Appreciating our differences

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- Have you ever walked out of a meeting or a discussion with a colleague, friend or spouse and thought you were living on opposite planets? Do you try to tackle a task differently than others? Fortunately, each of us is wired uniquely and our personality type drives much of how we act, speak or lead.

When I was younger not only did I see things more black and white, but I forged ahead unaware of my style and looking back left some broken glass along the way. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to participate in a yearlong leadership development course and to this day one of the most important parts of the program was the focus on understanding personality types. Understanding not only myself but more importantly others has been one of the most influential aspects of how I lead and live my life.

By now, some of you are thinking, leave it to the 31st Medical Group commander to give us an article on psychobabble, but please hang with me. The most commonly known work in this area is the Meyers- Briggs Type Indicator developed by mother-daughter team Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Meyers who over several decades studied and expanded on the work of C.G. Jung.

Why, you ask, is this important? Well like it or not, we are all wired differently. While I haven't asked, I am sure the 31st MDG staff is thankful the whole leadership team is not wired like me - I know I am. Chances are those around you are saying the same thing about you whether you ask the question at work or home.

Let me start with a basic example and one of the four major categories in the Meyers-Briggs tool - extrovert versus introvert. An extrovert is someone who drives their energy from being around others while an introvert is happier in smaller groups or solo activities. Extroverts love to talk and often speak first and think later, or what I call, think out loud. We favor speaking over writing and can dominate a meeting or conversation. Introverts like to process a situation and, while more reserved, often have unique angles to solving a problem that a group of extroverts might have missed by charging forward. They tend to prefer to write versus speak. In a meeting to solve a problem or accomplish the mission you need both types. And this is just the surface of understanding types and what makes us tick.

So I challenge you, if you haven't thought before about who you are and why others are different, take a moment to do so. You can easily Google personality type and find all kinds of resources to include simple online quizzes you, your unit, or even you and your spouse can complete.

Understanding your type can help you appreciate your own strengths, gifts and guide you in making decisions in both career and at home. Understanding and respecting others will make you a better leader and result in more harmonious relationships and improved communication.