One of my ex-bosses used to sarcastically tell me “you are born to be a boss… not because you are good but simply because you won’t survive without a team of assistants near you to get things done!” I never fully understood his comments until I recently got the chance to learn about the Myers Briggs tool (MBTI) and discover the details of my personality preference – ENTP.
For those who are not familiar with MBTI and its underpinning theory, here is my attempt to succinctly demystify it. The MBTI stems from a theory of the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung with the premise that our personalities are innate and not acquired. The theory does take into consideration the influence of our environment on our learnt behaviors. Simply put, according to Jung our personality is who we are while our behaviors are the habits we exhibit to others depending on who they are. The MBTI tool – developed by Katherine Briggs and Isabel Myers – is an effort to make Jung’s theory more practical by classifying our personalities into 16 initial types based on the preferences of the individuals taking the assessment.
This was particularly insightful to me as I was continuously struggling to make my case for my managers about my working style. My manager once told me “You have a lot of potentials but you are easily bored which wastes your talents – I would like to help you change” – needless to say he failed miserably and accordingly my appraisals struggled dramatically. I genuinely tried to exhibit the patterns my boss wanted by adopting a logical and objective approach to closing projects and bringing ideas to fruition. My continuous discomfort with that style made me doubt my ability to be an effective team member. Only now I understood that the expected behaviors fit his type (not mine) and the generic style of many other middle managers – in MBTI lingo it is called ESTJ.
Equipped with my new appreciation of types, I started experimenting with ideas to help navigate through the normal challenges in the office. I am now more aware of the influence of my type on my behaviors, I am also more sensible that people use their personality frames to explain my behaviors. I have recently consulted my MBTI consultant to work with me on my type development which seems like a very exciting journey.
In a team context, the possibilities of leveraging this awareness of who we are and the different personalities in our teams are endless. It could improve communications, instill trust, facilitate conflict management, increase accountability, in addition to many other pressing workplace issues. For leaders, working with an MBTI consultant could unleash untapped possibilities.
If you are in a leadership role, ask yourself the following questions to know if working with an MBTI coach is needed:
Have you been less than effective in resolving conflicts with your team or boss?
Is your team short on goals for this year due to not leveraging its full potential?
Is there an opportunity to enhance trust and increase accountability in your team?
Is your team really ready to manage the huge upcoming change?
P.S: Credit goes to my MBTI mentors Sharan, Abi and Jennifer.