What’s the Use of Myers-Briggs™ (MBTI)?

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is one of the most widely used assessment tools in business and management settings, as well as in personal and career development. Its long history and use, including ongoing research and development, make it a remarkably reliable and valid instrument. But what good is it? Why should you care if you are an ENFP or an ISTJ? Why would you want this four-letter label?

Learning your type is not just self-knowledge for its own sake; it has a real practical application (that’s why so many Fortune 500 companies use it). Knowing type will likely provide you with insight into your preferred ways of learning, communicating, thinking and interacting with the world. It will also alert you to potential blind spots you may have, and it can help you better understand and communicate with others whose type differs from yours. This in itself is interesting and useful, but when it gets really powerful is when you begin to put this insight to work.

Here’s a personal example: I am an ENFJ. The “N” signifies that I prefer Intuition over Sensing — that is, I like to take in and process information conceptually, I rely more on the big picture than on facts and figures, and I am oriented toward future possibilities more than past experience. However, the majority of my potential corporate clients have an “S” where I have that “N” which means that they prefer the concrete over the abstract. My “F” (Feeling) means that I base my decision-making on personal values and  impacts on people. However, many of my business colleagues have a “T” (Thinking), which means that they base their decisions more on logic and reason. So when I am preparing PowerPoint slides for potential clients, I must recognize that my preferred mode — idea and values driven — may not speak to their needs. Therefore, I need to make sure that I have the data to support my presentation, and that I present the logical case for hiring me because no matter how excited I am about the concept, my audience needs the concrete facts and analysis. (Does this sound like any marriages you know?) Luckily, as a former lawyer I am pretty well-versed in reasoned analysis, so I can speak that language fairly fluently, even if it is not my preference.

In the above example, knowing my type and knowing my audience’s probable type helped me identify some potential blind spots and make sure that I communicated my message effectively. MBTI can also be tremendously useful to teams, whose members can use their enhanced self-knowledge and greater understanding of their colleagues to improve communications, develop decision-making protocols, and increase appreciation of one another’s strengths, and to leaders, who can learn how to communicate their vision to their teams and how to support them in doing their best work. The folks at Myers Briggs have helpfully compiled tremendous resources to help clients use their results in may contexts — leadership, team-building, career development, relationships and more.

If you’re curious, give me a call. I’d be delighted to help you explore your own type and put it to immediate practical use.