Take your best self to work

Whether it be a start-up business or a megacorp, the holy grail for leaders and immediate (line) managers is to recruit employees who will flourish in their organisation’s culture; and be loyal, creative and engaged individuals who combine into high-performance teams.

Millennials make up an increasing proportion of the workforce, at 34% and rising, compared to 32% for Generation X’ers and 31% for Baby Boomers. Millennials, like me, are cited for their comparative lack of loyalty, particularly where the fit isn’t right between company culture and their personal style or goals. When job-hopping is detrimental to both the employee and the company in terms of expense and disruptiveness, it pays for both employees and managers at every level of an organisation to understand their best self, as well as the types of interactions with others that they may need to work harder on.

So what can you do to create enviable team dynamics in the workplace, where people understand themselves, as well as those they interact with?

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is the world’s most popular psychometric tool. Based on the work of Carl Jung, who published “Psychological Types” in 1921, Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers – a mother-daughter duo – researched further and developed this to 16 personality preferences.  From the self-awareness and insight that MBTI provides, it’s no surprise that 89 of the Fortune 100 companies use it.

Being completely logical about it, it is hard for us to give credence to every person on the planet being split into one of 16 categories. I was personally dubious about the legitimacy of the indicator as, like many others, I have this notion that I am unique and not reducible to four letters.

However, I was looking at the indicator all wrong.

These categories are not closed boxes we are forced into, but rather systems made up of different energies, where the interactions of our preferences are what keeps the energies fluid. It is a similar concept to the predesignation of right-hand and left-hand that we are born with. A right-handed person finds it easier to write with their right hand. Although they are still capable of functioning with their left hand they are naturally inclined to use their right. Throw a ball at a right-handed person without warning and they will catch it in their right hand, regardless of whether they had taken time to develop their left hand abilities. This is what MBTI teaches us, life is launching a ball at you and you are innately predisposed to lean in one direction over another.

ENFP, the four letters that describe my personal preferences and how I am similar and different to others, have helped me realise the misguided confusion I used to have when a person chose a path that was completely foreign to that which I would have chosen. As this profiling has been around for several decades there are some preconceived beliefs around that are worth exploding.

Common Misconceptions of the MBTI

“We all know that ABCD is the best personality type.”

There are no right or wrong answers with MBTI, nor are any of the types superior to others. As is emphasised by the wording of the title of the book by Isabel Briggs Myers, Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type. It is true that there is a higher percentage of ISTJ  type personalities in leadership roles but this does not equate to dominance over the other types. Certain types’ strengths are other types’ weaknesses and, at times, one type may fail without assistance from another. An organisation may, like Henry Ford’s Model T, function impeccably with an ISTJ preference. However, like Henry Ford, ISTJs are not naturally “wired” to keep up with rapidly changing fashions, which is where an ENTP would flourish and provide balance.

“Surely my result will have changed after 20 years?”

This is not true. According to Carl Jung’s work, a person’s preferences do not change with time, although their capabilities will. Back to the example of the left-hand / right-hand. A right-handed person may become fairly competent with their left hand, however, they will remain right-handed as it is their preference.

“Now I know my type, I should play to my strengths and avoid all my weaknesses.”

False. The aim of the MBTI is to appreciate the everyday differences that exist between people. Know and effectively use your preferences, but explore and develop your non-preferred side; and increase your adaptability.

“Gender and culture must be a factor in people’s types.”

This is both true and false. A person’s innate personality type may be affected by social bias. Predetermined gender roles and cultural diversities mean that people have been conditioned in their behaviour. Nature and nurture are both in play.

“I feel more like an INTP rather than an INFP, but the indicator must be right.”

The indicator is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to your personality type. You understand your personality most comprehensively, and therefore you must decide what best fits you. Once you have completed the MBTI you are not only given your type (four letters) but also any other combinations that are possibilities. It is then up to you to read, reflect, and decide which best fits you. For me this step really changed the whole outcome of my MBTI as I had, what I assume most people who have used this indicator have, an ‘a-ha’ moment when I read one of my options as it was frighteningly accurate.

It is unethical to hire a person based on their MBTI type (and practitioners are not permitted to use it for recruitment selection). However, analysis identifies employees choosing careers that reflect their preferences. A prime examples of this is ISTJ’s who make up around 6% of the US population, yet 30% of the US armed forces. ISTJ’s gravitate towards discipline and structure.

By providing me with a better understanding of my preferences, MBTI has increased my confidence as I know my preferences early on in my career. As a 22-year-old on the cusp of applying for graduate jobs, the indicator has allowed me to hone in on utilising my preferences in my work, and in how I understand, and connect with, other people. In my view, the earlier a person takes the MBTI the better. And Che Guervera? We share a psychological type!

Do you know your MBTI type? What could you change and adapt if you did know and how might it improve relationships with your colleagues, team or manager? Tim Pointer is a qualified MBTI Level 1 & 2 practitioner and uses this in conjunction with one-to-one leadership coaching or leadership development workshops. To find out more about how this can be applied in your organisation, please contact us on [email protected].