Understanding Others – Using the Myers Briggs (MBTI) to your Benefit

by Margo Boster

Have you ever wondered why you seem to click with some members of your team and just don’t understand others?  One reason might be because of the similarities and differences in how you prefer to receive and process information, interact with the outside world, and make decisions.  One self-assessment that can help you understand yourself, your colleagues and your team members is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

[Side note: As soon as I said “self-assessment” some of you may have immediately turned off and said “I don’t want to be labeled”, or else “yea, I’ve done that before,” to which I ask:  Are you using the information to the fullest?  If you would like to make your life less challenging, improve your relationship with others, and increase your productivity, please keep reading for a few suggestions how the MBTI can help.]

Can you imagine being right-handed and trying to function as though you were left-handed?  Not only would this likely be frustrating and exhausting to you and others, you would not be presenting your best to the world.  The MBTI assesses the natural preferences in how one interacts with the world, receives and processes data, and makes decisions.  There are no right or wrong answers, although there are certain types that are more prevalent than others.

First appearing in 1942, the MBTI is one of the oldest self-assessments around and often considered more complex than some of the other assessments.  As such, many people have taken the assessment and promptly filed away the results, every now and then pulling out the language “I’m an Introvert” or “I’m a J – you must be a P”.  This is a serious shortchanging to you, your team and your organization.

Below are three suggestions for using the MBTI to improve your self-awareness and understanding of others:

1.  Understand the Assessment Outcome

It is important to receive a thorough and complete debrief from a trained MBTI assessor.  While there are many free on-line assessments available, simply knowing what letters are associated as a result of your assessment is not particularly helpful, and can be self-limiting.  There is a lot of material to learn from MBTI assessments and unfortunately, many people retain little of what they may have heard or read. Knowing your type preferences (e.g., that you are an Intuitive (N) or Sensing (S)) without fully understanding what it means, how to benefit from this information, and what to watch out for is simply of no value.

2. Understand the Preferences of your Teams

Unless you live your life in complete isolation, understanding the preference type of your colleagues and team is equally important.  By understanding what comes naturally to your team members, you can get the most from them while they are enjoying their contributions.  Quite often, people will hire other people who are like themselves.  This approach can mean that your team is made up of mostly the same type of people which can be very limiting to your organization.  If everyone on the team is receiving and processing the information in the same way, or approaching decision making in the same framework, your team is being shortchanged the great range of value that others can provide.

3. Appreciate and Value the Differences

While the old adage “opposites attract” may hold true, equally true is that opposite types can be very frustrating to one another.  However, opposite type-preferences can bring a lot of value to a team – what is uncomfortable or challenging for one type can be second nature for people with the opposite preferences.  Whether dealing with your partner, your boss, or your team, understanding that the Perceiving (P) type needs to have a lot of options, while the Judging (J) type prefers to “check the box” can help people make better decisions.

Don’t try to change a person’s preference, including your own – understand it, exploit it when appropriate, and surround yourself with complimentary types.

Please click here to schedule a complimentary 30-minute discussion about how you or your teams might benefit from the MBTI.

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