Are you an ISTJ or an ESFP? Maybe you thought you were an ESTJ, but your human resources director thinks you’re more of an ISFJ. Regardless of where you fall on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) continuum, this measurement for understanding personality types is an important tool in the workplace.
Nearly 60 years ago Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers created the MBTI as a way of describing and understanding personality types. Based on the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl G. Jung, the MBTI was originally created so that people could make wise career choices and help others to understand normal personality differences.
Knowing various personality types helps people recognize and appreciate their own strengths and provides perspective on how and why we’re all different. The MBTI has several characteristics that clearly distinguish it from other personality indicators. For instance, the MBTI describes rather than prescribes; it pinpoints preferences and strengths; it puts all preferences on equal standing; it provides a framework to understand human behavior; and refrains from making judgments.
Also, everyone involved must understand the assessment tool and how it works. If a measurement tool is difficult to grasp, imagine how hard it will be for people to adopt it as an improvement strategy. If you can’t use the results on a daily basis, then it’s probably not worth the investment.
The MBTI does not measure knowledge, skills, or abilities. Nor does it measure intelligence. Further, it’s not intended to be used as a tool for employee selection, promotion, or assigning projects. Remember, most tools, especially those in the workplace, are used in conjunction with something else — a program, a workshop, the advice of consultants and other ancillary input.
The MBTI is interpreted in two parts: step one is used to identify four basic MBTI preferences. They include ways of 1) gaining and using energy (extraversion or introversion), 2) ways of gathering information (sensing or intuition), 3) ways of making decisions (thinking or feeling), and 4) styles for relating to the outside world (judging or perceiving). In step two, more information is gathered about a personality type including the individuality or uniqueness of one’s type. Also, step two facet results clarify questions that arise regarding the four basic MBTI type preferences and demonstrate 16 distinct personality types. Each type identifies five components (or “facets”) for a total of 20 facets. For example, ISTJs (Introverted/Sensing/Thinking/Judging types) tend toward the following five traits: 1) serious and thorough, 2) well-organized and accurate, 3) practical, orderly, realistic; 4) takes responsibility for what needs to get done; and 5) follows through, particularly in the presence of obstacles.
The step two facet results help people understand why similar personality types still differ in many ways. More importantly, step two helps workers understand why they and their coworkers perform certain tasks in a particular way. Very often, companies integrate the MBTI tool so that team members can understand their individual personalities as well as the “personality” of the team. Bringing strengths and weaknesses out into the open within an established framework like the MBTI provides guidance in an atmosphere that fosters trust and collaboration. People tend to notice that no one type is any better than someone else’s — just different. The MBTI also shows workers how differences can enhance a team’s success.
The MBTI instrument can be a useful assessment tool, but only if its results are effectively applied in the workplace. In other words, the results can facilitate learning and thus lead to successful communication and problem solving. By itself the data (differences between personality types, strategies for dealing with various situations, and other measurements) is of little value. When the findings can be applied to daily situations (customer problems, project completion dates, unforeseen obstacles) that’s when the MBTI can be called a success.