“Greater cooperation and harmony should be possible if we can learn to understand and appreciate the ways in which others differ from ourselves.”
– Peter Briggs Myers
In McKinsey’s leadership training a lot of energy is spent on Myers Briggs, both from a self-reflection and a team dynamic perspective.
What is Myers Briggs?
Myers Briggs is a psychological profiling tool, which provides insights into personalities, and how people perceive the world and make decisions, and is utilized by many strategic leaders to help navigate interpersonal and team dynamics.
Underpinning Myers Briggs is the concept that there are four dimensions or dichotomies of how people perceive the world and make decisions. Each dichotomy creates a scale. The four dichotomies are:
1. Introvert vs. Extrovert
2. Sensing vs. Intuitive
3. Thinking vs. Feeling
4. Perceiving vs. Judging
Introvert vs. Extrovert
The introvert vs. extrovert dichotomy scale is about how people refuel their energy tanks. Introverts create their energy from being alone, while Extroverts create their energy from being around and interacting with others.
Intuitive vs. Sensing
The intuitive vs. sensing scale is about how people think through situations and learn. Intuitive people typically learn through pattern recognition and association. They are quick to understand concepts, though they don’t like to get “bogged” down in the details. While sensing people typically learn through sequential and methodical manners. They like detailed plans and understanding intricacies.
Thinking vs. Feeling
The thinking vs. feeling scale is about how people process decisions. A thinker is typically very methodical, objective, and unemotional when it comes to making decisions. They take the people, their gut, and emotions out of a decision, while a feeler is typically heavily influenced by their feelings, people, and their gut in making decisions.
Determining who to let go in a layoff is a good scenario to understand how thinkers differ from feelers in decision-making. Thinkers would lay off a certain percentage of the lowest performers. Feelers would take into account their feelings about people, and peoples’ circumstances, such as if a person is a single breadwinner in the family, or if the person has kids in college.
Perceiving vs. Judging
The perceiving vs. judging scale is about how people perform in different environments. Perceiving people are comfortable in chaotic and unorganized environments. While judging people typically needs an organized and highly structured environment to flourish.
Myers Briggs Type Indicator
You can think about each dichotomy as a continuum, where for the first dimension introvert is on the far left and the extrovert is on the far right. An individual’s personality will place them somewhere on the continuum.
There are many Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) surveys, which can help you determine where you are on the four dimensions and your corresponding Myers Briggs Type. There are 16 different Myers-Briggs types, which represent the 16 combinations created by the two opposing dichotomies across the four dimensions. For instance, I am an ENFP, which standards for Extrovert, iNtuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving.
Why is Myers Briggs important?
Organizations are a collection of people whose personality traits can clash. While there is no right or wrong MBTI, Myers Briggs brings some order out of the chaos we typically chalk up to interpersonal differences and conflict. With the right appreciation and understanding of different Myers Briggs types, strategic leaders can often elegantly navigate through their own and their team’s interpersonal conflicts, while improving overall communication and culture.
What are the best practices in utilizing Myers Briggs?
The first step in using Myers Briggs is to assess yourself and understand your MBTI. Some organizations take it to the next level and have their team members take the MBTI surveys and then personally reflect and receive training on the dimensions. Additionally, there is the concept of group MBTIs, where often the MBTI types of individuals often aggregate and become the MBTI of the group. Teams dominated by introverts tend to act introvertedly in a group setting. Or, if a group is made up of a lot of thinkers, then the feelers’ perspective may be left out of decision-making. Group MBTI is something to be aware of as you think about how Myers Briggs applies to a group. Let’s go over some more insights and best practices as you navigate through your own and others’ MBTIs.
Extroverts vs. Introverts
There is often unspoken tension between extroverts and introverts. Extroverts typically feel that introverts have little to say, while introverts usually feel extroverts are domineering and loud. Extroverts tend to dominate meetings and conversations.
The best practice is to balance out the conversation and directly solicit input and feedback from introverts. It could be as simple as asking, “Hey Bob, what do you think about the situation?” There are other best practices, such as giving each person in a meeting 1-2 minutes to state their perspective, voting on decisions, or having an introvert lead the meeting. If you are in an extrovert, the key is self-awareness of how much you are speaking versus asking questions and listening. And, if you are an introvert, it is important to state your perspective on issues, mostly when that voice in your head is talking smack about the extrovert, or is saying something important, but the words aren’t coming out of your mouth.
iNtuitive vs. Sensing
Conflict can arise when a sensing person manages an intuitive person. When a sensing type person gives a project to an intuitive type person, the sensing person often wants to know all of the details of how the intuitive type person is going to accomplish the assignment. But, an intuitive person thinks the opposite, thinking big picture with the details to come as they work on it. This difference can lead the sensing type to think the intuitive type doesn’t know what they are doing and the intuitive type to think the sensing type is a micromanager.
At top strategy consulting firms, this dynamic is one of the bigger issues in terms of team conflict, when a partner is sensing but the manager is intuitive or if the manager is sensing and the analyst is intuitive. The best practice in this type of situation is for the sensing type to give the assignment, and then check in daily or weekly on progress, allowing the intuitive the mental space they need to figure it out.
Thinking vs. Feeling
There can often be nasty chasms between thinkers vs. feelers, given the very different ways they come at decisions. Feelers often categorize the thinkers as not caring or even ruthless, while the thinkers often characterize the feelers as soft or too personal. When thinkers and feelers learn to accept and appreciate their different points of view, they can substantially add to their collective level of thinking and problem solving. The best practice is to expose and agree on decision criteria, using a decision matrix or prioritization matrix, or a cost-benefit analysis. While emotions, gut, and people are important, feelers typically benefit from taking their emotions, gut, and people out of the decision, as best they can. While thinkers can benefit from appreciating the perspective that feelers bring to decision-making.
Perceiving vs. Judging
A good friend of mine, who taught Meyers Briggs, once said, “while there are pros and cons to most of the MBTI dimensions, there is no benefit in being perceiving, it just means you’re messy.” Unfortunately, I’m more perceiving. While the statement is mostly true, there are benefits of being perceived, especially during chaotic times and crises, when perceivers can often be even-keeled and keep a steady perspective. When a judging person manages a perceiving person, it is important for the perceiving person to have some semblance of organization (e.g., a clean desk and home screen on the computer), or else the judging type can frame the perceiving type as messy and frenetic. As for judging types, they are typically well organized and structured, and every once in a while could take a cue to go with the flow and see what happens.