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October 14, 2014

Hound Dog

Ruth Hill

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Some weeks are full of surprises. This week, for example, I went into the office on Tuesday morning thinking I was a woman, and came home having discovered that I’m a hound dog!

But I’m not alone. In fact, the whole editorial team has taken on canine characteristics. Sarah is a sheep dog, Tom is a coach dog and Elizabeth is a terrier.

While it’s true that Mind Tools is a dog-friendly employer, I’m not sure if our CEO, James (a guard dog) is ready to put them on the payroll just yet!

We haven’t completely lost our minds, though. All this dog talk was the result of a visit from one of our writers, Katherine Baldwin - a qualified Packtypes® instructor. Packtypes is a new type of psychometric test that combines Jungian psychology and Myers-Briggs-type indicators with… dogs!

The process is simple enough. Katherine gave us each a pack of cards, with a series of adjectives on one side, and types of dog on the other. The theory is that, by selecting words that best describe your own characteristics, and then grouping them according to the personality types represented by the dogs, the game boosts self-awareness and helps you to identify and play to your strengths.

Now, as a psychology graduate, I can be pretty skeptical about psychometric testing - and, thanks to Elvis Presley, hound dogs do have certain connotations, but I was pleasantly surprised with what the cards said about me.

However, it still felt a little like having my tarot read, so the next activity was quite reassuring. This time, we repeated the exercise, selecting words that described a colleague. And, even though Sarah chose different words from the ones I’d selected for myself, the outcome was much the same.

Interestingly, each of the people in our team was identified with a different personality type. This is good because, according to Katherine, the best functioning teams are those that combine a variety of types, because each person complements the other members’ strengths.

“It’s not  that you don’t have the skills that weren’t represented in your cards,” explained Katherine, “it's just that those aren’t the things you excel at, and we’re at our happiest and most productive when we do the things we're really good at, the things that we love.”

Now, at first, this set off alarm bells for me. It seemed to be giving me permission to shrug off my weaknesses. I’m not much of an organizer but I’m a great ideas person, so now I can keep my head in the clouds, while leaving those tricky details for Sarah to take care of. Hurrah!

Actually, it’s not as simple as that. As we point out in our article on Your Reflected Best Self™, a sports coach wouldn’t expect a champion javelin thrower to compete in the 100 meter sprint, yet we need to do it at work all the time.

If you want to love your job, you do need to figure out your strengths, and work out what makes you happy. But, on a more pragmatic level, you also need to make the most of what you’ve got, find purpose in what you already do and, instead of making excuses about things you’re not so good at, work out how to change so that you can get better at those, too.

So, although I hope to pass some of my more technical duties to someone better suited to them, Sarah can rest easy, safe in the knowledge that I’m going to take care of my own organizational tasks. As Katherine says, “It’s not that I don’t have those skills…” – it’s just that I prefer to play to my strengths, and you can never have too many strengths.

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