Saturday, June 30, 2012

How to use Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to Understand Yourself and Understand Others

Understand Yourself

As a leader, understanding yourself does not require seeing a guru in India, gazing at your navel or discussing your childhood with a shrink. It requires that you understand how you affect other people.
Do not worry about what box shrinks try to put you in. Boxes are for the dead, not the living. You only need to worry about how you affect others. If you understand this, then you understand what matters about yourself.
Next, you need some way of understanding yourself and how you affect others, without calling a shrink or your new-age guru. For better or for worse, there are many psychological tools to help you or, in some cases, confuse and depress you.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is very much the tool du jour. It takes many years to become an expert at it, which defeats its own purpose. The idea is not to become an MBTI expert: it is to become a leader.
The received wisdom about all these models, including MBTI, is that there is no 'bad' category. This is a useful fiction used by facilitators who want an easy time with the groups they lead. Like the astrologers who always give positive horoscopes, they do not want to upset paying customers. All the categories in MBTI have a positive side and a negative side. You affect people both positively and negatively with your style, and it pays to understand both sides.

Positive Impact
Negative Impact
Extroversion (E)
Gains energy from others.
Speaks, then thinks.
Spreads energy, enthusiasm.
Does not include other people.
Introversion (I)
Gains energy from within.
Thinks before speaking.
Gives space to others.
Nothing worth saying?
Uneasy networker.
Sensing (S)
Observes outside world.
More facts, fewer ideas.
Practical, concrete, detailed.
Dull, unimaginative.
Intuitive (N)
Pays attention to self, inner world, ideas.
Creative, imaginative.
Flighty, impractical, unrealistic.
Thinking (T)
Decides with head and logic.
Logical, rational, intellectual.
Cold and heartless.
Feeling (F)
Listens to the heart.
Empathetic, understanding.
Soft-headed, fuzzy thinker, bleeding heart.
Judging (J)
Organized, scheduled, tidy.
High work ethic.
Focused and reliable.
Compulsive neat freak.
Uptight, rigid, rule-bound.
Perceiving (P)
Keeps options open.
Work-life balance.
Enjoys work.
Lazy, messy, aimless and unreliable.

Your first exercise is to figure out where you are on MBTI.
As you look at the list of positive characteristics, you will naturally believe you have all of them. You will discover the truth you long suspected: you are perfect. MBTI does not let you off so lightly. You have to choose between E and I, between S and N, between T and F and between J and P. The result is that in the world of MBTI you become an ugly acronym like ENTP, or ISFJ, or INFP.
If you are still having difficulty discovering your style, look at the negative impact column in the MBTI chart. You will probably discover quickly what you are least like.
Now do the same for your boss. Putting the boss in the right negative boxes is pretty easy for most people.

 Understand Others
The pay-off from going through MBTI comes when you use it to influence others effectively.
A good team will be a mix of styles. If everyone is an introvert, the room will echo to the sound of silence. If everyone is an extrovert, the room will be rowdier than a chimpanzees' tea party. These odd combinations are productive, but hard to maintain. A common trade-off is between the Thinking types and the Feeling types.
Thinkers often focus only on tasks and actions; feelers will speak of little other than people. You need a team that can manage both the tasks and the people, and you need to recognize that the different styles of each team member are valuable. Table 1.2 shows how to deal with the different types of person.
There are a few principles hidden in here:
§  Do not try to be someone else.
If you are an introvert, then you are not suddenly going to transform yourself into an extrovert who is the life and soul of the party. Under stress, people often do resort to a second style of operation. This is often catastrophic: they have had less practice at that style, so they are operating with a rarely used style in a high-stress situation. The outcome is rarely good. Be true to yourself.
§  Do not try to change the other person.
Understand how the other person's style differs from yours. These differences are positive. Together, you are likely to be able to achieve more than if you operate independently. An intuitive person will have many ideas and a sensing person will be very practical on the detail. One of you is the guru with the vision; the other is the commissar who can work out how to make the vision real. It is a powerful leadership combination.

Your Type
Their Type
How They May See You
How You Can Adjust
Extroversion (E)
Does not include other people.
Give others time to think and to speak.
Ask open questions.
Introversion (I)
Nothing worth saying?
Uneasy networker.
Prepare in advance to have something to say.
Sensing (S)
Dull, unimaginative.
Take over some of the practical detail that intuitive types dislike.
Intuitive (N)
Flighty, impractical, unrealistic.
Ask for help on practical things: form an alliance with a sensing person.
Thinking (T)
Cold and heartless.
Try to win a friend, not just win an argument.
Feeling (F)
Soft-headed, fuzzy thinker, bleeding heart.
Let the thinkers think; then work the people and the politics.
Judging (J)
Compulsive neat freak.
Uptight, rigid, rule-bound.
Ignore the chaos; quietly focus on the substantive battles.
Perceiving (P)
Lazy, messy, aimless and unreliable.
Clear up the mess on the desk and make sure the report gets in on time.

When a great manager joins a lousy company, it is normally the reputation of the company that remains intact.
§  Be patient.
If you are highly task-focused (T) it can be frustrating if someone else never talks about the critical tasks in hand. Instead this person talks about people the whole time. The person is an F. This is a good combination: one of you works out what needs to be done (T); the other works the politics and people (F) to enable it to happen.
§  Be aware.
Most of us stumble into personal and professional relationships. We know how long it takes to build personal relationships. We have little time to build professional relationships. We need to understand other people's styles fast so that we can influence them positively and quickly.
§  Find the right situation in which to work.
Warren Buffet remarked that 'when a great manager joins a lousy company, it is normally the reputation of the company that remains intact'. The same is true of work styles: you will not change the style of the organization in which you work. You need to find a way of living with the style of your organization, or you need a new organization.
§  Build the team.
Strong teams are diverse. Diversity does not mean regulatory diversity and having token minorities decorating the cover of the annual report. It means the subtler diversity of building a team with complementary styles, skills and perspectives. A football team of 11 great goalkeepers is unlikely to do well.



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