business matters is very grateful to PwC who hosted the event and provided a buffet lunch for those attending.
This was an initial exploration of the area of Personality Types, based around the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) approach.
To view the PowerPoint presentation which accompanied the talk, hear a (35 minute) recording of David’s talk, or hear a (4 minute) recording of the Q&A session use the icons at the foot of the page.
David started by clarifying that this was the first of a two-part series on personality – the first session was by way of an introduction and David was clear that no prior knowledge of personality assessments was required. The Myers Briggs Personality Type system had been chosen as a vehicle to explore the topic although other assessment tools are available.
With this in mind, he outlined the key topics he wanted to cover in the talk:
- Understanding what personality is
- Advantages (and the dangers) of using personality typing methods
- Exploring this using MBTI as a vehicle
- Practical applications and tips
What is “Personality”?
David moved on to talk about the “full expression” of personality – in his work he will help people with anxiety, depression, stress management on the one hand and career coaching and transitions on the other. In every case he stated that he likes to bring in personality discussions. If you help someone understand themselves better then they can understand their situations better and be better able to think how to deal with them. When we start to be true to our own personality then the feedback that we receive usually tends to give us increased energy levels to use in our workplaces and elsewhere.
He showed two dictionary definitions of personality and suggested that the key take-home message was that personality is complex rather than simple and straightforward. You are not just one type of person but you are a blend of different ingredients and when you add in education and experience it becomes apparent that everybody is amazingly unique. Much like in the Great British Bakeoff, any subtle change in the blend of ingredients or processes can have a big impact on the final result.
Looking back into history, David highlighted that this concept of personality typing is very old – dating back to Hippocrates in 400BC.
Starting to think about the pros and cons of personality typing, he highlighted that typing is all about putting people into clusters – a useful way of thinking and gaining a broad understanding of certain groups of people and how they might respond to different situations. If we tried to use individual sliding scales for each person it would become far too complex and unworkable since people are unique, so clustering is a better approach from which we can draw some reasonable conclusions. We should, however, be careful and not be drawn into suggesting that there are only two types of people since this can lead to over generalisation and discrimination – for example the historical view of the roles of men and women.
MBTI – Myers Briggs Type Indicator
David described the history and origins of the system, deriving from the theories of Jung, developed into a measurable system which is statistically validated and he particularly mentioned the motivations behind it – originating at a time (during the Second World War) when there were huge changes in the workplace with women entering it in great numbers. The motivation was to find out how people could do their best in the workplace rather than just slotting in to whatever role came their way. Also there was a belief that if we could understand ourselves and others better then there would be the opportunity of reducing conflict – which at that period in history was highly relevant.
He highlighted a number of “serious” uses of MBTI:
- Stress Management
- Career Decisions
- Conflict Management
- Decision Making
- Team Building
- Change Management
- Time Management
David emphasised that it is not a suitable tool for assessment or recruiting – the concept of personality is that we have certain preferences which do not necessarily equate to skills.
MBTI has become so popular that many “less serious” uses have grown up – for example working out which Star Wars character or Disney Princess you are based on a quick (non-validated) set of questions – a bit of fun!
David unpacked the detail of the Myers Briggs approach, covering the four dimensions and the two preferences within each dimension. Details are in the slides accompanying this report. The system gives rise to a number of four-letter types – 16 variations in all. This is an interesting number since it is large enough to accommodate different personality types but small enough to avoid an overly complex system.
He emphasised that what we are talking about are preferences that each of us has within areas of our personality. Using a practical demonstration he asked two of those present to write their name with the hand they would normally use and then with their other hand. While it was more difficult and less comfortable the second time around, all the signatures were legible – we can train ourselves to do things or behave in a way that we might not prefer. Our jobs might require us to act in a certain way which we are not necessarily comfortable with and this may explain why we feel negative or dissatisfied with situations. Every day we will operate in our preferred and non-preferred mode. David made some comments on which particular profiles are valued in the business world, attempting to help us understand the framework in which we all will tend to have to operate and why, at times, we might feel stressed or “burnt out”.
Having gone through in detail each of the personality dimensions, David talked through how we can identify our type – reading though the questions ourselves, asking others who know us very well, completing a formal questionnaire like those found on the website of the OPP organisation. When we do this we should compare the various findings to find your best fit – once you have found this then there are many resources available to move on from this into practicalities.
David then moved on to the area of understanding others and highlighted typical behaviours which different types may exhibit and how this might appear to someone of the opposite preference – this went some way to explaining to a number of those present why they found certain friends or colleagues difficult to understand and even irritating!
He again emphasised that these types are preferences and, when we have major decisions to make, it is extremely useful to try and consider all four “function” preferences (Sensing, INtuitives, Thinkers, Feelers) to assist in making the decision and avoid “blind spots”.
In concluding, David suggested that we ponder on:
- What is my most likely Personality Type?
- How would these preferences express themselves in my work and personal lives?
- What differences might I see in colleagues, friends or family and how can I help support their own preferences?
- Retreat to the safety of your office…
- Start to explore your Personality Type to learn more about yourself and your colleagues
He highlighted some of the topics which he hoped to cover in the second talk including:
- How personality develops over time
- How our personalities respond to stress
- How we can manage interpersonal relationships more effectively
- Using personality in our career development
After a short and interesting Q&A session which can be heard here, we thanked David for his input.
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