Five Tips To Using The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator As A Development Tool
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is the world's most popular psychometric tool and is used over 2 million times a year in over 20 different languages. 89 of Fortune 100 companies have used it, case studies have been published for Shell and the RAF, and it's rumoured to be an institution at McKinsey. However, it also has many critics including Forbes, The Guardian, and Malcolm Gladwell. Even Dilbert has taken a shot at it. Some people have a negative experience of completing it and I've heard comments that it “put them into a box”. So what is the reality?
At a practitioner course run by OPP I recently learnt how to administer the tool to individuals or groups. The course was thought-provoking and the ideas came to life in a range of interactive sessions. I was a little surprised I enjoyed it so much because I'd completed the indicator twice before and wrongly assumed I knew a lot of the theory. Personally, I think the MBTI can help you consider which situations you are naturally drawn to, and which ones are likely to be more difficult or even stressful. This can help both individual and team development. To do that it needs to be administered and interpreted properly, and some of the criticism stems from its misuse. So I offer the five tips below to help you use the results of the MBTI effectively.
Since Intuition isn't about gut feeling, and a Judging preference doesn't mean that you are judgemental, if you're unfamiliar with the MBTI then start with the 2-minute intro from CPP below:
1. Remember the MBTI measures preferences not capabilities
I know a Myers-Briggs Introvert who is articulate and very expressive in meetings because they decided early in their career that this was the most effective way to operate. You might become adept at working in ways you don't prefer, but just be aware that you'll probably want to balance that out in some way.
2. Decide your own best fit type
Consider the scores of the questionnaire, but decide whether you agree with them. You know yourself best! Think about home and work examples when reviewing the pairings. Perhaps there are strong organisational norms which discourage your preferences at work, or home commitments that alter your behaviour. People commonly feel pressure to display behaviours related to Extrovert – Sensing – Thinking – Judging preferences. At an organisational level we should get better at realising the potential from the diversity of people's personalities, and the first step is to understanding them.
3. Obtain 1-to-1 feedback
It is likely to cost more than group feedback, but gives you have the opportunity to explore your preferences in much more detail and in a calm and confidential environment. The practitioner should not lead you down one path and instead allow you to consider where you are most comfortable, or what you tend to do first. The 1-to-1 discussions which I've had with people were rich and interesting and helped them to decide their best fit.
4. Think about the other side
While it can be helpful to hear about yourself you might already have an idea of some of your own preferences. Consider the opposite preference to the one your have, and when it could be useful for you to display the behaviours associated with it. Imagine what it's like for people with different preferences to work with you. As a loud and talkative Myers-Briggs Extrovert I've learnt to sometimes give Introverts space when they need it to avoid them feeling overwhelmed.
5. Explore causes of conflict
The Thinking/Feeling and Judging/Perceiving pairs are natural sources of conflict because they describe how we make decisions and deal with the external world. As someone with a clear Judging preference I've consciously worked hard with Perceivers to avoid becoming controlling. The MBTI can be very helpful to team members coming together for the first time to discover where they are similar, and how they differ from each other. You'll still enter conflicts, but you'll have a better idea why you do, and how to resolve them.
Thanks to Pamela Haering-Das, Paul Wilson and Nikhita Dost of OPP for delivering an interesting and fun course.
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