The Personality Of Our Team

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Hi. My name is Sebastian, and I’m an ISTJ.

If I worked at American greetings card company, Hallmark, I might actually have to stand up and introduce myself like this at the start of meetings.

ISTJ is my personality type. It has been decided by the massively popular Myers Briggs Type Indicator (or MBTI) personality test, developed using the work of psychiatrist Carl Jung. It’s the same test taken by more than 2.5 million people every year and used by 89 of the Fortune 100 companies.

The ISTJ profile (1 of 16 different profiles) puts me in a box with around 13% of the rest of the population, based upon my responses to some questions that have characterised me as highly observant, assertive and reliable. From this, even someone that I’ve never spoken to before could make quick judgements about me – from the way I’d act when presented with a new challenge at work – to the ways that I choose my friends. Scary, right?

What I haven’t told you, is that I’m a massive advocate of the MBTI. Whilst I’m understandably pretty happy about being put in the same box as George Washington, Ben Harrison and our Queen – I also see a lot of myself in descriptions of my personality type.

I’m very aware that that a lot of people think the MBTI is complete nonsense. Many are quick to label the personality test as unreliable and inconsistent – in arguments not all that different to those against the science of psychology itself. And so, many people believe that businesses should abandon the MBTI. I, on the other hand, fully believe that the MBTI can be really useful tool in the workplace. Here’s why:

1. It encourages self-reflection

Whether or not the MBTI possesses scientific consistency (which isn’t the question here), it is an invaluable tool for self-reflection.

I recently encouraged my colleagues to complete the personality test. Although they didn’t all wholly agree with their profiling, within each one of them it prompted the self-assessment of their characteristics.

Perhaps this is because the MBTI is rather broad. Even in our horoscopes (for which I test you to find even one peer reviewed study showing their accuracy) – we can usually find a general sentence that applies to us. Either way – what it promotes is a starting point for discussing and understanding not only ourselves, but how we all vary in our personalities. This helps makes us more aware of everyone around us.

2. It’s a motivator

A number of academics believe that one of the reasons the MBTI has hung around for so long in the corporate world, is that all outcomes are positive.

The test wasn’t created to hold one personality type above another – but to celebrate our differences in strengths. To do this, the MBTI focuses on the key assets of each personality type. It doesn’t make the test weak, but hugely motivating.

The MBTI helps to draw strengths that we may have ignored and taken for granted. These strengths may help build confidence in certain situations or help us to decide upon career routes.

And hey, even if all it does is give you more adjectives for your CV… well, that’s something.

3. It helps us to understand team dynamics

The MBTI is a really useful tool in understanding group, or team dynamics.

To explain this, I actually encouraged my entire team to take the test (in the name of research, and a just little bit of intrigue).

What I found out was the following:

If our team were to be given a characteristic, it would be that of the ESFJ (the popular kids). This is derived by counting the number of team members with each preference. Without getting into the nitty gritty of exactly what this means to our team – let’s have a look at why it’s important to understand.  *You can read more about the strengths and weaknesses of your team in The Character of Organizations by William Bridges (2000).

Common sense denotes an equal split of personality types across a team, for it to be balanced and effective. The smaller the team, the less personality types, and less likely it is that someone will have the same personality type to you (if we discount the fact that companies tend to hire similar types of people).

The MBTI draws out team strengths and weaknesses, allowing teams to maximise the natural advantages that result from similarities and differences within the team.

Team similarity has been shown to affect both team process (how well they work together) and outcomes (how well they perform). Our team similarity index is 44 (out of 100), which means over half of the team has a different communication preference.

Whatever your thoughts about the accuracy or consistency of the MBTI, at the time of taking the test – assuming that participants answer honestly – responses are a reflection of how one person perceives themselves and the way they might react in certain situations. This has got to hold at least some value – even to the biggest sceptic.

If 56% of a team is different, there’s going to be more potential for miscommunication and misalignment. Understanding this is important when it comes to communicating and working effectively with other people.

What it all stems down to is the simple realisation that we’re all different.

We all communicate and interpret information in a different way. Yes, I know you know that. It sounds so simple, but we’ve all been in positions before where we’ve forgotten this fact and wondered how on earth the other person doesn’t understand our point of view.

Effective communication within business teams (and social situations alike) requires the understanding of other people.

Understanding that we all different in personality type is one step to doing this.

And the MBTI is just one method of doing that.

Sian HeaphyThe Personality Of Our Team

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