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Personality and 360 degree feedback

There are many tools and frameworks available to those seeking to improve workplace and individual effectiveness. I’d like to discuss the potential intersection of two of the most popular ones: a personality assessment called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and 360 degree feedback.

To do this I’m going to post three blog entries:

  1. The first reviews the MBTI
  2. The second reviews 360 Degree Feedback
  3. The third reviews the similarities, differences and potential synergies between the tools.

In line with Joaquin’s recent post on leading via storytelling, I will weave in a personal example at the end of each post to illustrate some key concepts.

Enjoy! Yaron

Part 1: Brief overview of the MBTI

The MBTI assessment is a questionnaire designed to measure preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. These personality preferences were extrapolated from the typological theories originated in the 1920’s by the famous psychologist Carl Jung. The original developers of the MBTI were Katharine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, who began creating the tool during World War II to help women first entering the industrial workforce identify jobs that would fit their personality.

According to the tool, people generally split into four major dichotomies:

Extraverts vs. Introverts
Sensing vs. Intuition
Thinking vs. Feeling
Judgment vs. Perception

Extraverts are people who draw energy from action and generally prefer frequent interaction with others. Introverts, on the other hand, find action to be energetically exhaustive. They rebuild their energy through quiet time spent alone, away from activity.

Sensing and intuition refer to the preferences people have regarding information-gathering. Sensing people prefer information that is present, tangible and concrete. They tend to distrust hunches, and look for details and facts. On the other hand, intuition people tend to trust information that is theoretical and logical, and can be associated with other information that is either remembered or discovered by seeking a wider contextual pattern. They may be more interested in future possibilities, and tend to trust flashes of insight.

Thinking and feeling refer to the preferences people have regarding decision-making. Thinkers tend to decide things from a more detached standpoint, measuring the decision by what seems reasonable, logical, causal, consistent and matching a given set of rules. Feelers tend to decide by empathizing with the situation (e.g., looking at it ‘from the inside’) and seeking to achieve the greatest harmony, consensus and fit for the people involved.

Judgment and Perception refers to the kind of work or lifestyle people prefer. People with a preference for judgment tend to be decisive, planned and orderly, and feel comfortable with closure. People with a preference for perception tend to be flexible, enjoy being curious, and feel comfortable with openness.

Additional resources about the MBTI and other tools that assess Psychological Type can be found at Association for Psychological Type and Wikipedia.

Illustration: How personalities can clash

I’m an ENFP (extravert, intuitive, feeling, perceiver) with a very strong F, meaning that I have a strong preference for maintaining harmony with others. As you can imagine, my desire to have everyone get along affects various domains in my life, including work. My business partner Joaquin is an INTP (introvert, intuitive, thinking, perceiver) with a very strong NT. The NT combo means that Joaquin likes to be very precise with his thought and language. Particularly when Joaquin encounters an idea he likes, the first thing he’ll do is dissect it and identify its flaws. I’ve worked with Joaquin for many years so I know that his critiques are intended to ultimately strengthen an idea. However, when I first started working with Joaquin I did not realize this and would sometimes feel hurt by what I perceived to be detached criticisms. I realize now that I work better when people join me in my excitement regarding an idea first and then work with me to refine it. Sharing with Joaquin that I felt hurt was particularly hard since I value our partnership tremendously and did not want to start a fight. It’s unlikely we would have regressed to calling one another “Too sensitive” or “Cold hearted,” but knowing the MBTI framework made the conversation easier.

Given that personality clashes happen all the time in the workplace, I can see why the MBTI is a very popular tool. In Part 2 of this blog series I will discuss another powerful tool — 360 degree feedback — and show how knowing our personality differences was just the first step Joaquin and I took to strengthen our professional working relationship.

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