Take Typealyzer with a grain of salt

Breanne at The MBTI Blog posted a comment on my Typealyzer post (here).  I didn’t take Typealyzer quite so seriously as some — after all, my post’s title was “My Blogging Personality Type”.  My take is that Typealyzer mostly an interesting coding exercise.  It is hardly consistent (I tried it again after another post and it came back ISFJ) and could be misinterpreted, so  Breanne’s comment was constructive:

… I write a blog about the MBTI and wrote a post about how Typealyzer is basically junk. I know lots of people are checking it out for entertainment sake- and that’s totally cool…but I hope you don’t confuse those “blog type” results for your own personality type…. [H]ere’s the original post: http://www.thembtiblog.com/2008/11/websites-that-ruin-my-day.html.

Of course, Breanne’s comments beg the question of the reliability and validity of the MBTI itself. Like most psychological tools, it measuring multiple dimensions of a chaotic system.  And MBTI is about as reliable and valid — if not more so — as other personality inventories. 

MBTI tests, however, aren’t reliable in the way most lay people think of reliable.  For example, did you know that on retests, people come out with three to four [MBTI] type preferences the same 75% to 90% of the time?  Not quite as impressive as the .01 and .05 significance tests one plays around with Stats 101? 

This misunderstanding of the limits of the tool compounds the misperception that one’s MBTI type is black-and-white and immutable.  To my mind, self-awareness and mindfulness benefits aside, one of the main advantages of doing MBTI with a professional is that he/she can point out such caveats — usually by noting which of one’s preferences are strong and which are weak.

My blogging personality type

I’ve posted on personality types and leadership a lot (here, here, here, here, and here).  So as you might imagine, I was quite keen on this site — http://www.typealyzer.com/ – which purports to identify one’s blogging personality type.

Not unexpectedly, mine came back as INTJ, which is my most frequent MBTI result (I have also tested as ENTJ and INFJ).  I tried a couple of other sites… www.sap.com came back as ENTJ, while www.oracle.com generated an error (Typealyzer thinks it is written in Thai, oops).

Hat tip: Glen at Herding Cats (here) and Andrew at Inquiries into Alignment (here)

Which personality types are associated with leadership?

Trick question…  d a morton’s (blog here) comment on my original Personality Types and Leadership post (here) made me realize I hadn’t been clear.  I believe that one’s personality type does not determine one’s leadership potential.  However, there are some tendencies based on my own observations and insights that I’ll steal and pass off as my own pass along from others.

  1. I’ve seen a variety of types succeed in a variety of roles and industries.
  2. Family or closely-held firms tend towards a leadership monoculture…there may be some variety in the lower ranks, but often every leader in such firms is very much like the founder(s). 
  3. I’ll reiterate the insight from my former boss: it isn’t necessarily one’s type that’s important, it is how well one is tune with that type
  4. Extending point three, the most successful leaders I’ve seen understand how to communicate in a way that is true to their style, but with words, gestures, or deeds that resonate with the receiver(s).
  5. Some types naturally want to grab the reins — ENTJ is the most notorious for this — but that doesn’t mean they will be successful.

Gen-X and the Corporate World

From an interesting post by Tamara Erickson (here); the remarkable section is the comments.  Wow, Tammy’s post generated some serious discontent, albeit few answers.  To that end, I’ve found a couple of approaches that at least promote engagement:

  • Intrapreneurship works wonders for Gen X-ers so inclined. I have several very bright colleagues in my group who just aren’t happy being “grinders”. In other words, they’re keen on creating and innovating a new process, product, etc., but they want to move on to the next “start-up”. Many would leave or become less productive if they didn’t get a chance to cut their teeth anew.
  • Successful corporate X-ers seem to know themselves well.  I’ve used some of the personality inventories — MBTI, True Colors, etc. — to at least start the conversation about to work effectively among diverse colleagues. This approach often unlocks a great strength of the generation — flexibility — which is critical for my group, which works across time zones, cultures, functions, etc.

I have at least sympathy, if not empathy, for Gen-X’s corporate struggles.  By traditional demography, I’m a Boomer (born 1961); however, culturally and psychologically I relate much more to Gen-X.  Which, of course, makes sense considering my cohort was what Douglas Coupland was writing about.  Besides, can someone who was age eight for Woodstock really be much of Boomer?

What doesn’t work is trying to slavishly follow the path of the Boomers. I’ve seen too many 30-40 somethings saying things like “I want to be at position ‘X’ by the time I am age ‘Y’…”  Given the demographic constraints at the top — at least today — this approach has rarely led to satisfying work or life outcomes.

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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