Jane Treber Macken asked:
The advantages of forming teams are better work processes and outcomes, better decisions, and the awareness of the most important issues so that you can reach consensus. The key elements in forming effective teams or groups include understanding yourself, understanding others, communicating effectively, and building relationships.
One of the elements includes understanding yourself and others. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality preference instrument is one of the most widely used tools in businesses around the world, has been in existence for more than sixty years and is based on Jungian theory.
We all have natural, inborn preferences for doing certain things. The MBTI preferences fall into four categories: Extraversion/Introversion (where we get our energy), Sensing/Intuition (how we gather information), Thinking/Feeling (how we make decisions and solve problems), and Judging/Perceiving (what our orientation is).
Extraverts tend to focus on the outer world of people and external events and get their energy from others. Introverts tend to focus on their own inner world of ideas and experiences and get their energy from within.
Here’s a story about an Extravert (Mary Ellen) and an Introvert (Tom). They were driving home one evening and the trip took about two hours. It was a nice leisurely pace. Tom dropped Mary Ellen off at her house and said, “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” Mary Ellen turned to Tom and said, “Aren’t we going to spend any time together?” Tom said, “Well, we just did.” To Tom, the quiet time together was quality time together; Mary Ellen was looking for more activity and interaction (external). She assumed that he did not want to be with her. In reality, he needed time alone to reenergize.
Sensing people prefer to take in information through their eyes, ears, and other senses. Intuitive people prefer to take information in by seeing the big picture, focusing on the relationship and connections between facts.
A quick and clear way to think about Sensing and Intuitive people is to ask a question, “Where is the restroom”? When an Intuitive gives directions to a Sensing, he/she cannot imagine how the directions could have been more clearly defined, but the person gets lost. The Intuitive gives more imaginative or creative direction. A Sensing person would give specific detail, street by street and turn by turn, including landmarks.
Thinking people tend to make decisions by looking at the logical sequences of a choice or action. They try to mentally remove themselves from a situation to examine it objectively and analyze the cause and effect. Feeling people tend to consider what is important to them and to other people. They mentally place themselves in a situation and identify with the people involved so that they can make decisions based on person-centered values.
How does this translate to the workplace? Let’s say Jeff, the boss, wants some project update information from Steve. Jeff is a Sensing type and he wants detailed information. If Steve just gives him the big picture, it will drive Jeff crazy. He will demand more information before he makes a decision. The opposite is true as well. If Mary is an Intuitive type, she would only want the “big picture.” Too many details would put an Intuitive into tilt mode.
Here is an exercise that you can use in determining Sensing or Intuitive types. In a room, place two groups of chairs in a circle. At the center of each group of chairs and approximately three feet from the chairs, place a plain coffee mug. Ask the folks who think they are Sensing to sit in one group and the people who think they are Intuitive to sit in the other group. Their task is to describe what they see in the center. The Sensing people will want to touch it and feel it. They will describe in detail that it is blue with a handle and hold six ounces of coffee. The Intuitives will see the mug, but they will describe someone sitting on a patio sipping coffee in the morning sun.
You can see where you have a challenge in communication when one person has a preference for detail and how it was done in the past whereas another person wants to look at all the possibilities of how it could be done differently. When managing organizations and problem solving, the Intuitive misses out on the details while the Sensing misses out on other possibilities. It’s extremely important to have both types on a team, working together and listening to bring balance to the outcome of the project.
Judging people process in the outer world and tend to live in a planned, orderly way, wanting to regulate and control life. They make decisions, come to closure, and move on. Perceiving people process in the outer world and tend to live in a flexible, spontaneous way, seeking to experience and understand life, rather than control it. Plans and decisions feel confining to them; they prefer to stay open to experience any last-minute options.
If you have a preference for Judging, you want things planned and structured and have a need for closure. You make lists and live by them. Judging people are like a rudder on a ship. Set the direction, and you can count on these people to keep heading in that direction. The beauty is that you can count on them to get you there. The downside is…remember the Titanic? With new information, Judging types ignore and continue on the same path or direction. Perceiving types, however, are at the bow of the ship saying, “Let’s go this way; let’s go that way. I wonder what’s over there.” Perceiving types are more spontaneous and want to keep options open. Judging types prefer to stick to their schedule and commitments and use lists. Perceiving types lose lists because they want to be spontaneous.
How does the difference between Judging and Perceiving play out in the work world? When schedules change, it’s an issue for Judging. Judging gets things organized and moves in direction toward results. Perceiving plays the devil’s advocate and asks or sees the possibilities.
The MBTI provides a straightforward and affirmative path to self-understanding as well as understanding of others. It offers a logical model of consistent human behavior, including emphasizing the value of diversity and uniqueness, especially when forming teams and groups.