your inner “self-fear demon” get in the way of making what was most probably the right choice.

Deciding whether fear or your good sense and experience is guiding you can be difficult IF you don’t tease apart the problem in a logical and rational way. If you just casually allow your gut to make the choice, it will be a “crap shoot” as to whether you are letting your little fear demon ( I call mine George) take the driver’s seat, or whether your rational, experienced self is in control. Now don’t get me wrong, I really pay close attention to what my gut is telling me, but I also recognize that if my gut is being driven by an irrational fear, it WILL lead me astray.

In one of my previous posts (Growing Your Inner Wolf – Part 4) I brought up the concept of the “pregnant pause” when confronted with any new or unusual situation. This technique works well when we want to experiment with working beyond our default behaviors, but it also works extremely well when dealing with any self-made fears that might be trying to “grab onto the steering wheel”. I personally find that by taking a moment to ask myself WHY my gut wants me to take a given path, allows my rational mind to take charge which gives me a good chance of figuring out whether it’s my experience and skill-set that’s driving my choices, or whether George or one of his fear-demon buddies is in control. Of course, in order for this to work, you need to really understand yourself and allow yourself to be open and honest about the things that scare you.

If you don’t know yourself sufficiently well to be able to quickly assess whether it’s experience or fear that’s driving you, you can take a more methodical approach to seeking the answer. One way to go about this is to write down the most positive and negative possible outcomes to the situation. Often, seeing the extremes on paper (or your visual medium of choice) helps to clearly bound the problem, while allowing both the rational and irrational voices to be heard without either dominating the process.

The next steps can be as complicated or as simplistic as one wants them to be, and are often situationally dependent. There are a multitude of ways to build decision trees or matrices, or to analyze the best paths to success and identifying the risks that can lead to failure. But throughout the process, every time that a high-risk factor to success is identified, the key take-away needs to be whether the risk is based on something tangible that can be assessed and overcome or an intangible fear that is causing much more concern than it should. In doing so, you will give yourself (and your team if you involve them in the process) an opportunity to shake any irrational fears loose and concentrate on what is real and actionable.

In future posts I will endeavor to outline some specific methodologies that can be used to help with critical decision-making and risk mitigation which are both often over-influenced by fear,  but for now, this post is long enough, and I hope sufficiently thought-provoking to keep you busy for a while.

In closing, here’s a quote that speaks volumes to me and is now permanent addition to my Quotable Quotes page). I hope you find it as inspiring as I do.

  • “Many of our fears are tissue-paper-thin, and a single courageous step would carry us clear through them” – Brendan Francis

© 2010 John C. Rea and nothingbutwolves.wordpress.com

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In 1996 I was asked to present at a Project World Conference being held in Santa Clara CA. I was the Director of Program Management for a large division of 3Com Corporation at the time, and while I’d been managing projects and people for over 20 years at that point, this was my first experience at presenting to a large and diverse audience of fellow Project Managers. The presentation resonated so well with the audience that I was asked to present it at two more Project World Conferences in 1997.

This posting includes an exact copy of the presentation that I gave 14 years ago (except for the intro slide, which I just created), and in reviewing it after all of these years, I’m struck by the fact that some things never change…what was true in 1996, is still true today.

My world-view at the time was already evolving into proactively growing individuals into wolves rather than just “dealing with cat-like behaviors”, and this presentation (with a few tweaks) could be retitled “Preemptive Damage Control”…which is my term for the art of avoiding problems by actively watching and listening to a team so that they can be purposefully directed to “maneuver around them”. Enjoy it and let me know what you think.

Herding Cats (circa 1996)

While I’m on the subject of “Herding Cats”…here’s a very funny video that you might have already seen, but even if you have, it’s well worth a second viewing

Superbowl Commercial circa 2000

© 2010 John C. Rea and nothingbutwolves.wordpress.com

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The Big Picture and your personal challenge

This post is going to be quite different from my previous posts in that there will be a large amount of content contained in an executable, “interactive PDF file”. This is an experiment in giving the reader a large amount of information in a “visually interesting format” presented in organized, bite-sized, chunks. Don’t get me wrong, there are still lots of words, but I felt that it was important to present the material in a more holistic way than I could do with the words in “blog format” alone. I’ve also included a more “formal” 37 page PDF file of the same material as an option to those readers who prefer a more traditional style of documentation.

As an aside, the interactive document was created using Mindjet MindManager 8 SW. Frankly, I’ve been using the concept of mindmapping as a brainstorming, planning, and outlining tool for years and Mindjet’s SW in particular, since their first release. If you’re unfamiliar with the technique or their SW, I suggest that you take a look at their website by clicking here. This is an unsolicited and unpaid plug for something that I believe will serve you well as you continue to exercise and grow your “wolfie” abilities. Also, let me know if you’re interested in learning more about using mindmapping techniques to help you get through some of your complicated planning, brainstorming, and communications tasks….I’m always interested in teaching and assisting people in using these techniques to help solve tough problems that require creative ways to “peel back the layers of the onion”.

OK, now on to the subject matter…

I’m going to break up the cadence a bit by only briefly touching on the next two core words in the series, (traits and skills) and instead, concentrate on core word number six (behavior).

There really isn’t too much more that I want to elaborate about the nature of traits other than they’re deeply associated with our type, temperament, and the values we choose to live by. Within the PDF files, I’ve outlined some traits that are generally associated with each of the sixteen Personality Types and Temperaments, as well as the Values that I believe are important. I personally believe that we can all consciously employ our non-default traits, but this requires a deep understanding of who we are and what the situation that we’re facing, calls for…but hey, I’m getting ahead of myself…more about that later in this post.

Skills on the other hand, and soft skills in specific, really need to be elaborated upon, and are extremely important to discuss. However, I won’t attempt to lump such important topics into a single, general discussion, but rather over the life of this blog I will work through examples and tips pertaining to all of the soft skills that I’ve identified in the PDF files (and more that I haven’t touched upon). For now however, I hope that the included list will stimulate you enough to evaluate your own degree of proficiency in each, and add a few more that I’ve overlooked. The better we are at mastering these vital skills, the more significant our contributions become and the more influence we have over our own destiny and the destiny of the pack.

I also won’t be wasting your time by defining and dissecting all of the possible hard skills an individual might need to perform a given function. That would truly be a waste of words and bandwidth. I will in some future posts call out a couple of specific hard skills to take a deeper look at, but for now, suffice it to say, an individual needs some level of proficiency in the hard skills that are required to perform certain functions, and these hard skills are highly individualized to your specific situation. The more proficient you are at these, the more creative and productive you become…it’s as simple as that.

Now to get to the meat (or veggies for those of you who lean that way) of this post, which is Behavior. Behavior is the culmination of all the elements I’ve been discussing so far in this series, plus two more; Needs, and Experience. To me, the concept of behavior is best represented visually rather than with just a wordy description. By looking at it holistically, the individual components seem easier to understand, and hopefully you will be able to “connect the dots” and see what’s driving some of your own behaviors. My goal here was not to write some all-inclusive thesis on the subject, but rather to highlight the key elements necessary for individuals to consciously take charge of their behaviors and channel their energies toward becoming the wolf they want to be.

You may recall (if you’ve read the page on this blog titled So why wolves?), I highlighted three key elements (or overall behaviors if you will) to being a wolf, which are:

  • Situational Awareness
  • Situational Adaptability
  • Social Intelligence

In order to become proficiency in these, we need a fourth element, which is Self-awareness. We need to truly understand our own strengths and weaknesses in order to optimize our ability to perform well in ALL situations. This self-awareness doesn’t happen by accident, but rather by design. It begins, as I’ve stated before, by recognizing how we will likely react to both people and problems by DEFAULT. These reactions stem from our experiences, skills, values and of course, our personality type, but it doesn’t have to end there. Frankly, I believe that this is where it BEGINS.

We always have a choice as to how we react in any given situation. If we don’t take the time to think about what to do, we will ALWAYS jump straight to our default behaviors. Often, this is not a bad thing, but if you practice asking yourself if it’s “the right thing to do” FIRST, the outcome will likely be better.

We need to make a conscious choice each and every time we’re faced with a new challenge. We need to quickly (often, instantaneously) assess the situation and determine the best course of action. This process ALWAYS starts with asking the right questions (of ourselves and/or others) which is probably THE most important soft skill that needs to mastered.

This “pregnant pause” before jumping into action doesn’t have to be a slow and plodding process. It can be a mere split second of assessment of the alternatives, and frankly, the more you practice this ability to “think and ask before leaping”, the easier it gets. Obviously, life threatening situations are different from product development situations and fielding tough questions at your next Board Meeting. Each situation has its own time-line of urgency, necessary levels of accuracy and precision, and of course, its own set of consequences if you screw it up.

I suggest that the next time you’re facing a difficult situation, that instead of just “looking before you leap”, you “think before you leap” and ask yourself WHY you think what you’re doing (or about to do) is the right choice. Look at the situation from more than one perspective. Ask yourself what someone else who doesn’t know what you know, would do, or ask a trusted colleague what they would do in this situation. Of course, don’t get stuck in “analysis paralysis”, but start to try to think differently, and see if you have an epiphany. You may still come up with the same reaction (or answer), but at least you’ve given yourself an opportunity to look at other possibilities. Oh, by the way…if you’re standing on the railroad tracks and you see a train coming and you decide to take a “pregnant pause” to contemplate your options…don’t take too long, and by all means, “jump AWAY from the tracks!”….I can’t afford the bad press about how I suggested that “you think about it before you act”. 😉

OK, so to summarize this series in a nut shell… “To GROW your inner wolf, you must KNOW your inner wolf”. You need to understand what makes you, YOU. You need to determine whether your current values, traits, and skills are “good enough” or require “realignment”. You need to evaluate your experience and actively decide whether your needs are being met to your satisfaction. You also need to think about “what’s coming next, or better yet, actively decide “where you want to go”. You need to do all the hard work necessary to enhance the things you like, and change the things that are holding you back.

I hope that this series has inspired you to take a long hard look at yourself, and while I haven’t really provided any solid answers for you at this point, I hope I’ve posed enough of the right questions to get you thinking about who you are, and what you want to do to become the wolf you want to be.

The interactive PDF file can be accessed by clicking the image directly below

For those of you who are more conservative, and would prefer to access a more “classic” PDF document, click the Thumbnail directly below for the “boring version” 😉

Better yet, check out both versions and let me know which one gives you the best “feel” for the material, and while you’re at it, let me know what you think about the subject matter…I’m really interested in knowing whether this series has stimulated anyone’s brain cells other than mine!

© 2010 John C. Rea and nothingbutwolves.wordpress.com

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Listening to Your Inner Voice

Since my last post was agonizingly long for a typical blog posting, I’ll attempt to keep this one shorter and to the point…well, at least to the point anyway.

To continue fleshing out the first five core words, I find word three (Values) to be the trickiest one to nail-down in an objective way. As I mentioned in my previous post, the simple definition of Values is straight forward enough: A set of principles, standards, or qualities considered worthwhile or desirable.

But I, like everyone else on the planet, have my own ideas as to what qualities, standards, and principles are deemed “worthwhile”.

To me, values fall into two categories; personal, and communal or in other words; wolf, and pack. Pack values are commonly shared values and are deemed important, if not critical, to the survival or well-being of the members at large, while any additional “unique or evolved” personal values of a given wolf assist or drive that wolf’s destiny within the pack. While I’m convinced that there’s no universally accepted minimal set of values that drives everyone, I do believe that there are a select few core values that makes us wolves (assuming of course, that you still buy into the whole premise of this blog: wolves-good!, shepherds, cats, sheep and chickens-not so much!).

I’ve run across a wide variety of opinions on the subject of values over the years. Matter of fact, I recently came across a website that quotes 374 very specific personal values (CLICK HERE TO READ THEM ALL). Now frankly, there are many items on this list that I don’t consider to be “values” as I see them. I personally think of values as a set of deep-seated beliefs that fuel the fire within us. Many of the items on this list seem to me to be more like traits which are the quantitative set of actions that stem from our values. Of course, that’s just my opinion, and I encourage you to view the list and judge for yourself.

If I continue with the premise that values are synonymous with fundamental beliefs, then I can more easily collapse a huge list of potentially desirable “actions” into a few core values that I believe every individual who aspires to be a wolf needs to have. This is not an exhaustive list of personal values, but rather these are the values that each member of the pack needs to resonate with in order to maintain the cohesiveness of the pack. They’re defined IMHO by some of their associated traits, which are by-products (or actions if you prefer) of the belief:

  • Integrity – traits: honesty, openness, trustworthy, ethical, principled, honorable
  • Loyalty – traits: faithfulness, steadfastness, devoted
  • Purposefulness – traits: determined, persistent, resolute, deliberate

I’m convinced that these are the bare minimum beliefs that an individual must embrace in order to be a valued member of a pack (or team, or family). Of course, I may be somewhat jaded due to my own internal personality type…I’m and ENTJ for those of you who prescribe to the MBTI concept (see my previous post for more info on the topic), but I truly believe that these three values span all 16 personality types described by Myers-Briggs and Keirsey.

Going beyond the pack values, there are a wide variety of personal values that help form who we are and what inner voices drive us, and if you’ve taken my suggestion and done some additional research (and maybe even taken a test or two) and uncovered which of the 16 unique personality types most fits you, you will have a better sense of what additional values you deem to be “worthy”. I will not venture into what you should or should not believe in….those choices are for you to discover on your own, so take some time and think about what drives you and ask yourself if you are receiving (or providing) enough value from the values you’re holding on to.

© 2010 John C. Rea and nothingbutwolves.wordpress.com

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Get a cup of coffee, or your caffeinated drink of choice (no alcohol yet please, this will be hard enough to get through sober!). Put the kids to bed; close the door to your office; turn off the TV; or whatever else you need to do to get 20 minutes of uninterrupted “quiet time”, because this is a very long and relatively important post, and I’d like to make sure that you’ve got the time to read it in peace.

To begin the process of teasing apart the things that make us who we are, I’m going to start off with some simple definitions of some very simple words that have very complex implications when they’re applied to people.

The first six core words:

  • Type: The psychological classification of qualitative differences between individuals
  • Temperament: An individual’s consistent and relatively stable pattern of reactions to situations that persists across time and activity
  • Values: A set of principles, standards, or qualities considered worthwhile or desirable
  • Traits: A relatively stable quantitative set of predispositions to act in a certain way
  • Skills: A set of proficiencies that have been acquired or developed through training or experience
  • Behavior: The actions or reactions of an individual in response to external or internal stimuli

Type and Temperament

For the remainder of this post, I’m going to focus on only the first two of this initial batch of core words because I believe they’re truly the most critical to understanding an individual’s “baseline” (not to mention that this is already going be a very long post!). I’m sure that not everyone shares the view that individuals can be “categorized” by a series of questions regarding their preferences. To those “Doubting Thomases” amongst you, all I can say is that the years of research behind the theories combined with my own personal experiences over the last 30+ years in leadership positions has convinced me that there is a huge amount of merit in this body of knowledge.


In the 1920’s, Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung’s asserted that individuals could be “typed” by their particular preferences and that we all have basic characteristics that are a fundamental part of who we are.

Since then, two major systems have emerged to “type” individuals. The more popular of the two is the MBTI (Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator) which expands upon Jung’s research. Katherine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Myers, developed a questionnaire about preferences, which was designed to help people determine their personality types. It groups individuals into sixteen types based on their responses to a very specific set of questions. Today, the MBTI is the most widely used psychological instrument in the world, and frankly, many of you may have already been exposed to the “official questionnaire” or a reasonable facsimile of it during your working lives.

The second major system is called The Enneagram whose roots go back many centuries before Jung put his theories together. A Russian mystic and spiritual teacher named Gurdjieff introduced the system in Europe in the 1920’s and it was popularized in the US by Oscar Ichazo in the late 1960’s. This system is represented by a circle containing a nine-pointed “star” with each point identifying a significant personality type.

For my purposes, I’m going to focus only on the MBTI for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s a more established and recognized methodology than The Enneagram, and appears to me (IMHO) to be “more accurate” (assuming anything related to predicting human behavior is accurate). Secondly, the MBTI is often used in conjunction with The Enneagram to help with it’s accuracy, so you might as well understand the MBTI first. If you’re curious and want to explore more about The Enneagram, I suggest that you CLICK HERE.


The MBTI system identifies four basic dimensions of human personality, each of which deals with an important aspect of life. I won’t be going into the level of detail necessary for you to get the full picture, but I do want you to be aware of the concept at a high-level at this point, and I will suggest some next steps for you at the end of this post.

The preferences are listed in four pairs of opposites:

    • Individuals who prefer Extraverting get their energy from the outer world of people, activities, and things.
    • Individuals who prefer Introverting get their energy from their inner world of ideas, impressions, and thoughts.
    • Individuals who prefer Sensing pay attention to information taken in directly through their five senses and focus on what is or what was.
    • Individuals who prefer iNtuiting pay attention to their sixth sense, to hunches and insights, and they focus on what might be.
  • DECIDING preferences: THINKING (T) and FEELING (F)
    • Individuals who prefer Thinking make decisions in a logical and objective way
    • Individuals who prefer Feeling make decisions in a personal, values-oriented way.
    • Individuals who prefer Judging tend to live in an organized, planned way.
    • Individuals who prefer Perceiving tend to live in a spontaneous, flexible way.

A preference is an inborn tendency to be, think, or act in a certain way. Over the years, we change and grow, and often appear “different” at various points in our lives, but according to the experts, our basic personality type remains the same.

We will often identify with both preferences in a pair (at least to some degree), but there’s always one that we rely on more often and naturally gravitate toward. Our strongest preference is the one that comes most easily and automatically; its opposite is the one that we struggle with more. No preference is better or worse than it’s opposite. They’re simply different. Each has natural strengths and each has potential weaknesses.

Day-in, day-out, we utilize both our default preferences as well as those less comfortable ones. We don’t however, use them with equal frequency, ease, or success. Although we can use either, we can’t use both at once. When one preference comes into the foreground, the other one falls behind. We can, however, exercise either, IF WE ACTIVELY THINK ABOUT IT, so knowing where we start is important so we can  learn to “exercise our free will” to adapt to situations that are best suited for a “personality type” other than our “default type”

I won’t go into any intimate details about the sixteen different personality types in this post, rather, I’m going to leave that task up to the reader. Instead, I’m going to jump right into a discussion on Temperament (before you start to snore).


Temperament can be described as a pattern of characteristic behaviors that reflect an individual’s natural disposition. People of the same temperament have similar core values, and they have many characteristics in common. Since temperament is inborn, and not acquired, a consistency of actions and behaviors can be observed from a very early age, even before the events of life imprint themselves upon an individual.

Temperament defines what we need and value and what we truly hunger for. These needs, values, and desires determine our actions and behaviors. Understanding your temperament can give you a pretty good idea what you or someone you know will do by default, in most situations (most of the time).

The idea that people fall into four basic categories of temperament is not a new concept. Four basic temperaments have been observed over many centuries by people from diverse cultures, and have been given many different names over the years. While Myers and Briggs did not set out to describe temperaments, their description of the sixteen personality types was found to fit neatly into the four historical temperaments which David Keirsey was studying in the late 1970’s.

Understanding the four temperaments as described by Keirsey makes it easier for individuals to comprehend the sixteen personality types as described by the MBTI. The temperament themes provide cluster patterns within the personality types.

Using Myers-Briggs terminology, the four temperament themes are:

  • SJ – Sensing Judging: Duty Seekers – motivated to be responsible in whatever social group they’re in; they value “tradition”
  • SP – Sensing Perceiving: Action Seekers – motivated by a need for freedom and a need to act; they value “living in the moment”
  • NT – iNtuiting Thinking: Knowledge Seekers – motivated by the need for knowledge and competency; they value the “powers of the mind”
  • NF – iNtuiting Feeling: Ideal Seekers – motivated by the need to understand themselves and others; they value “authenticity and integrity”

OK, so now what?

My primary goal of this post was to whet your appetite about wanting to understand your Type and Temperament. Now it’s up to you to roll up your sleeves and “do some homework”. There are plenty of websites that will give you more details on all sixteen Myers-Briggs Personality Types and the Keirsey temperaments associated with them. Do a search and dig out as much additional information as you desire on the whole MBTI process (come on now, no grumbling, you’re a fully empowered wolf, right?…so don’t get lazy on me!). I also strongly encourage you to take one of the many on-line tests available on the web to determine which one of the sixteen personality types most fits you. Some of these on-line tests are “free” and others will require some form of payment (nothing is ever truly free on a free web site, so I’m sure that there will be an ounce or two of flesh that you’ll have to provide to the owner of any of the “free” on-line testing services). If you uncover especially good sites with valuable info or that have “good, free, on-line tests”, or both, put the links into a comment to this post and share them, so that the rest of the readers can be lazier than you are!

I’ll continue to go into more detail on the remaining four initial core words in my next post (still plenty more words and concepts to work through after the initial six as well, so stay tuned!). But in the meantime, remember that establishing your baseline is the cornerstone to allowing you to reach beyond your default preferences. Once you know where you are, it’s easier to change your path toward a new set of loftier goals that can be reached. So now that the caffeine has fully kicked in…start the discovery process to uncover your inner type and temperament to find out where “HERE” is!

© 2010 John C. Rea and nothingbutwolves.wordpress.com

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This is the first in a series of posts that I hope will take the reader on a journey of self-discovery and growth.

I’d like to start the journey with a humorous but powerful message that was created by the folks at Monster.com

The message from this poignant, “tongue-in-cheek” commercial is pretty clear to me; no-one (well, mostly no-one?) intentionally “aims low” when it comes to their aspirations; they just get trapped by circumstance. The solution that Monster is pitching here is that you “need to seek out better opportunities and then things will be better”. Frankly, I have a different view on what the solution should be. For me the solution is not just “look for a different job”, but rather, start the process to assess WHO YOU ARE, then decide WHO YOU WANT TO BE, not just WHAT CAREER you want to have. I believe that it’s all about understanding yourself and changing or enhancing those parts of you that are holding you back, so that you can “aim higher” AND actually hit the target you’re aiming at.

I’m sure the folks at Monster.com who undoubtedly spent a fortune on creating this very clever commercial would beg to differ with me on this point, but hey; my blog, my view!

Assuming that you agree with me, I’d like to propose a quest. The quest is to uncover the underlying factors that make us who we are, and what we need to do to go from aspiring to grab “the brass ring” to actually taking it. I’m calling this quest “Growing Your Inner Wolf”, and hopefully if you’ve read my “So why wolves?” page, you understand that I think that the icon of the wolf embodies “the right stuff” when it comes to how to live, play, and work. Of course, every wolf (person) is different, with different degrees of “the right stuff”, and potentially some down-right deficiencies that need to be corrected.

In order to know how to get to “THERE”, you’ve got to start with “I’M HERE”, otherwise you’re bound to take a very circuitous route to your destination, or worse, wander aimlessly until you lose interest in getting there at all. It all starts with SELF-AWARENESS.

However, before you start any journey (especially this one), you’ll need to pack some essentials to take with you (for those “Boy Scouts” among you, the motto “Be prepared!” has always seemed to be a fundamental truth to me). In this case, the essentials are definitions of what I call “core words”. Without a common understanding of these words, we are destined to misinterpret some of the fundamental concepts that I’d like to discuss in this series.

Unfortunately, the length of this post is already approaching an “attention numbing” size, so I will continue (or is it begin?) the journey in the next installment…I know, I know, I’m such a tease, but I did say this was the Introduction, right?

© 2010 John C. Rea and nothingbutwolves.wordpress.com

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For my first “official posting” I think I’ll start with the basics….It all comes down to communication. If you can’t effectively communicate your ideas, concerns, emotions, or whatever, you’ll never be able to get others to “come along for the ride”. The better you communicate what’s in your head, the more likely the outcome will be what you were looking for.

Communication happens many ways, but almost all of them use words whether in the form of pictures (which substitute for words) or the written or spoken words themselves. Of course, there are exceptions like body language (which is subject to the base emotions and experiences of the sender AND receiver and prone to extreme misinterpretation – probably a subject for another posting).

For now, I’d like to concentrate the thrust of this post towards the general, written form of communication, but before getting to “the rules” (or guidelines if you prefer), we should talk a bit about the medium that you will be using to communicate with. The two main categories for the purposes of this posting are “published” and “presented”.

When publishing, whether via email, white paper, blog, etc., you need to be very purposeful about what is written. These documents are read “privately” with no room for give-and-take conversational flow until AFTER it is read. You need to be very clear about your messaging or you can pay the price of misinterpretation which can result in under-reaction, or over-reaction. These publications can vary in length and are as detailed or abbreviated as deemed appropriate to the message you’re attempting to convey.

When presenting, you have the added luxury of adding “spoken words” to your previously written ones. Of course, you still have to “keep it on point” since your audience and the allotted time-slot will dictate the cadence for you if you don’t. With presentations, you do have the option of writing less and talking more, but at the end of the day, “the rules” still apply, and you’ve still got to get your message across.

  1. Know your audience
    • What do they want to know? – first and foremost on the list…if you don’t get this right, you’re screwed!
    • What do you NEED to tell them? – get to the point(s) in as straight forward a manner as possible or you will “lose them”
    • How do they “listen”? – are they picture people?, wordy people?, “bullets, with verbal elaboration” people?, spreadsheet people?, or something else!
    • How do they make decisions? – based on data?, emotion?, dollars and cents (which is often a combination of data AND emotion)
  2. Decide what you want as an outcome(s)
    • Are you looking for a decision(s)? – make sure you ask for it (them), along with deadlines and consequences for bad decisions, or worse…no decisions!
    • Are you looking to share information? – sharing for the sake of sharing still needs to have a purpose, otherwise you’re wasting YOUR energy and THEIR time
    • Are you looking for support? – asking for help requires a convincing argument, or you’ll wind up “doing it on your own”
    • Are you looking for action(s) to take place? – identify specific individuals (avoid vague group actions and target a single point of contact instead) along with appropriate time-lines
    • Are you looking for “all of the above”? – then make sure that you articulate each point appropriately and KEEP THEM SEPARATE!
  3. Be clear – “Say what you mean, and mean what you say”
    • Use “commonly understood” language – if you’re unsure about the audience’s level of understanding, define the terms and the concepts in enough detail to ensure everyone “get’s it”
    • Be succinct – avoid “colorful” prose unless you’re “selling something”, writing poetry or creating blog postings 😉
    • Separate out fact from opinion – acknowledge that you might be pulling some of the information “out of your butt” if you don’t have “substantive data” to back it up
    • Separate out data from conclusions – it’s easy to mistakenly mix the two together, always keep conclusions separate
    • Be aware of your “tone” – we often write with “tone” whether consciously or unconsciously, make sure that your inflection isn’t sending the wrong message (“Listen with the ears of your audience”)
    • Summarize, summarize, summarize – either start or end with your top “takeaways”, don’t let the audience draw their own conclusions without YOUR guidance
  4. Solicit AND embrace feedback (hopefully BEFORE OFFICIALLY Publishing OR Presenting)
    • Perception IS Truth – unless otherwise negotiated, this is always true!
    • You’re right, until shown that you’re wrong – be open to embrace new “truths”, but don’t dismiss your own thoughts without open, honest dialog about the merits of “the new truth”, then draw your own conclusions
    • Acknowledge the inputs – accept them as new truths, reject them with an explanation, modify them and make them yours, but don’t ignore them! No-one likes to be asked for their opinion if it’s not “listened to”

If you’re interested in a deeper dive into this topic, please send me your comments and I will work-up another posting or two on the specific items that you’re most interested in.

© 2010 John C. Rea and nothingbutwolves.wordpress.com

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