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Myers Briggs Model for Teamwork

Despite having well defined roles within a team, the interaction between the different personalities of individuals can be a frequent source of friction. However, this can largely be avoided by understanding and valuing people’s differences.

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a powerful aid to both team and personal development by providing a well-researched framework for understanding these differences. It is based on identifying an individual’s behavioural preferences on four scales:

  1. Extroversion - Introversion: how we prefer to give/receive energy

  2. Sensing - Intuition: how we prefer to gather information

  3. Thinking - Feeling: how we prefer to make decisions

  4. Judging - Perceiving: how we prefer to handle the outer world

The four MBTI scales represent two opposing preferences – most people are able to use both at different times, but will indicate a preference on each of these scales. In total there are eight possible preferences and an individual’s MBTI type contains four – E or I, S or N, T or F, and J or P. Preference types should be determined by the completion of a questionnaire, it's analysis, and subsequent feedback and discussion with a qualified MBTI administrator.

If each preference is represented by its letter, a person’s type may be shown by a four letter code, of which there are sixteen in total; e.g. ESTJ represents an extrovert (E) who prefers to gather information by sensing (S), prefers to make decisions by thinking (T) and prefers a judging (J) attitude towards the outside world. The person with opposing preferences on all four scales would be an INFP; an introvert (I), who prefers to gather information by intuition (N), prefers to make decisions by feeling (F), and prefers a perceiving (P) attitude towards the outer world.

Extrovert types prefer action and the outer world.

Introvert types prefer ideas and the inner world

Sensing-Thinking types are interested in facts, analyzing them impersonally and using a step-by-step process to reach a conclusion

Sensing-Feeling types are also interested in facts, but analyze them personally and are concerned about how things matter to themselves and others

Intuition-Thinking types are interested in patterns and possibilities, making decisions based on impersonal, logical analysis

Intuition-Feeling types are also interested in patterns and possibilities, but make decisions based upon personal values, and their effect on individuals

Judging types are seen by others as preferring to live in an orderly, planned fashion and liking to regulate and control

Perceiving types are seen by others as being flexible, spontaneous, and showing a willingness to understand and adapt readily

Clearly, there are more than sixteen personality types in the world, and it is important to stress that we can and do adopt all sixteen types in our day-to-day life. However, everyone has a preferred type, where they feel at their most comfortable.

For teamwork, the preference types and their interpretation are very powerful, and can be used by an individual, or a team addressing a process improvement problem. It is imperative that the team does not skip those steps that require them to use their non-preferences, e.g. information tends to be gathered by the preferred function (S or N) and decisions also made by the preferred function (T or F).

Use of the MBTI leads to an understanding that neither is “right”, or “wrong”. Their differences are their strength, and allow both to operate more effectively. This has great implications for teamwork, and real advantages can be gained if all team members know their MBTI preference and share them within the team.