Identifying and responding appropriately to the different personality types of colleagues and clients is important as your career advances. Initially I viewed personality assessments as one half-step more serious than the Chinese Zodiac – kudos to all the other intelligent, optimistic, stubborn, restless monkeys out there. But as I’ve grown in my career, particularly now that I have to manage staff, I recognize that you can’t treat everyone the same way. You can’t even follow the old adage of treating everyone the way you would like to be treated. For an ENTJ like myself, who can overwhelm others with energy and a desire to institute order according to their vision, applying their natural approach can often backfire.
The most famous, yet still often debunked, personality rating system is the Myers-Brigges Type Indicator (MBTI). The psychometric questionnaire was developed by the psychologists for which it is named based on the theories proposed by Carl Jung (That’s pronounced “Young,” in case you get into a conversation with a detail-oriented INTJ who just could not abide by a mispronunciation). The system is based on determining the pole you more closely associate with in four dichotomies.
Extraversion (E) – (I) Introversion
Sensing (S) – (N) Intuition
Thinking (T) – (F) Feeling
Judging (J) – (P) Perception
My ENTJ score labels me as extraverted (action oriented, preferring more frequent interaction); intuitive (trusting of abstract or theoretical concepts); thinking (measuring decisions by what seems reasonable, logical, consistent); and judging (thinking or feeling). In my defense, I was most recently scored very near 50/50 on Judging/Perception, so I have some capacity for using intuition – a skill that I think has grown as work throws me more problems that spring up quickly and with little available data on which to make a well-thought out decision.
An ISFP would be my polar opposite. They live in the world of sensation and possibilities. They need to feel as if they’re living their lives in accordance with what they feel is right, and will rebel against anything which conflicts with that goal. They do not like impersonal analysis and are uncomfortable with the idea of making decisions based strictly on logic. I can’t help but roll my eyes as I write these descriptions. So yeah, it’s going to be a little tough for me to connect with this personality type, and yet I must. Two of the top recommended career paths for ISFPs are artist and designer. That’s pretty close to architect – most of my clients!
Here’s one place to take an MBTI assessment. The system is not without its flaws and contradictions, but it is a good conversation starter. Even with awareness, you’re bound to misstep occasionally – consider this blog my penance for getting an interaction wrong recently. Nevertheless, recognizing that not everyone thinks the way you do is an important step in becoming a good leader.