Myers Briggs Test (MBTI) in Action

Following are some real life examples of how the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can be applied in business.

E/I Scale

Extraversion = “Let’s talk about this.”

Introversion = “I need time to think about this.”

Myers Briggs test helps to synchronise teams

Last year I worked with a team who had a manager who had a high preference for introversion while the majority of people in his team were extraverted. The team had been going through some restructures and were finding their performance and feedback results were diminishing. After completing the MBTI test and the debrief process, the manager and team members were able to see how their personality preferences were playing out at work and impacting team cohesion. The manager realised he was not informing the team of changes soon enough and was discussing issues in one-on-one sessions that left the team with mixed messages and receiving information in a non-timely manner.

The manager, being a ‘high introvert’, had a preference for processing information internally and sitting with the information for a period so he could assimilate and reflect, so much so that he sometimes didn’t share the information at all. He also downplayed his strengths externally to key stakeholders who were getting nervous about the team’s ability to cope with the changes.

Introverts sometimes can downplay strengths with the result that their abilities can be underestimated, as in this particular case. The team felt they were being left in the dark in certain areas and started to “fill in” their own blanks, again causing confusion and uncertainty.

Extraverts work and learn best when they are able to share, discuss and process information with others. In this case this element was lacking.

As a result of these insights the manager now communicates information through a group email. This is a way he can process and reflect on the information. He then calls a group meeting to discuss impact and next steps. This also gives him time to preempt any questions the team may have. He also is now in a position to share his ideas and insights with others sooner rather than waiting till his thoughts are 100% formed in his mind. The team members are now satisfied they are getting the information they need in an appropriate and timely manner.

S/N Scale

Sensing = “Just the facts please.”

Intuition = “I can see it all now.”

As part of a team building program I was invited to conduct Myers Briggs tests and conduct a workshop with a technology support team who were having issues with key stakeholders. Their ability to influence outcomes and communicate their strategy to the rest of the organisation clearly and with confidence was one of the issues. This team had been formed and operating for a number of years. The manager however was new and was brought in to make some changes in the structure and type of tech support they would be delivering

After conducting the Myers Briggs test and the debrief session we discovered the manager and the human resource support person were ‘high intuitives’. The qualities of an intuitive are that they: can see the possibilities in any situation; are great at big picture thinking; pay more attention to connections between and implications of fact than to facts and details alone; prefer information that is introduced with a “big picture” overview; jump around between ideas and tasks; have a future and change focus.

These qualities are suitable for communicating at the leadership level, where the overall strategic impact of the changes needs to be understood, however for individuals within the team, this style of communication and decision making was causing upset and conflict.

Once the manager realised how her style could be viewed by the team she quickly changed her focus and language such as outlining the practical implications of the changes and what was needed on a day-to-day basis. She also communicated more factual information with detail and timelines. This appealed to the sensing types in the team because they trust facts – who, what, where, when, how, etc.

They were able to deal with ambiguity much better as they could see the day-to-day implications – i.e. the manager was able to chunk it down for them, as sensing types like to work from the detail up to the big picture whilst the intuitives work from the overview or big picture down to the detail (but only if they have to).

T/F Scale

Thinking = “Is this logical?”

Feeling = “Will anyone be hurt?”

I was asked to work with a customer service team with a high proportion of ‘feeling types’. Their preference for making decisions is based on how others are impacted and how their personal values could be supported. Feeling types also prefer personal connections with people they work with.

The manager of this team however was a strong thinking type whose preference for giving feedback was business-like, objective and logical. He also reported that he was not inclined to show emotional connection and acknowledge good team work on a regular basis. After further discussion he admitted he was more predisposed to tell rather than inquire or ask. This set up an unhealthy relationship with the feeling types because they really thrive on collaboration and connection.

This dynamic within the team negatively impacted the team’s performance because the team would push decisions upwards. Making independent decisions was a threat because they were afraid of the negative feedback they would receive. They also tended to generate fewer ideas and innovated processes. This impacted the productivity of the team and the perception of them by their stakeholders, which was that they were ‘too safe’, risk averse and stagnant.

After the Myers Briggs test and debrief session people became clearer regarding the impact of their behaviour on others. For example, the manager started to ask more questions and take a personal interest in individual team members. Also, whenever he was critiquing reports or project plans, he would initially focus on acknowledging what was right or acceptable before he went on to provide feedback on what was missing or needed changing.

This alone changed the way the feeling types accepted feedback. In fact they looked forward to their feedback sessions with the manager as they always walked away with constructive feedback on what they were doing well and what needed to be done differently. The feeling types however appreciated the value of logic, reason and objectivity in the workplace as well as value based decision making resulting in effective outcomes.

J/P Scale

Judging = “Just do something.”

Perceiving = “Let’s wait and see.”

These preferences relate to how people like to structure their environment to complete tasks and achieve goals. This particular case involves two team members who were jointly responsible for a start up project. There were multiple stakeholders and strict timelines which had been agreed 6 months prior. When I was called in to coach the parties involved the project was falling behind, stakeholders were disgruntled and communication between the two parties had deteriorated.

One of the first steps in this particular process was for the colleagues to complete their Myers Briggs test.

One party had a strong preference for judging. Her preference was for

  • a clear and concise plan of action,
  • defined outcomes,
  • a clear statement of priorities,
  • completion.

In contrast the other party preferred:

  • an open ended plan,
  • general parameters,
  • flexibility with options
  • room for midcourse corrections.

After the debrief session each party could see and understand where and how the conflicting motivators were impacting performance and the success of the project.

The colleague who was a high judger realised she had been more concerned with getting things done and complete and sometimes the quality of the outcomes was left wanting. The other colleague who was a perceiver, realised his tendency for being flexible with options and timelines was impacting others and general parameters were not satisfying nervous stakeholders.

After further discussion it was agreed that both parties would:

  • collect information about possible changes to the plan but follow the plan until the agreed on checkpoints; and
  • ask for clear statements of what is decided and what is open – what were the parameters within which they needed to work.

They also agreed they would be tolerant of each other’s work and time management styles, take the checkpoints seriously and welcome some mid-course changes and corrections.

Find our more about the Myers Briggs Test

To find out more about how the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can help your business or to organise workshops or assessments in Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney or elsewhere, contact me direct on 1300 854 180 or jan@janterkelsen.com.