Quick post on other personality type approaches

As I noted in an earlier post, the logo-centric metaphor of Myers-Briggs is limiting; other approaches leverage graphical and color metaphors to good effect:

Enneagrams — A friend of mine turned me on to this approach.  I don’t understand the nuances — this site appears to be a good intro  — but three aspects struck me:

  1. Each Enneagram personality type has a coherent narrative.
  2. The confusing type-shifting possible in other tests is precluded.
  3. The visualization makes the type “enrichment” concepts — wings, triads, etc. — easier to understand and relate to.

True Colors — A straightforward approach that presents four basic personality types using a color metaphor.  The biggest advantages are the ease with which the test is administered and how quickly most team members relate to the color concept.  The True Colors organization site is here, a sample quiz is here.

Strength Deployment Inventory — SDI is based on a different psychological paradigm; it looks at motivation for oneself and one’s team (a good basic intro to SDI is here –a summary of some of the differences is here).  I like that:

  1. It identifies personal strengths and motivations, both when things are going well and when facing opposition and conflict.
  2. Both results are mapped on a grid, with a color metaphor to help interpret one’s positions on the grid.
  3. All team members’ results are mapped, so it is very easy to compare and discuss the interrelationships among the group.

Caveats about “Personality Type” and Myers-Briggs

Extending my earlier post about personality and leadership….  While I see value in Myers-Briggs, there are a lot of caveats about the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) and personality testing in general:

  • MBTI measures aspirations as much as reality.  One has to be very careful about whether you’re seeing what you are or what you wish to be.  Both are OK results, just know the difference.
  • The test and rating scheme were heavily influenced by the types and theories of the creators themselves (and ultimately Carl Jung‘s concept of Psychological Type). 
  • The logocentric nature really turns some folks off (though I see the four characters like they’re on slot machine “wheels”). 
  • The simplistic visualizations in MBTI mask the malleability and fuzzy nature of “type.”  As noted above, one’s mental or emotional statecan skew the results.  Also, other tests/approaches have more straightforward insights into the differences between how one reacts when stressed vs. relaxed.
  • Type can become stereotype — which is one of the best insights from Stephen Covey’sSeven Habits….”  It is useful as a screening and development tool, but MBTI is much more useful to each individual to know him/herself.  To reinforce this, one approach is to have everyone destroy their “type IDs” at the end of MBTI-based training.
  • Type doesn’t mean destiny.  Everyone thinks sales people have to be “E,” buy many only appear to be extroverts.  Much of their apparent spontaneity is an effect achieved through meticulous preparation.  Many actors are “I” as well — one of the reasons The Method is so effective. 

Personality Types and Leadership

I had posted earlier on Myers-Briggs, personality types, and teams (here and here).  My interest in MBTI started 15 years ago with a boss who was an outstanding leader and leadership coach — he had led the VP’s detail in the Secret Service — and was very cultured and wise to boot. 

As our team went through some leadership sessions, my boss picked up very quickly that I wanted to be a “T” — using “Thinking” to make decisions from a more detached standpoint, measuring the decision by what seems reasonable and matching a given set of rules.  But he wondered how strong the preference really was. 

What he was concerned about my misunderstanding of the relationship between personality type and leadership — it isn’t necessarily one’s type that’s important, it is how well one is tune with that type.  My boss’s concern wasn’t that I scored higher on “Thinking” over “Feeling” (Feeling = coming to decisions by associating or empathizing with the situation, looking at consensus and fit, considering the needs of the people involved.)  His concern was that I was ignoring parts of my personality that could prove useful in leadership situations.  

The confirmation came when we were chatting and he somewhat obliquely asked about past romantic relationships.  Seven years on I still talked about my ex intensely, admiringly, and wistfully — a “strong” INTJ would have had no problem moving on.  He strongly encouraged me to focus on improving my “F” decision-making awareness.  Otherwise I would spend my career and life wondering why my wonderful, logical schemes kept falling apart.

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