Early on in the coaching process, I like to gather a lot of information on my clients. Often times, I ask them to take an assessment called the Myers-Briggs Typology Indicator - or the MBTI. The MBTI is the most popular personality assessment in the world. It is currently utilized in over 70 countries, in over 24 languages, and is used annually by over 2 million people worldwide.
But what is the MBTI? The tool itself is not a test. Because there are no right or wrong answers! So the tool is simply an indicator of what your personality type appears to be. It's important to keep in mind that there are no "good" personality types to have. Each personality type has it's own strengths and weaknesses associated with it. The key is to know who you are and then grow from that.
The tool is based on the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. He developed a theory of personality in 1921 which essentially said that the difference between people are not random. Instead they form patterns or types. If you're a super achiever you can read his book, Psychological Types, which details his theory. In 1923 this book was translated into English and was read by an American woman named Katharine Briggs. She spent the rest of her life studying Jung's theory, expanding it, and seeing how she could apply it. In 1943, Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, developed the questions that became the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
According the Jung's personality theory we each take in information and then make decisions about that information. But not everyone takes in information the same or makes decisions the same way. That's because we all have preferred ways of using these mental processes. This really boils down to which world you prefer to live in: the outer world (people, places, and things) or our inner world (thoughts, feelings, and ideas). Everyone has a preference for either the outer world or the inner world - and you were born with these preferences. These preferences have likely been shaped over time by the people you have been around, the experiences you have had, and the world that you live in, but at your core you'll still tend to gravitate to those innate preferences.
The MBTI identifies the innate preferences you have across four pairs of dichotomies. We all use both sides of the pairs, but the MBTI helps you identify which of those you have an innate preference for.
Let's look at each of the four pairs. The first is Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I). This refers to where you focus our attention and get our energy. Individuals with a preference for extraversion are energized by being around others. These are people who tend to be sociable and expressive. On the other side individuals with a preference for introversion are energized by the opportunity to be still and reflect. These are people who tend to be private and contained. Those with a preference for extraversion tend to be those who will end a long day by going out to dinner with friends or family to recharge. Those with a preference for introversion would rather spend a quiet evening at home with a good book or a movie rather than be around others after a long day.
The second pairing is Sensing (S) or Intuition (N). This refers to the way we take in information as well as the type of information that we tend to like and trust. Individuals with a preference for sensing tend to focus on reality, verifiable facts, and experience while those with a preference for intuition tend to focus on possibilities, the big picture, and insights. I often think of the difference between sensing and intuition as though you are building a project. Let's say that you are building a bookshelf. A sensing person takes the instructions and begins as step one moving sequentially through the instructions until it's complete. While the intuition person starts by looking at the final project. They need to see the big picture first, then they can break it down into smaller pieces as needed.
The third pairing is Thinking (T) or Feeling (F). This refers to the way that we make decisions. People with a preference for thinking tend to make their decisions based on logic while those who prefer feeling tend to make their decisions based upon relationships. For example, imagine that you have a let someone from your company go. A person with a preference for thinking may begin to select that person based on logic - I'll have to fire Sarah. She has been here the least amount of time and can bring the least amount of value to our company. While a feeling person may begin to select that person based on relationships - I can't fire Sarah. I've started mentoring her and she is such a caring person. I think I'll select Ryan. He doesn't really engage with the rest of the office much and the loss of his presence would affect us all the least. Plus, his brother owns a company so he can likely find another job easily.
The final pairing is Judging (J) or Perceiving (P). This refers to our attitude toward the outside world and how we orient ourselves to it. Individuals who prefer judging are those who want the world to be an organized and orderly place. They see the world as a series of decisions that need to be made. Individuals who prefer perceiving see the outside world as a place to experience. They don't want to organize the world, they want to explore it! Think about your experience on vacations. Someone with a preference for judging loves to have an itinerary to plan their trip while someone with a preference for perceiving would rather see where the day takes them with no set agenda.
The MBTI will identify which preferences you have in each of these categories. Once you've identified your preference in each of the four dichotomies, you'll find that you have a four letter code which identifies your personality type. The table below identifies the sixteen possibilities that you could be presented with.
Once you have identified your four letter type, the world becomes a very interesting place. You can devote energy to balancing your personality type. For example, maybe you have a very strong preference for extraversion. Perhaps you need to spend some time developing your ability to gain energy through more introverted methods. You can also spend time learning how your personality type influences your life. You may find that certain preferences lead to your success at work while others cause you problems. Perhaps certain personality preferences make it easy for you to get along with others while other preferences make it difficult. This is where your coach can really help you see how your personality impacts every part of your life! And then you can learn to use your personality preferences to your advantage and develop the areas where you need some help.
If you are interested in taking the MBTI, learning about your own personality type, and exploring ways you can enhance your life with those results - schedule an assessment, interpretation, and follow up coaching sessions with one of the coaches at the Bauman Consulting Group. We conduct sessions for workplaces as well. Imagine how much more effectively your team or workgroup could function with this knowledge!
Ashley Bauman, M.S., M.B.A., B.C.C. is the president of Bauman Consulting Group in Loveland, Ohio. She provides training, consulting, and coaching to criminal justice and social service professionals.