Building a Team Using Myers-Briggs

Perspectives
Jun 6, 2013
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5 Min Read

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?

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