What's your per­son­al­ity

My­ers-Briggs can help find your dream start-up team



Chances are if you work for a big cor­po­rate, par­tic­u­larly an Amer­i­can one, you’ll be able to an­swer that ques­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the Bos­ton Globe, My­ers-Briggs Type In­di­ca­tor psy­cho­log­i­cal test­ing is used by around 80% of For­tune 500 com­pa­nies (and 89 of the For­tune 100), with around two mil­lion peo­ple tak­ing the test ev­ery year.

Chances are if you work for a start-up or SME, these acronyms will be less mean­ing­ful. But there is some ev­i­dence that un­der­stand­ing per­son­al­ity types and how they work to­gether could make a dif­fer­ence for your early-stage busi­ness.

(First, a word of warn­ing: My­ers-Briggs also has its de­trac­tors, who say split­ting peo­ple into ei­ther/or types (ex­tro­vert or in­tro­vert, sens­ing or in­tu­itive etc) is un­sci­en­tific and ridicu­lously sim­plis­tic. But surely 400 For­tune 500 com­pa­nies can’t all be wrong?)

I took the test re­cently and I got ENFJ – Ex­tro­verted, In­tu­itive, Feel­ing, Judg­ing. My busi­ness part­ner Seb (who is also my real part­ner) was INTP – In­tro­verted, In­tu­itive, Think­ing, Per­ceiv­ing.

Pretty much po­lar op­po­sites. But ap­par­ently this is not a bad thing when you’re plan­ning on run­ning a start-up.

Re­search by Stan­ford, the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, and Tep­per School of Busi­ness all showed that di­verse groups are the most pro­duc­tive.

“The worst kind of group for an or­gan­i­sa­tion that wants to be in­no­va­tive and cre­ative is one in which ev­ery­one is alike and gets along too well,” says Mar­garet A. Neale, pro­fes­sor of or­gan­i­sa­tion and dis­pute res­o­lu­tion at Stan­ford Grad­u­ate Busi­ness School.

Yes, it’s harder to com­mu­ni­cate, and eas­ier to fall out, but what the re­search shows is that your team will have a bet­ter col­lec­tive in­tel­li­gence if it is made up of peo­ple with dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties, as long as they also un­der­stand the dif­fer­ences be­tween them­selves and oth­ers.

Are you an en­tre­pre­neur­ial type?

ENTPs are of­ten clas­si­fied as the “en­tre­pre­neur” type – think Walt Dis­ney and Ap­ple co-founder Steve Woz­niak – although there are also suc­cess­ful en­trepreneurs with ENTJ (Bill Gates), and INTJ (Mark Zucker­berg) types. The thread here seems to be the ten­dency to­wards in­tu­ition over sens­ing – the abil­ity to take risks based on gut in­stinct.

But a “sens­ing” fo­cus – pay­ing at­ten­tion to phys­i­cal re­al­ity, what you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell – is also crit­i­cal for a suc­cess­ful busi­ness, ac­cord­ing to Dr Daniel Robin­son, an ex­pert in ap­ply­ing My­ers-Briggs psy­cho­log­i­cal types at Iowa State Univer­sity.

He ar­gues an in­tu­ition-lead en­tre­pre­neur ben­e­fits from hav­ing a sens­ing-led per­son on their team. “If Sen­sors are ab­sent, the team has to con­sciously stop and re­mem­ber to ask the kinds of ques­tions that a Sen­sor (who is firmly re­al­ity-based, deal­ing with ‘what is’) – would ask. For ex­am­ple, have all the nec­es­sary facts, de­tails, and data been dis­cussed and ad­dressed?”

Ge­off Lori­gan, founder and di­rec­tor of New Zealand’s In­sti­tute for Strate­gic Lead­er­ship, agrees. Based on ob­ser­va­tions of over 70 se­nior lead­er­ship teams over 12 years, he says the most ef­fec­tive teams are com­prised of the four sets of ‘types’ – The Vi­sion­ary (NF), The Log­i­cal (NT), The Data and Specifics (ST), and The Re­la­tional (SF).

“Col­lec­tively they rep­re­sent the gifts and tal­ents of a ‘whole brain’, whilst off­set­ting many of each type’s blind spots.” Be­ing dif­fer­ent and get­ting along any­way. Sue Blair runs Auck­land-based Per­son­al­ity Dy­nam­ics, help­ing busi­nesses with iden­ti­fy­ing, un­der­stand­ing and work­ing with dif­fer­ent per­son­al­ity types within their teams.

She says she re­cently worked with a pub­lish­ing com­pany.

“I was brought in be­cause the team man­ager was hav­ing great dif­fi­cul­ties work­ing with one of her staff. She thought this lady was a loose cannon who didn’t want to be man­aged. The man­ager couldn’t fig­ure out how she op­er­ated at all, whereas her other staff mem­ber was a dream to work with.”

Blair took each staffer through the per­son­al­ity test­ing process.

“It turned out that the man­ager was an ISTJ – they run a tight ship, and like to be an an­chor for their teams. They make sure all the boxes are ticked, pro­ce­dures are fol­lowed and, most of all, that there are no sur­prises.

“The staff mem­ber she got on fab­u­lously with, was (no sur­prises here) an ISFJ, a very sim­i­lar per­son­al­ity with the dif­fer­ence of ‘feel­ing’ – mak­ing her ac­com­mo­dat­ing and ea­ger to please.

“The woman that was driv­ing the ISTJ man­ager crazy was an ENFP. This type is an ab­so­lute ideas fac­tory, and love to leave things to the last minute be­cause they are 100% con­fi­dent in their abil­ity to ‘wing it’ suc­cess­fully. You can see how these two per­son­al­i­ties were head-butting at ev­ery turn!”

Hav­ing the dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties on the team had the po­ten­tial for cre­at­ing in­no­va­tion, she says, but it wasn’t work­ing be­cause the women felt they couldn’t work to­gether.

The worst kind of group for an or­gan­i­sa­tion that wants to be in­no­va­tive is one in which ev­ery­one is alike. With dif­fer­ences you have a bet­ter

in­tel­li­gence.” col­lec­tive

Do­ing the My­ers-Briggs test­ing was key to solv­ing the prob­lem. Once the two col­leagues knew what each other’s ex­pec­ta­tions and pref­er­ences were and why, they were able to tai­lor how they op­er­ated.


If you are an early-stage CEO and hir­ing based on My­ers-Briggs, Blair says, you need to be a bit care­ful. Peo­ple go­ing for a par­tic­u­lar role may (con­sciously or sub­con­sciously) cheat on the test an­swers, tai­lor­ing them to the kind of role they’re in or want to have, she says. (I’m af­ter a mar­ket­ing job, so I’m so­cia­ble and have great ideas.)

Con­versely, it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that peo­ple that tend to­wards one per­son­al­ity type can still learn traits for the op­po­site per­son­al­ity. “Hir­ing some­one [us­ing only My­ers-Briggs] could rule out some­one who has con­sciously de­vel­oped ex­actly the qual­i­ties you’re look­ing for. Dis­count­ing some­one purely be­cause of per­son­al­ity type is un­eth­i­cal and un­wise.”

Com­ple­ment MBTI with emo­tional in­tel­li­gence and skills-based pro­fil­ing, she says.

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