The cliché makeover — tell a story

cliché makeoverHow many times have you waded glassy-eyed through the personality-type alphabet soup? Introvert-extrovert…I’m sure there’s valuable science in there, but all those acronyms—ESFJ, INTP—make my brain hurt. Still, when you’re dealing with people, it’s important to understand the different personality types you might encounter. Don’t just present the same old material in the same old ways; give it a cliché makeover

That’s what my friend Joan Garry did in her book Joan Garry’s Guide to Nonprofit Leadership. And at the risk of digressing, I often remind my writers to put themselves in their story especially when they’re dealing with subjects that might seem clichéd because while many other people can write about an issue, no one can write about it from your perspective. You’re not going to find a Joan Garry’s Guide to Nonprofit Leadership written by Joe Smith. You know from the get-go you’re getting Joan’s advice, delivered from Joan’s perspective.

And Joan’s perspective can be wildly inventive sometimes. Perhaps that explains why we’re friends.

Cliché makeover: Personality types

So, the personality types. Instead of the ENTJs, Joan presents us with a series of archetypes. And not the standard Joe Go-Getter. No, she gives us characters we all know well:

Superman
Spiderman
Gumby
Kermit the Frog

And then she invites you to choose one for your next board chair or executive director.

Each contender has something to recommend him. Of Superman, for instance:

“Would you say ‘No’ to him if he asked you for a donation?”

You have to admit, that’s an excellent point.

Joan uses real-world anecdotes to demonstrate what each character could offer in terms of nonprofit leadership. Finally, she outs herself as

“an ‘SK’—a Superman-Kermit combo. (Yes I am now making fun of every personality profile test you’ve ever been subjected to at work or during a retreat.)”

The gentle parody of the cliché makeover makes the material memorable.

Perhaps in the next edition she can find a place for Wonder Woman.


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