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.

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.

Team Composition — Lessons from Pro Wrestling

Though it isn’t mentioned in this profile, my “most frequent” Myers-Briggs personality type (INTJ) supposedly prefers to work with colleagues of the same type.  Perhaps I’ve learned that this is a mistake, for now I am careful to ensure that my team has some degress of contrast in types.  In particular, I’ve found that conflicts between and among the same or very similar types can be explosive.  In my experience, imbalanced teams are very brittle and break when things go wrong.

Take one of the great tag teams of all times: Cactus Jack and Abdullah the Butcher.  They seemingly had it all: skill, ruthlessness, treachery, endurance, showmanship, and a shameless dedication to ethnic and cultural stereotyping.  But like all teams, it is how you handle adversity that counts…

It is hard to recommend skipping much of such a fine match, but the non-connoisseur might want to start the video about five minutes in…

Resentments and Doghouses

From my recent tag surfing spree, here’s a post from Barry Zweibel on making sure that one’s doghouse doesn’t get too full (here … hat tip: Your Executive Edge here).  His first paragraphs set up the story well:

We get mad. We get cranky. We judge. We blame. We put people on ice. Send them to Siberia. Put them in the doghouse. And there they stay, sometimes for a very looooooong time….  So, if you’re thinking that your doghouse needs a room addition this spring, maybe it’s a good time to take stock of who’s in there and when they might be up for parole.

Barry follows with five tips on when to know that it is time to turn the page, open the doghouse gate, etc.  My favorite is number five, which warns against righteous indignation taking control of one’s spirit.  Justifiable resentments corrode my soul in subtle ways, so I must let go of them as soon as possible because:

  1. They are justifiable so I am clearly right and someone else is clearly wrong, which is most satisfying to this Myers-Briggs INFJ or INTJ (more on that transformation in a future post, but I am still a strong “J,” for sure).
  2. They can be replayed again and again with more-than-perfect fidelity (I seem to have a kind of Dolby noise reduction that eliminates the noise of my part in the matter).
  3. They let someone or something live in my head and heart…rent-free no less.

Finally, I’m reminded of a version of the St. Francis Prayer that opposes vices with virtues very neatly — error vs. truth, despair vs. hope, hatred vs. love — save for one vice.  Wrong is to be countered, not by right, but by the spirit of forgiveness.

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