How You Can Use Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® to Be a Better Manager

Guest Contributorby Shawna McKnight | Posted | Communication

How You Can Use Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® to Be a Better Manager

How often do you seriously take into consideration the personality preferences of your peers and direct reports when communicating and collaborating with them?

Sure, you probably know who is more outspoken, more laid back, etc., but do you ever really think about how you can use personality preferences to drive performance and then use that data to adjust your communication style?

If you're familiar with Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) preferences, I'm considered an ENTP (extroversion, intuition, thinking, perception).

My manager, John Hawkins, is the VP of Client Services at Halogen and a seasoned MBTI practitioner. He's an INFP (introversion, intuition, feeling, perception).

His preference for introversion means that he carefully thinks things through in order to understand them, whereas I figure things out as I'm speaking and collaborating with others.

Using MBTI preferences to create a high-performing team

Now as I said, John has a lot of experience with MBTI personality preferences and of course this is a skill anyone can learn. But one of the reasons why the Halogen® Myers-Briggs® module is so powerful is that it takes the guesswork out of it knowing the MBTI type of your employees (assuming of course, they've chosen to share this information).

As a result, managers can easily see the personality type distribution of their teams, to understand how their employees' personality preferences differ or not.

For example, here's a screenshot from the Halogen® Myers-Briggs® module showing the MBTI type distribution of John's direct reports:

MBTI Type Distribution Example

As you can see, there are quite a few employees on John's team with the N (intuition) preference. This got me wondering about how much John considers our team's personality preferences and how they affect the way he leads, directs and develops us.

So I asked him.

Here are some highlights from our conversation.

Q&A: Adjusting your management style based on your team's MBTI preferences

Me: How does your understanding of the distribution of preferences of this team affect how you interact with us?

John: As leaders, we spend a lot of our life leading and managing groups of people. Communicating to a group, making decisions... it puts all that diversity on the table. You can't simply adapt your style to suit one type - you have to think of all preferences. That is the real challenge; dealing with diversity within your team and motivating them to move in the same direction. But by better understanding personality preferences it's easier because you can tailor your messaging to ensure it resonates with individual employees.

Me: What do you do differently for the various personality preferences of the employees on your team?

John: Well first of all, most of the people on my team are Ns (intuition). Knowledge and consulting work tends to attract people who think more abstractly. So the direction and feedback I provide is at that level - it's not concrete or overly specific because that's not what Ns need or want.

When I'm dealing with an employee who has more of a Sensing preference, I need to be more concrete and specific. But I also coach them to be more intuitive in their thinking because our roles require that.

At the same time, we as team need to ensure that we've included things for a Sensing world in what we do. When you think of developing services: do we have a clearly articulated facilitator guide that ensures consistency in delivery?

The Judging and Perceiving dichotomy is probably the dimension that I consider the most when managing people, especially because we work in a goal-oriented culture. Someone who has a preference for Perceiving, like both of us do, wants to look at all possible options.

When I'm in a meeting with others who have a preference for Judging - especially common among other leaders - I'm the one that asks the question: "Have you thought of a, b, c?" Otherwise the conversations are often just about deadlines and outcomes.

Now when introducing change into the organization, I tend to think of the Thinking - Feeling dimension. This is when discussions often turn to what's the right thing to do versus what's good for the people, how to treat them fairly, etc.

Me: Do you intentionally consider the preferences of others or is this something that, given your knowledge about Myers-Briggs Type Indicator preferences, comes naturally?

Introverts tend to not think well on their feet.... when I'm in a meeting, I'm not thinking about MBTI preferences of others in the room because I'm in my head thinking about what I'm going to contribute to the conversation. That said, understanding personality type is helpful when I'm reflecting on what ideas have already been tabled and how I can add to the discussion, or when thinking about what has already happened and how I can make it better the next time.

But for an important event where I need to reflect on the impact of a business decision on others, then I might plan a little more in advance - especially if it involves change management. I will make a pointed effort to consider type when I plan the interaction(s) and the delivery of the message to my audience.

If I were an extrovert I may be better at those interactions, better at reading people, considering type and acting on the fly. The point is that type information is valuable to all but different types will use this information differently.

Using Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to more effectively manage talent

As John and I were talking, I recalled a question from Halogen's recently launched Using MBTI for Talent Management workshop. The objective of the question is to increase self-awareness of one's contributions to effective talent management and the implications for a leader given his/her MBTI type. So I asked John these follow-up questions...

Me: What's your top contribution to effective talent management?

John: Autonomy - challenging people with ambitious goals and providing them with support, coaching and constructive feedback. That's how you get people to aspire to great performance.

Me: What are the implications for you as a leader?

John: (long pause) I need to work with people who are innovative and bring great ideas to the table, constantly challenging, pushing boundaries. That's the NP (intuition, perception) preference in me. As for the I (introversion) preference, I'm not the kind of leader who's going to tell my folks what to do.

If I was an ENTJ, I would be very clear on the vision, the idea; I'd be very rational, and very expressive. I have to work at that stuff.

I also try to surround myself with TJs (thinking, judgment), people who will push things to closure, otherwise we'd get stuck in ideas all the time.

Improving your management skills through knowledge and use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Managers who have strong communication and coaching skills have a critical impact on their organization's ability to build a world-class workforce.

As I mentioned earlier, John is an experienced MBTI practitioner - so some of this stuff is second nature to him. But with a bit education anyone can learn how to more effectively use the Myers-Briggs personality types to better communicate, manage talent and engage in team-building. For this reason, Halogen has created three different workshops to support organizations and people managers:

Introduction to MBTI: This half-day onsite workshop provides teams the knowledge they need to better understand the Halogen Myers-Briggs® module, understand their own MBTI® type, and the personality types of their fellow employees, with the goal of leading to more effective professional relationships.

The workshop focuses on experiential learning activities to enhance understanding of MBTI® methodology and the four MBTI® dichotomies: Extraversion/Introversion, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling and Judging/Perceiving.

Using MBTI for Talent Management: This half-day onsite workshop for managers, shares how MBTI® can be applied across common performance and talent management areas, including:

  • Coaching
  • Learning and development
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Engagement and retention
  • Team building
  • Change management

Discussions in MBTI: This two-hour workshop provides a team with the knowledge and skills they require to effectively discuss MBTI® type preferences in a group or one-on-one setting. It enables teams to break down the barriers to collaboration by turning an individual's four letter code into a meaningful discussion about their preferences.

So managers, if you'd like to learn how the Halogen Myers-Briggs module and associated workshops can help you improve your coaching and feedback skills consider sharing this post with your HR team. Or contact us directly for more information.

Your turn: Are there any specific ways you adapt your management style to better meet the preferences of the different Myers-Briggs personality types? What's your top contribution to effective talent management?

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