Have you ever wondered, “What is my personality type?” Are you an extravert or an introvert? A thinker or feeler?
This article is about a tool I call the People Formula—Myers Briggs personality type—and how using that tool can make any project go more smoothly while minimizing the risks and increasing the likelihood of success.
The article will give you hints, but it won’t give you the definitive answer to your type. For that, you need to consult with a certified practitioner, like me. More on that later.
Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung developed the theory of personality type, which noted patterns of behavior in healthy people. Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, elaborated on Jung’s work and developed the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®), which has been used, tested and validated since the 1940s.
The MBTI tool can help you:
- Communicate more effectively with others
- Manage a project team and motivate its members
- Deal with conflict
- Ensure team members get their work done
- Increase the likelihood of repeat business from happy clients
At its simplest, MBTI personality types are broken into four dichotomies:
- Extraversion (talkers who think out loud) – Introversion (seldom-talkers who think in their heads)
- Sensing (focused on details) – Intuition (exploring the big picture)
- Thinking (decisions based on logic) – Feeling (decisions based on people)
- Judging (planned and scheduled) – Perceiving (spontaneous and adaptable)
Why Use the MBTI?
The MBTI facilitates understanding. Once you better understand the people you’re dealing with, you can adjust your thinking and your actions so that your project succeeds. For example:
If you’re an extravert, you’re likely thinking about that introvert you know—the one who takes forever to answer your questions, even after you have asked her several questions multiple times. Now that you know she’s an introvert, you can stop asking questions and let her think.
If you’re an introvert, you’re likely thinking about that extravert who never seems to shut up so you can think. You wonder why that person has to talk so much. Now that you know he’s an extravert, you can let him think out loud without resenting his talking.
If you’re a sensor, focused on details, you may now understand that Bob is an intuitive. Bob is that guy on your team who is always talking about the big picture and looking at things from the 10,000-foot level.
If you’re an intuitive, focused on the big picture, you may now have an Aha! moment that makes you realize that Bill is a sensor. Bill is the guy on your team who always asks lots of questions and refuses to move ahead until he gets answers.
Managers and teams who understand personality types can use that knowledge to communicate, manage, plan, execute and achieve goals.
Case Study: Leadership Team
An accounting firm’s CEO wanted to learn how to turn his executives into a leadership team that provided strategic direction for the company. The company had a history of being run by accountants who were good at executing, but came up short on leadership and strategy.
At a retreat, we used Myers Briggs as a tool to analyze the team of seven and identify each member’s strengths and weaknesses. Here’s what we found:
1 extravert and 6 introverts
5 sensors and 2 intuitives
6 thinkers and 1 feeler
6 judgers and 1 perceiver
CEO – introvert, sensor, thinker, judger
Putting the MBTI to Work
It became clear that the CEO had to grow beyond his natural preferences and direct discussions. He needed to ask each executive to chime in during discussions; otherwise, some introverts would not offer their opinions to the group. More likely, they would take the CEO aside later to tell him why his plan was flawed.
He needed to open discussions by setting a framework for where the conversation should go. Then he could let the sensors voice their questions and concerns. Once those were addressed, he needed to have the two intuitives share their long-term thinking about the issues discussed. Both camps needed to contribute in order for the group to overcome its typical myopic focus.
As the group weighed a decision, the CEO needed to be sure to hear from the feeler in the group. He was the one who was going to be concerned about the impact of their decision on staff, clients and shareholders. He was the one who asked, “What’s in it for them?”
Since there were so many judgers on the team, the group tended to decide things quickly, often not taking the time to explore options they were unfamiliar with. Thus, it was the CEO’s job to always check in with the perceiver to ask, “What options are we missing? What questions have we not asked that we should?”
The CEO had to consciously address each personality type to lead his team to produce better outcomes; it took effort. Working with his leadership team, he was able to ensure they made well-rounded decisions based on all the dichotomies. As he gained more experience using type, he was able to improve his ability to communicate with the hundreds of employees in the company, only some of whom were like him. And he became more adept at dealing with shareholders and his board of directors.
Years later, he is still using the People Formula to help him manage and make decisions.
Small Firms Can Use the MBTI, Too
While the example above is from a large firm, the same principles and practices apply for small firms or teams of any size. If you are the owner of a four-person firm, it is statistically probable that someone in your group is different from you. Myers Briggs is a tool you can use to embrace those differences so they serve the firm well and make you money.
Or you can choose to not learn about type and continue to be frustrated by people.
As we learned years ago: “Numbers may drive the business, but people drive the numbers.®”
Doing the MBTI Right
When done right, the MBTI is about best-fit type. It’s important to work with a trained Myers Briggs practitioner to determine your true best-fit type. In my experience, individuals’ online results and self-assessment results agree only 30 percent of the time. It’s the type professional’s job to help the client find his or her best-fit type, which may differ from the results of the online version and self-assessment.
Also, be wary of what you find searching the web for information about Myers Briggs types. Take a moment to read these cautions. You wouldn’t use bad data to manage your projects—don’t use bad MBTI data to manage your business.
© Pamela A. Scott, MentorLoft.com, 2016