Jennifer Recommends

July 28th, 2015 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Jennifer Recommends, MBTI No Comments »

MBTI User Conference_logo_r6Are you responsible for making business decisions about the MBTI® in your company? If so, be extra smart by attending the first-ever MBTI® Users Conference September 28-30, 2015 in San Francisco.

I’m bringing an all-star panel of business leaders to join me in sharing the secrets to massively increase your MBTI® return on investment by using it in business units and functional areas — in a very different way than you use it in enterprise-wide leadership development.

The publisher of the MBTI is offering a conference discount for my readers only. Use Promo Code SELBY to save $150 off Standard Conference registration.

This is not an affiliate program and I do not receive a commission – I’m recommending the conference because I know you should be there.

Check out the agenda here: https://www.cpp.com/mbticonference/agenda.html – toggle8

CPP’s 2015 MBTI® Users Conference will be filled with exclusive content accessible only in person.

Featuring an impressive array of MBTI experts to help you tackle today’s most pressing issues, learn about growing trends, and apply your takeaway learning, this lineup has something for everyone. You’ll join industry leaders and peers to hear about and discuss:

  • Making the most of your MBTI investment to impact ROI
  • Presenting to a group of all different MBTI types
  • Accelerating business strategic alignment
  • Flexing MBTI type preference to get ahead
  • Delivering global leadership development programs
  • Connecting an organization’s self-awareness to an engaged workforce
  • Boosting collaboration with cross-generational teams
  • And more

Learn more at http://www.mbticonference.com/ and remember to use Promo Code SELBY to save $150 off Standard Conference registration.

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Drop the Gun and Step Away from the Big Five vs. MBTI Battle

October 2nd, 2013 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in MBTI 4 Comments »

Followers of Adam Grant on LinkedIn know he’s recently written quite an emotional article about the MBTI, followed by a more reasoned article. Now Ron Baker has jumped on the bandwagon. While both authors make good points, their articles suffer from significant errors of fact about the test/retest reliability of the instrument, an unwieldy set of expectations for the model on which it’s based, and the false assumptions that those of us who use it are applying it to recommend who to hire and to evaluate employee effectiveness.

It is telling about our culture that Grant’s emotional, erroneous article so far has four times as many views as his well-written and more reasoned article, even though the reader would learn more about his point of view and what drives it by reading both articles in sequence, as well as the New York Times article and Hile Rutledge blog that he sites.

People love a dramatic story, as I pointed out in last month’s feature article. The troubling part is that the drama in this case obscures what could otherwise be an informative discussion that furthers everyone’s thinking and improves everyone’s work.

People have been asking me to share my point of view on the MBTI and Big Five. Here’s where I stand at this point, in no particular order of importance.

  • A little common sense goes a long way. Use the MBTI in your company for coaching or if your goal is to provide employees with insights that they can apply to be more effective in working and communicating with others, leading, and facilitating change. Don’t use it to determine who should be hired. It’s unethical and a waste of resources. No one directly associated with the instrument, including the publisher, has ever recommended its use in hiring or promotion decisions, yet this scary myth persists that we are making secret hiring and promotion decisions based on MBTI scores. To use it in hiring and promotion decisions is both irrelevant and unethical, because the instrument indicates a person’s likely pattern of thought, but you can’t draw conclusions about their effectiveness from it. For that, you need to look for evidence, not try to understand the way energy moves through their brains. LinkedIn is running a great series of articles right now titled “How I Hire,” and you would be better off following advice in these articles than trying to get the MBTI to tell you who to hire.
  • The instrument wasn’t designed to be predictive, but interestingly, I’ve found that it can be predictive in assessing the habits of a team and the likely strengths and weaknesses they will have in their decision-making and priorities. Based on the team’s MBTI results, I can generally assess many of their strengths and weaknesses, particularly those that pertain to decision-making, and these often align with the hard data I collect earlier in the project.

However, I intentionally kill the predictive accuracy of the tool in the way I work with it. I use the MBTI as a springboard to help teams understand their own behavior patterns, change the patterns, or at the very least, do a better job of managing the risks associated with these patterns. Because they have greater self-awareness and, more importantly, they change what they do, they get a different outcome, thus torching any predictions – and that’s just the way I like it. What would be the point of putting all of that effort into understanding your mental patterns if you don’t try to use the information to improve?

  • With seven billion people on earth and 16 type combinations in the tool, any reasonable person can conclude that the MBTI can only tell you so much about general patterns of thought and behavior, and that it’s up you to get to know yourself and your coworkers as individuals, not just type patterns. This inherent limitation is true of all instruments. Some people want psychometric instruments to tell them so much more about themselves and others than we could ever reasonably expect, but a good interpreter will be open and honest about the limitations of each tool he or she is using and the real work you will need to do to validate it and apply it in a practical way.
  • The MBTI itself is mostly neutral-to-positive in its language. Those of us who have worked with it for a long time and who continue our professional development know the downside risks associated with any pattern and we share these with clients who are willing to listen (some aren’t ready to hear it). The Big Five, a different theory, is quite open about the downside, complete with scales to measure your openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. At this point, I don’t plan to use it with my clients because it is evaluative. I don’t have a need for an evaluative instrument, because there are better ways to evaluate effectiveness and potential effectiveness in a given job. Grant wants to use only tools that correlate personality with effectiveness, but this puts too much emphasis on personality and not enough on potential and demonstrated performance, in my opinion.
  • I find Grant’s innuendo that it’s bad for practitioners to make good money to be downright offensive. He very nearly implies that if your work helps people at a personal level, you should be poorly compensated. He also implies that the tool is why practitioners make good money when for the majority of us, the MBTI is usually a small part of a much bigger project, and we don’t make our money from using the tool, but from the larger service of which it is a small part. Frankly, there are hassles and costs associated with using any tool, and it would be easier for me if I skipped it, but the vast majority of clients find it to be very helpful, so I keep it. There could be a self-filling prophecy here, in that now I’ve come to be known for my ability to sort through an MBTI report with a client and provide a lot more context directly relevant to their goals, so perhaps I now attract people who are open to hearing it. I will never know for sure.
  • I agree with Grant or, more accurately, with Brian Little that “Insight from the Myers-Briggs can start that conversation, but unfortunately it often ends the conversation. You’ve got your type stamped on your forehead.” There is always someone who wants to efficiently get all of the answers about everyone on the team by knowing their type code, and who is massively disappointed that it doesn’t work that way. This is a very real challenge with any instrument, and it’s up to both the practitioner and the leaders in the organization to reinforce what’s valuable and true vs. the expectations that are completely unreasonable or even counter-productive.

Still, there will be those who don’t want to hear it, and that does pose an undeniable risk. There are practitioners who work with groups using Jung’s model, but with no instrument at all, as I do when a client is uncomfortable with using an instrument or the MBTI in particular. I’m not convinced that ditching the MBTI or using a Big Five instrument solves the problem in and of itself, though. For some people, the desire to over-simplify human behavior is very strong. It’s a risk we must manage.

  • Jung’s theory, on which the majority of the instrument is based, started as a hypothesis (what Grant calls “mesearch instead of research”) as do all theories. There is data to support it, though I would like to see more. In my own work with clients, I place them in a series of workgroups based on MBTI results before they know what the results are, and I have seen enough of a consistent pattern over the past 18 years to feel confident that Jung was on to something.

He asserted that the psyche possesses all of the mental functions, but does not develop all of them at the same time, and uses some of them more consciously than others. As people age, the personality is much more complex, nuanced, and increasingly conscious (that’s to say, having a preference but having ready access to a non-preference). The reports do not do a good job of capturing that complexity, which is one of the reasons people can feel boxed in by their report. It’s up to me to provide the nuance, and for those who are open to the ideas that preference isn’t destiny and that you can and should also use your non-preferences, it helps to make the experience more useful and meaningful.

I’m disappointed that Adam Grant and Ron Baker obscured their valid points with factual errors. This could have been a great discussion about the role of personality-based instruments in context, where they add value and where they don’t, and how to best utilize them. Instead, it’s mostly a simplistic “MBTI vs. Big Five” debate. The MBTI still has room for improvement, but by virtue of the fact that it merely sorts people instead of ranking them from the best personality to the worst personality, it remains the means by which many people are most comfortable launching their understanding of Jung’s theory and how it applies to them. I’ve seen Jung’s theory help too many people to throw out the baby with bathwater.

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Three Surefire Ways to Improve Your Relationships with Different Personalities

May 3rd, 2013 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Change Leadership, Communication, MBTI 3 Comments »

Last week, I was concluding a team-building series with a dynamite business team leader and his carefully selected team, which blended the best of the former team with newcomers from other companies and industries. We’d been focusing on understanding each other on a more personal level, with each team member sharing what he or she believed to be a common stereotype about their personality and why it wasn’t true.

The team had immersed themselves in a rich discussion getting to know the complex and competent individuals with whom they worked. Not a single text was checked. No laptops were opened. After two hours of completely absorbing discussions, it couldn’t have been clearer that personality type is a starting point for understanding yourself and each other, and not about putting one another into tidy, sanitary little boxes with no room for individual development, growth, expression, or differences.

The team was in a very good place that day. They’d done exceptionally well coming together as a team to turn around sinking sales figures, and even surpassing their quarterly goal a week early. Improving their interpersonal relationships was one of the keys to that improvement. They had worked hard at it and were still working hard at it and aiming even higher.

It wasn’t because the relationships were bad. They weren’t. They team already got along fine. It was because they realized that by getting to really know each other and understand their differences, they could leverage these to be stronger as a team, and build an enormous edge over their competitors, where each sales person was little more than a commission-driven island.

Still, in the midst of all this zippy, cheerful energy, the leader’s brow suddenly furrowed. We’ve worked together a long time, and I knew that look. Every time he reaches a goal, he looks back to see how to make to make the process more efficient. And like many TL readers, he’s not above having a little fun along the way. No wonder he is so successful. I could see that the process of improving interpersonal working relationships would be no exception.

Sure enough, out came the question, “So, Jennifer, how do you get better at this without practicing it a million times?!” Wow, a million times. I’m pretty sure I can improve on that. That’s a pretty low efficiency bar. But why do it myself? We put our heads together, and today I’ll share with you what we came up with, and one addition of my own.

1. Stop assuming you have to get better at interpersonal relationships alone. Instead, role-play with someone else. For example, since this was a sales team, they had prepared pitches to sell to different personalities, and I asked them pair off for role plays so that they got to practice their pitch on someone of that type and get feedback on how effective the pitch was, and what would improve the pitch. It was a very powerful coaching experience.

The team decided to add pitch practice to some of their staff meetings, and made an agreement to role play with each other on an ad hoc basis. You don’t always need an expert – your peers can provide feedback that greatly accelerates your growth. This was a great opportunity to gain an edge over their competition. They were a diverse team in terms of their personalities, so getting feedback from everyone would round out preparation for the most critical pitches, lessening the chance of a surprise during the real pitch.

2. First, focus on observing just one thing and adapting to it. For example, 25 years ago, when I first understood how many people actually gained energy from their inner worlds more often than from the outer world, it was amazing to me. I learned that someone like me could be exhausting just by coming in so close, talking a lot, dropping by their cubes, wanting to talk about projects in the break room, and all manner of other behaviors that I previously had not ever thought about.

So for two weeks, I didn’t think at all about anything else I had learned about interpersonal relationships. I just focused on that. I noticed who tried to get away from me in the break room. I noticed who leaned back when I leaned forward. I started reflected on how annoying I must be. At first I felt bad, and kind of embarrassed. Then I laughed at myself. Then I started adapting.

It’s not important that you understand the whole wide world of personality type and adapt to it every minute in order to improve your interpersonal relationships. Just pick something and notice it, and notice your own reaction to it, and then start adapting. Then pick something else, and as the shampoo bottle says, rinse and repeat.

When you’re ready and so inclined, you can go much, much deeper, but you don’t have to go much, much deeper in order to get much, much better. You just have to start doing it and keep doing it.

3. When it comes to personality type in particular, take what uninformed people say with a grain of salt. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) is one of the most popular personality instruments of all time. It’s also the most complex of the more popular instruments, and this leaves plenty of room for poor memory to combine with overenthusiasm to lead to absolute certainty about complete falsehoods.

Trust what your report, legitimate publications, and your certified interpreter have to say, or just ask me directly on the blog, LinkedIn, or Twitter. Even on the LinkedIn discussion boards, I see errors all the time. Trust me on this — if you tell your direct reports, “You can’t understand the strategy of the business because you’re Sensing types, so I’ll handle it” not only are you stating an error of fact, you’ve just worsened the relationship, not improved it!

How do you get better at this without practicing it a million times? What are your thoughts? Please join the conversation at www.jenniferselbylong.com.

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The Surprising Reasons People Resist Being Empowered

October 5th, 2012 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Communication, Management, MBTI, Professional Development No Comments »

It seems so obvious, like such a no-brainer: your business has reached the stage at which you’ve stabilized the core and you must scale. Meanwhile, your market demands that you grow while getting even more nimble and flexible. The answer is obvious, right? Drive decision-making down in the organization. Stop holding on to it. Empower people to act quickly in the customer’s and the company’s best interest.

When you announce that you’re going to do this, heads nod. Who could disagree with being more trusted? More empowered? Less oppressed? Philosophically, it all seems to line up, but when it comes to execution, it nearly always falls apart. Last month, we looked at three contributing factors to this failure: a poorly defined end state, no mid-level guiding coalition, and assuming that empowerment has to happen in a linear, top-down sequence (http://jenniferselbylong.com/?p=536). Let’s say that over this month you’ve addressed all three, yet people still expect you to make decisions you’ve told them you want them to make.  Why?

There are several reasons that could apply to anyone, but often align with particular personality types. If you understand this, you can begin to address this reluctance through a more personal and compassionate lens. Compassion is frequently a bit of a  blind spot for leaders, but those who can open their minds to understanding why people act the way they do build far more engagement and alignment than those who look at these challenges only in terms of business systems and metrics.

Resistance to empowerment might be better described as reluctance rather than resistance. Your people have concerns – and fear is the emotion underlying concern. It may sometimes look like anger but think about it, when you have been angry, what drove the anger? It was fear of losing something, or that something would happen that would have a negative consequence.

Likewise, your people aren’t fools. They know there could be very negative consequences for them personally if they embrace empowerment.

Let’s look at how this can play out when viewed through the lens of personality type. There are many aspects of personality type that can influence how an employee feels about being empowered. Today I will divide the personality types according to those that share the same dominant cognitive process, or mental function.

Jung equated the dominant cognitive process to the captain of a ship. He believed that it is the most conscious process, and that your other cognitive processes act in support of the dominant process. We unconsciously see our dominant process as a hero, and feel most heroic when using it.

Apply this insight to understanding reluctance to become empowered, and what do you see?  Empowerment might mean that we won’t get to use our heroic mental function nearly as often, and that we’ll be demanded to spend much time using our less conscious functions. No wonder we hold back!

Put another way, each type often has concerns that, if expressed and taken seriously, will reveal gaps, flaws, inefficiencies, and other issues with the empowerment plan. By recognizing and discussing these, you can not only compassionately engage employees, you can also improve the power and effectiveness of your empowerment efforts.

There are no personality types that are inherently more or less threatened by empowerment. That’s a complete myth. Some aspect of empowerment is likely to be concerning for each type, as indicated below.

MBTI® Codes ESTJ and ENTJ

  • Most conscious function plans, organizes, and measures progress
  • Most likely concern is that empowerment will force them to lose control over outcomes due to a less structured environment,  greater reliance on incompetent coworkers, or poorly defined criteria for performance

MBTI® Codes INTJ and INFJ

  • Most conscious function gains deep, long-term insights and realizations
  • Most likely concern is that empowerment will force them to manage unfamiliar, complex, multiple details previously managed by the boss, or interact constantly with teammates doing group planning and decision-making (particularly concerning if they view their teammates as incompetent)

MBTI® Codes ISTJ and ISFJ

  • Most conscious function verifies and stabilizes
  • Most likely concern is that empowerment will create too many unpredictable and unmanaged variables, making it more difficult to create repeatable success, or that working in an empowered way will be inefficient or ineffective compared with the current way of working

MBTI® Codes ESFJ and ENFJ

  • Most conscious function nurtures trust and demonstrates care
  • Most likely concern is that empowerment will cause peer conflict to drag on and become toxic instead of being quickly discussed and resolved, or that the team will not be able to develop the deep level of trust required to make excellent decisions

MBTI® Codes ENTP and ENFP

  • Most conscious function envisions possibilities and emerging patterns
  • Most likely concern is that empowerment will require them to reach closure too soon on too many decisions, choking off the creative process which produces their best ideas, or that they will have to deal with dense bureaucracies that the boss previously navigated on their behalf

MBTI® Codes ESTP and ESFP

  • Most conscious function experiences the tangible present
  • Most likely concern is that empowerment will cause them to be pinned down by too many commitments, with all spontaneity choked off and too much structured, scheduled team activity

MBTI® Codes ISTP and INTP

  • Most conscious function precisely defines within a framework, theory, or principle
  • Most likely concern is that empowerment will require them to deal with the illogical or incompetent people that their bosses previously handled, or that they will have to constantly collaborate too closely with others and no longer have time to work alone

MBTI® Codes ISFP and INFP

  • Most conscious function assigns a value or degree of importance and provides a moral compass
  • Most likely concern is that empowerment will force them to give up deeply valued work responsibilities in order to take on these new decision-making responsibilities, or that their most trusted relationships will be damaged by this new distribution of power

Warning! The worst thing you can do with this knowledge is play amateur psychologist, approaching each employee and saying, “I read a blog that tells me what you’re afraid of, and I just want to tell you that there’s nothing to worry about.” It’s a terrible idea for several reasons:

  • You may not actually know the employee’s type, even though you think you do.
  • The “most likely concern” is exactly that – likely, but not certain, and not comprehensive. Other factors may come into play.
  • It’s annoying! Your employees will want to smack you, not follow your lead to the land of empowerment.

A better approach is to explore these concerns first alone or with a trusted advisor, and then with your team.

Here are some questions to get the conversations going:

  • What are everyone’s individual concerns about being more empowered? How accurately does the Selby Group list reflect your concerns?
  • What has led to these concerns – is it truly about individual personal needs or is it something else?
  • Is the leader’s greatest concern about empowerment different from the greatest concerns of each of the employees on the team?
  • Are we so “type-alike” as a group that we have only addressed the concerns of one or two types?
  • If so, did that leave the valid concerns of “minority types” out of the equation? What did we miss? Was the quality of our solution compromised by these missing perspectives?
  • How can we address any concerns that were not previously surfaced?

See what insights you gain from the discussion that will help you all move forward toward your goal with greater confidence and ease.

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Bride of MBTI

August 3rd, 2012 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Business, Communication, Management, MBTI, Professional Development No Comments »

 

Do you remember how the Frankenstein movies started with just Frankenstein, and then there was Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, and classics of cinema like Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster?

Well, we’ve got our own sequel here at Selby Group because last month’s column about the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® instrument prompted many more questions. Ever eager to please our readers, I give you more burning questions and answers in our sequel…Bride of MBTI. Be afraid. Be very afraid….

My personality has changed so much over the years, but I’ve taken this instrument three times and it always comes out with the same four letters. Does this mean it’s wrong or that it’s trying to tell me I haven’t changed?

I don’t know if this will make you feel better or worse, but it’s not telling you either of these things. The tool isn’t designed to tell you the ways you may have changed over the years. It’s definitely not going to argue with you that you have or haven’t changed.

It just indicates what mental functions you probably find more energizing and therefore prefer to use more often. What your brain prefers in this most general regard is probably hard-wired in the womb, but that doesn’t mean you don’t grow and change, and it’s also true that no instrument can accurately figure out the preferences of every person so sometimes it just gets it wrong.

Here’s some information you can use in your exploration to determine the type code that fits you best, regardless of what the form says.

The MBTI is based on Carl Jung’s theory of the personality, which holds that we’re all born with the same mental functions in our brains, and that each individual is more energized by the use of some of those mental functions than others. As we mature, many people gain greater ease using their non-preferred mental functions and also become more confident of what their preferences really are. These things happen simultaneously over the decades and are among the benefits of not being a kid anymore.

Is it possible that your preferences really are the type code that keeps coming up and that you’re getting more at ease with your non-preferences, which is why you feel you’ve changed? That sounds to me like the natural process of maturing.

Is it possible that you’re answering the way you think you’re supposed to be at work because you’re taking the tool at work? It happens all too often. One of my clients did not get an accurate MBTI result until he was in his 50’s. By the time his kids were grown up, he no longer felt the financial pressure that had led to conformance pressure and he could finally feel safe answering as himself.

Is it possible that you’re asking a little too much of the tool? The four-letter type code doesn’t have to fit you like a glove. At the basic level (Form M, for those of you familiar with the various versions), all seven billion residents of earth could be sorted into 16 type preference codes, so many people find that their “best fit” type really is just that – a best fit, not a perfect fit.

While some people immediately resonate with the results in their reports, others find they need more interpretation and self-reflection to determine the best-fit type code. This is the limitation of any tool, and I give the late Isabelle Briggs and Katherine Myers credit for their frankness about this fact.

Be sure to talk with your certified interpreter for more help interpreting confusing or conflicting results. That’s what we’re here for.

I’m a Thinking person because I don’t care about people’s feelings, right?

Alas, if our personalities were that simple, the MBTI would be a free quiz in Glamour magazine.

So let’s straighten out this common misperception. There are two Thinking functions, one defines and the other organizes and measures progress. We all have both functions, along with two other mental functions that play a role in decision-making. One of these other functions is focused on harmony between people.

If you have a preference for one of the thinking functions, it means that defining or organizing/measuring is probably energizing for you and you probably use it more consciously. Defining and measuring don’t generally involve people’s feelings. If your mental function that cares about people’s feelings is unconscious to you because defining or measuring is taking up a lot of your conscious awareness, it stands to reason that you would believe you don’t even have this function, but you do.

With this function residing more in your unconscious, it’s not that you don’t care about people’s feelings. It’s that your mental function that handles this aspect of decision-making resides mostly in your unconscious mind. Functions that live mostly in our unconscious mind very heavily influence our decision-making. We just don’t know it until someone else points it out, because it’s unconscious for us.

Trippy stuff, huh? To me, though, the dynamic nature of personality is infinitely more interesting and useful than the cheery, sunny, and rather static personality type descriptions that make people happy when they read them. Wonderful personal growth comes through deepening our understanding of our whole selves, including the conscious and unconscious parts of our personalities that we bring to work with us — and that everyone else has to deal with all day.

I swear my colleague prefers ENTP but he says it’s ENFP. How can I convince him of this?

You can’t, because only the individual can determine his or her best fit type code.

If a person is uncertain, the ENTP/ENFP question can be one of the more challenging ones to resolve. These two types share the same dominant mental function. Jung called the dominant function the captain of your ship because he said every other mental function is used in service of the dominant function.

The ENFP/ENTP similarities are so great that we can be almost indistinguishable from one another to casual observers, particularly in environments in which we’re the minority and are adapting our style to the majority. The similarities are so strong that my own Myers-Briggs results are ENTP about half of the time and ENFP the other half.

If you and your colleague are interested in exploring further, you might enjoy three books which would give you a more in-depth perspective on the similarities and differences. The first is very popular and the other two are more what I would call specialty publications for practitioners, but still quite readable for the enthusiast: David Kiersey’s Please Understand Me II, Dario Nardi’s The Neuroscience of Personality, and Susan Nash’s Let’s Split the Difference. Enjoy!

Can you please change those stupid four-letter type codes into regular words? I can’t ever remember mine.

Sorry, but I cannot. I didn’t create them, so I don’t get to change them. Isabelle Briggs felt strongly that the names should not box people in with a label that implied a stereotype or judgment (as all words do), so she intentionally made them bland sets of letters instead of words.

I respect her point of view, and I also fully acknowledge that it makes it harder to remember. For my own clients, I don’t believe it’s critical that they remember their letters because they have a PDF and a print-out of their results should they ever want to look it up.

Most of the time, it’s more important that you remember what you have learned about yourself and others than that you remember the letters. For practitioners, I encourage you to work in common language when discussing the functions and attitudes in addition to the technically accurate terms.

Do you have more burning questions? If so, please send in your request at lighten@selbygroup.com, and I’ll include it in, of course, MBTI Meets the Space Monster.

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So Many MBTI Questions, So Little Time

July 13th, 2012 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Communication, Management, MBTI No Comments »

I’ve been inundated with questions about the MBTI and Majors PTI lately, and I’m happy to see so much interest in self-awareness and how to put self-awareness to good use as a leader. This month, we’re going to focus on three of the discussions which are hot today. I’m going to geek out and get a little bit technical here. I hope you enjoy the subject matter as much as I do.

If you have a different burning question, please send us your request at lighten@selbygroup.com, and I’ll include it in a subsequent issue.

What’s the difference between the MBTI and the Strengths Finder? Should we use both in our company?

It’s my opinion that the two don’t have much in common, though they have not been tested together so we don’t have evidence one way or the other. Conceptually, though, they seem to me to be trying to do two very different things.

Let’s start with the Strengths Finder. The Strengths Finder assessment helps you identify what you believe your strengths to be. Simply believing that something is your strength doesn’t make it your strength, though. A more accurate name might have been Perceived Strengths Finder, but who on earth would have bought a book with that boring name?

To learn if your perception of your strengths is accurate, you will need to also get data from trusted sources and a reasonable metric. For leaders, the most common way to get feedback on your strengths in the workplace is through confidential developmental 360-degree feedback and performance metrics. For most individual contributors, it’s a performance metric, though modified 360’s can also be used. They are essentially not 360’s but 180’s.

You can also get feedback on your strengths by asking directly or through the annual performance management process, though that doesn’t always result in a completely honest or well-informed assessment — except perhaps from your spouse. I’m completely serious about your spouse being the only person who’s likely to give frank feedback. Well, I do hope your spouse doesn’t have you on a performance management plan, but if that’s the case, I’m afraid we’ve gone way beyond my area of expertise.

Now let’s turn to the MBTI. The MBTI, despite lots of writing indicating otherwise, is not necessarily trying to help you identify your unique strengths, either. It helps you understand what your natural patterns of mental energy may be, based on Jung’s theory of the personality. The MBTI is trying to give you a snapshot of patterns that are thought to be hard-wired in utero. The intent is to provide you with insights that you can use to make your perception clearer and your judgments more sound.

We have found over time that certain types are often associated with certain strengths, blind spots, and challenges, but – this is the most important part – the data is at the herd level, so it doesn’t apply to every individual with that particular type code.

By itself with no context, I believe the MBTI has limited usefulness. However, in context, it can be a great jumping off point to help you improve your self-awareness and self-management in a wide variety of situations.

It could be interesting to use both tools in an organization, but at this point it seems cumbersome. I work mostly in the technology and science sectors, so perhaps my view is biased, but I do find that my clients have a pretty low threshold for how many self-awareness tests they want to take and understand. I usually pick my assessments based on their goals and keep the number small.

One assessment is ideal for a more tactical or focused context, such as a training or teambuilding event or addressing a particular challenge. Two or three complimentary tools can provide a robust, well-rounded picture of the self for those with a more strategic and long-term development plan. This often includes executives, key talent, and high potential individuals who are part of a larger strategic culture change or leadership development investment.

As a guideline to leaders, I recommend that you choose your internal or external consultant and leave it to the consultant to pick the right instrument for your needs. That level of expertise and good judgment is what you should be paying them for.

Where can I get a free MBTI on the internet? I don’t want to pay for it.

You can’t. The authors weren’t trying to create a tempting assessment as a means to upsell books or consulting services, so it’s a freestanding product. There’s an on-line version with an on-line interpretation, but it’s not free.

If you want to explore what your type might be without paying for an assessment, pick up some of the many books on psychological type and read them. You won’t get a customized report, but as you read through the books and reflect on how the content applies to you, you’ll learn more about yourself.

You don’t have to take an assessment to understand Jung’s theory and apply it for your own growth. It can accelerate your process, but it’s not essential.

Look at this long bar on the Extraversion/Introversion chart in my report. This means I’m very extraverted, right?

You are going to be so disappointed in this one. The long or short bar in the chart in your report is called the Preference Clarity Index (PCI score), and it’s a bit of a distraction. It’s not a measure of you; it’s a measure of the test.

(If the researchers at CPP are reading this article, you are going to gag at the way I’ll now describe this, but here goes.)

If your bar is very long on the Extraversion side, it isn’t telling you that you’re very extraverted. The test isn’t designed to tell you the amount of any preference because Jung’s theory wasn’t about amounts or degrees of anything.

A long bar in the Extraversion chart is saying, “The form probably got it right because you consistently answered the questions about Extraversion in the same way.”

Likewise, a very short bar doesn’t mean that you’re not very extraverted or that you’re balanced or that you have some of both. Those are all measures of degree, and the second is even a measure of mental health (balanced vs. unbalanced) which this test isn’t designed to measure, either. Seriously, you could be the next Ted Kaczynski and this form would have no way of knowing.

A very short bar just means that the form had a harder time giving you a clear answer based on how you responded to the questions.

Compared to what you thought that bar meant, this is pretty boring, isn’t it? Ah, well. I try to bring you riveting reading, but sometimes the myth is more exciting than the reality.

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