I am often dismayed about how people discredit the validity of tools such as the MBTI in casual online chat. For me there are two main purposes for using the MBTI, one is for gaining self knowledge and the second is for understanding others. The tool is just that a tool, the real work is in seeing if what the assessment says is an accurate reflection of who you are and how you behave. The value is in the exploration and subsequent discovery that follows.

When you need to open a can you need a can opener. When you need to open a conversation on differences between people an assessment tool like the Myers Briggs is an excellent starting place and provides a common language for people to begin to have a new understanding.

Maybe an example will help: during an introduction to the MBTI with an intact team of ten people, a discussion of the differing needs for those with Sensing and those with Intuition opened a world of understanding for this team. Nine of the team members had a preference for Sensing and only one person preferred Intuition. Imagine this person’s relief when he saw how the majority of the team naturally spent time discussing the details of the day to day operations and how naturally challenging that this was to his preferred way of seeing patterns and implications.

It was an “Ugly Duckling” moment where this man recognized that his team members simply processed differently and that his “Swan” nature had a role around the pond. In turn his request for setting the context for all of the details with a reference to the big picture “why are we having this conversation” allowed him to stay in the conversation without tuning out.

While the mandate of the team was in alignment with a detail focus they also needed to keep their eye on future needs and possibilities. The MBTI proved to be a vehicle for reaffirming the valuable contribution that each member made – for the individual and for the team.

Tools are neutral. Some are better than others for certain applications. People have their favourites. I also believe that you need more than one or two to get as full a picture as possible and even then it all comes back to what you do with it. You can cook a wonderful meal without a can opener but when you need one – nothing else will do. When you need a vehicle to open people up and build understanding the MBTI provides a neutral framework and a practical place to begin.

Category: Team Building
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One Response to “Personality assessment tools – an owners manual”

Julie Perrine January 21, 2009

This has been my experience with MBTI both personally and as a practitioner as well. It makes everything about the interactions I have with people in every setting make more sense – both from the perspective of how I process, send and recieve the information or where I get my energy to how they do as well. It turns potentially troublesome interactions into opportunities for discovery and learning. And it adds to the richness and depth of the personal and professional relationships that I already have. I’ve used all sorts of personality type instruments and they all have value, but I believe MBTI provides the framework for which many of the others are ultimately based. It’s one tool in the toolbox, but it’s still the one that gets used the most!