Building a Team Using Myers-Briggs

You’ve probably heard of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator even if you haven’t taken it yourself already.  According to the test’s website, the MBTI is one of the most widely-used psychological instruments for describing and measuring personality characteristics, and is used in more than 80 of the Fortune 100 companies.  Its goal is to encourage optimal communication and teamwork among different personalities, and the four main dimensions of characteristics within the MBTI are:

  • Introversion OR Extroversion
  • Sensing OR Intuition
  • Thinking OR Feeling
  • Judging OR Perceiving

A total of 16 personality types are possible.  The MBTI is not meant to label the entirety of one’s personality, but to identify the unique ways in which an individual interprets information, communicates, and views the world and others. The purpose of the MBTI is not to pigeonhole people, but simply to identify which extreme we tend to lean toward.

Administering the MBTI to employees gives you, the manager, the opportunity to better understand your employees’ strengths, as well as identify their communication and working styles.  It is also helpful in assisting both you and your employees in determining the “why” behind their behavior.

Benefits of the Myers-Briggs for Teams

One of my past employers had everyone post their Myers-Briggs type above their desks.  The idea was that if you understood where your teammates were coming from, you would be more tolerant of their differences and could resolve conflicts more easily.  It is known, for example, that introverted types who rely on data and facts to make decisions tend to butt heads with the extroverts, who view problems in the abstract and would rather seek the opinions of others.  If you know upfront that someone has a different style than you, you can adjust your expectations and be better prepared to compromise.

Understanding Myers-Briggs personality profiles also goes a long way in enhancing team communication skills.  The social extrovert and the more low key introvert must learn to meet in the middle in order to ensure that they can clearly express their own ideas.  By regularly interacting and working with other types, employees are also able to hone their persuasion abilities.

Should You Use Myers-Briggs to Staff?

The most extreme form of leveraging Myers-Briggs for team building is to create a team from scratch using the assessment in a pre-hire capacity (i.e. you leverage the test results to create an ideal balance of types on your team).

Common sense dictates that you don’t want too many individuals of any one style, and some types are more common than others (ISFJ, etc.).  For example, the last thing you want is a team of all perceivers who fly by the seat of their pants.  You need to throw at least a few judgers in there who will ensure that a project plan is set and its deadline is met.

On the other hand, if you already have a team in place, it’s wise to consider each new hire’s Myers-Briggs type and how it gels with the rest of your group.  Although there’s never any guarantee that employees will work seamlessly together, certain styles are simply more likely to be harmonious, and others are more likely to clash.  As a final example, if your team generally leans toward the thinking dimension, a feeler is likely to be perceived (and perceive herself) as an outsider and may find it difficult to have her voice heard.

Do you take Myers-Briggs results into account when building your teams?  What’s your strategy?

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

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  • Lee Atherton

    I’m always curious about MBTI – have been told by some that it doesn’t change even if you take it years later. But if that’s the case, why would I score as an introvert at one point in life, and then years later come across as very much extroverted?

    [Reply]

    Craig Calvert Reply:

    Lee, the answer is quite complex, but here’s a (sort of) short version. The preferences for the mental functions are a lot like hand preferences, in that they are hard-wired and never change. However, preference is not exclusivity, and we also develop the skill level of our non-preferred functions over time. As we age, many will increasingly reach out to ‘the other side’ of themselves. Furthermore, the vast majority of MBTI participants take the Step I assessment, which is 93 questions and reports the results in 4 areas (thus, the 4 letters). In the Step II assessment, there are more than 160 questions that break each of the 4 facets from Step I into 5 facets, for a total of 20 facets. So, let’s say that you are ‘wired’ to be an extravert in the overall sense, but within that arena you favor ‘intimate’ over ‘gregarious.’ That would make you an Extravert with 4/5 facets *in preference* and 1 facet *out of preference*. Such ‘mixed’ types can get differing results over time on the less precise Step 1. To see a sample of a Step II report, you can go to https://www.cpp.com/pdfs/smp267149.pdf and take special note of page 5. One last note: If you take the assessment during times of stress (anything from a blood sugar crash to a divorce), you will likely respond to some questions differently than you would under normal circumstances.

    [Reply]

    SLL Reply:

    50% of people are a different type just 5 weeks later. The MBTI is not scientific and is not highly regarded among scientists or psychologists.

    [Reply]

  • alexandralevit

    I think it does change over time, Lee. It also changes within the context of the job that you have. For instance, I am naturally very introverted, but if I answer MBTI with my spokesperson hat on, my results are much more extroverted. Thanks for commenting!

    [Reply]

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  • TonyParker1

    some good tips, thanks for sharing, one thing i would recommend when organising events is to get an event management company to get the best out of it.

    [Reply]