A personality indicator can be a hugely valuable developmental tool. It can help you reach a deeper understanding of your behaviours and can represent the key to help you tackle problems and barriers at work.
We have recently combined the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) into our work with delegates on the Positive Power & Influence Programme – with very positive results.
MBTI is something many of you may have come across during the course of your personal development. And in short we’re using it to investigate how personality type, as defined by this test, can help or hinder your ability to influence upwards. We’ve found that greater self awareness can help tackle some of the behavioural barriers that stand in our way.
To explain a little more we’re going to follow the journey of two of our PPI practitioners – Nicola Lincoln and Deborah Fleming.
But first a little background.
MBTI was established in the 1940s and traces its lineage back to theories proposed by Carl Jung in the 1920s. Jung theorized that there are four principal psychological functions by which we experience the world: Sensing, Intuition, Thinking and Feeling.
The MBTI questionnaire is designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. This chart has descriptions of each Myers-Briggs personality type and the four dichotomies central to the theory.
So anyway, back to our experiment.
Influencing upwards is something we all have to do. Whether you’re dealing with external clients, putting yourself forward for a new project, or simply setting the agenda for a discussion, you will need to influence.
Many of you will have worked with Nicola Lincoln, our accrediting facilitator of vast experience, who has been collaborating with fellow Positive Power & Influence facilitator Deborah Fleming (who recently presented her experience of combining PPI and MBTI at the British Association for Psychological Type Conference in London).
Nicola and Deborah are very different people and both have blocks that they have had to address and overcome in order to achieve their goals.
Nicola, according to MBTI, is an ISTJ (Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) type.
In the words of the MBTI workbook this means that she is ‘Responsible, sincere, analytical, reserved, realistic, systematic. Hardworking and trustworthy with sound practical judgement’.
“Being ISTJ means I like to be exact,” she says. “I like to use my logic to come to conclusions. It can also mean I tend to be critical. And I do tend to let people know when they have not met my expectations . . . I notice faults and am quick to point them out.
“Plus I can be more present- and past-focused. Other people can be more focused on the future – what can be achieved. I like things to be based in what we’ve done in the past and what we can do now. In other words what is achievable and logical, based on what we have done in the past.”
With these traits in mind, there are specific PPI influence styles and behaviours that Nicola has to work harder to achieve.
“I find Sharing Visions difficult. It is a style that requires a leap of faith for me. I’m not always good at painting a metaphorical picture of something because I favour the exact. And I worry too that if I share visions I might be written off as a dreamer. For me there has to be structure. Being ISTJ, I don’t have a need to connect with others and if I am connecting with you, I don’t want to connect about something that’s up in the clouds. I want to connect with you while grounded, in a place of logic.”
She also finds Bridging unsettling.
“The idea of Bridging is to listen to and understand an alternate point of view without judgement of ‘the right answer’. I really struggle with that because I want there to be an answer – a single right answer. So I find it hard to walk across the bridge . . .”
In short, Nicola would class herself as being more comfortable at Push (Persuading, Asserting) than Pull (Bridging, Attracting) styles of influence.
Deborah is an ENFP (Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perceiving), and again, going by the chart, is ‘Enthusiastic, creative, spontaneous, optimistic, supporting, playful. Value inspiration, enjoy starting new projects, see potential in others.’
When she first learnt PPI influence techniques she began putting then into practice with colleagues and clients.
“I began Persuading, Asserting and Attracting more consciously,” she says. “But again, and again . . . Bridging was much harder for me. I just couldn’t get in to any kind of ‘autopilot’, like I could with other styles.”
Bridging is focused on understanding the other person’s view, and being prepared to give more of yourself to build connections, trust and understanding.
“A fellow PPI trainer was watching me at work,” she says, “and said I was simply not staying in the Bridging style long enough to truly involve the colleague. I was not being fully present. I was going into making the links for them too early.
“I was also really wrestling with disclosing because I am naturally a private person. The result: I repeatedly failed to meet influence objectives when trying to use this style.”
Her Myers-Briggs Type Indicator results seemed to explain the challenges she was facing.
“As an ENFP I am fast with Ideas, future focused, open-ended and values driven. Disclosure was a deeply uncomfortable aspect of the Bridging style as it meant I have to reveal aspects of myself. This is a common challenge for and ENFP who has Fi (Introverted Feeling) as an auxiliary function in their personality.”
Deborah also had plenty of experience of listening during her work as a consultant and coach, but found the deeper, active listening of Bridging, much harder. And again, MBTI allowed her to make sense of this weakness.
“That’s how you tackle it,” says Nicola. “Having an understanding of why it’s so uncomfortable for me, helps in situations when I have to use uncomfortable styles.
“It’s common to hear people say ‘I can’t do that, because I . . .’ But you can do it. With a knowledge of your MBTI, you really can.”
Over the last six months Nicola and Deborah have been exploring how MBTI preferences link to the PPI behaviours. This research has helped delegates understand why they find some behaviours more difficult and given them hints and tips as to how they can access these behaviours more readily and therefore become more flexible influencers.
So, if you have always wondered how your MBTI profile relates to how you influence and would like to learn more, please contact Deborah and Nicola who are currently designing a programme on this very subject. They would love to hear from you . . .