My intent when I launched my website and accompanying blog has been to publish a new blog article around the first of each month. I’ve done that each month since I launched my new business last Fall except for the past few months. We are in the middle of a global pandemic. COVID19. Everything I thought I might write about just seemed trivial and unimportant in comparison. So, I chose not to write about anything and to just take a pause and focus on my family instead. But we are starting to take steps back into our “new normal” as everyone calls it, so now I’m stepping back in again.
Ironically, a month after the first community acquired case of the virus was discovered in Seattle, Washington, I was also in Seattle doing a week of training to become certified as a Myers-Briggs facilitator. Just a few weeks later, everything in the United States pretty much shut down and we were told to shelter in place. Getting certified in MBTI is something I’ve always been interested in doing and earlier this year I decided it was a good time to pursue the certification so I could offer it as part of my executive and leadership coaching and Human Resources consulting practice.
I’ve always had an interest in psychology. In college, it was one of my favorite classes and a few years ago when I saw my niece’s college psychology textbook sitting in her living room, I had fun flipping through the pages of it, remembering what I’d learned in college about the human psyche. In the human resources field, you observe a lot in the workplace about people’s personalities, how they play into group dynamics and over time, you begin to understand how complex people are.
What is MBTI About?
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is the most widely used personality assessment. It was invented by Carl Jung, a Swiss Psychiatrist and is based on the observation that differences between people aren’t random. They form psychological types. Isabelle Briggs-Myers formed the first version of the instrument in 1943 and it has been adapted and researched over the years. All types are good and all types have potential.
The MBTI is a personality type assessment that sorts individuals into categories based on their answers to an assessment. It is not a test. There are no right or wrong answers. It doesn’t measure how much or how little of something someone is, but rather it is designed to identify people’s natural preferences for one type over another. It assesses mental energy, not behavior. By knowing one’s MBTI type, you’ll be able to identify how you are similar or different than others and look at the impact that has on your environment, your relationships, your decision making, and your communication.
How Can MBTI Be Used for Development?
While people can be grouped into commonalities of preferences, which is what the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment does, it’s rarely that simple. Human beings are complex creatures and our backgrounds, experiences, and environmental factors (such as how we were raised, our education, training, workplace culture, etc.) all influence how our personalities show up at work and at home. The MBTI assessment is a great starting place to learn more about oneself, our natural preferences, and how those may playout in communication with others. It helps us understand how we approach and interpret the world differently than others. It can also help us learn how that can present challenges in various relationships in our lives, especially when under stress, and gives a great baseline for development.
We all have the ability to learn to flex into other style preferences over time when we need to – those are learned skills. For example, I have a preference for Introversion, but professionally I need to demonstrate Extroversion characteristics and I have learned to do that over the years. I also have a preference for Thinking – using my analytical skills to make decisions, for example, but in my 25 plus years in human resources, I have definitely learned to hone Feeling characteristics and I’m equally in tune with those. I have a strong empathetic side and I tap into that easily. So much so, that when I’ve taken the MBTI assessment several times, I’m almost equally balanced with Thinking or Feeling. I can equally flex to either, but my natural preference is for Thinking.
When developing oneself, real growth and development is about learning to flex into those areas where you don’t have natural preferences so that you can comfortably use ALL preference types depending upon what the situation warrants.
Using MBTI has many purposes, however selection in hiring is not one of them. What the MBTI is best used for is the following:
As I was just launching the executive and leadership coaching part of my business, I had every intention of putting my new certification right into practice as soon as I returned from Seattle. But the virus had other ideas. Instead, I put it into practice with my family since we were all self-isolating together.
I learned my husband wasn’t the extroverted personality I thought he was. That’s a learned skill he’s mastered over the years that has benefited him greatly in his life and his relationships and was a much needed one in his sales profession. But wow, what a shocker…he actually has natural preference for introversion. It’s not quite as much of a natural tendency as mine, but it’s there.
My mom, on the other hand, has definite extroversion preferences and that was not a surprise at all. And the requirement for isolation to keep us all safe during COVID19 has been very hard on her. When she’s feeling her best, she’s the socialite of the family and her friends. So, this time of isolation has been a definite challenge for her. She’s the one person with extroverted preferences living in a household of people with introverted preferences. That’s much more challenging for her than for the rest of us.
I practiced the college and career planning assessment with my 16-year-old. He had an opportunity to learn more about himself and what careers might be good fits for someone with his personality preferences. It was a really interesting dialogue to go through the MBTI with him and was insightful for both of us.
For me, as someone with ISTJ (Introversion – Sensing – Thinking – Judging) preferences who does the majority of our household shopping, fortunately we already had plenty of toilet paper in the house so we had no need to worry about that – that is my strong Judging preferences at play. I’ve always planned our meals, made our grocery lists and done grocery shopping on a routine basis so hunkering down and limiting our grocery trips hasn’t been a challenge for us in that regard.
However, for some people who have a stronger preference for Perceiving, it likely has been. Folks with Perceiving preferences love to keep things flexible, spontaneous and open. Needing to plan ahead because their Instacart delivery won’t come for another 5-7 days and not being able to just easily run to the store to grab an item or two has likely been a real challenge for them. If this sounds like you, look at it this way: it’s presented a great opportunity to flex into areas you are not naturally comfortable with.
We will get through this global pandemic time and I believe, as it has challenged everyone to focus on our lives and our priorities in a different way, we will all come out stronger as individuals and as a society together. This pandemic is an opportunity to flex into our personality preferences in a way that will strengthen us in the long run.
When we get back to some sense of normality again, if you think you may want to do some formal executive or leadership coaching and/or are interested in engaging my services for a formal MBTI assessment for you and/or your team, give me a call. I’d be happy to help you out! www.barrhrsolutions.com
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Laurie is an experienced Human Resources executive who is passionate about organizational culture, creating great workplaces and employee engagement.