Why four letters don't define you, but they can help...
"They're more guidelines than actual rules..."
A lot, and I mean a lot, is written about self-discovery, mindset, and all the other buzzwords used to describe personal and career development.
And for good reason.
For all the importance of developing your ability to be exceptional at what you do – those skills that can be summarised in a line or two on LinkedIn – understanding who you are is even more valuable.
It goes way beyond a job title or job description, and is a sense of personal understanding and self-belief that gives you the confidence to improve those skills and progress, as well as lead a team or even – one day – run a business.
And no one will ever be fully ‘developed’, but there are ways to get close.
One of those is using four letters that define your whole personality… apparently!
Time to meet Myers-Briggs
In 2022, work offered me – and other managers across the business – the chance to take a six-month Emerging Leaders Programme.
Led by the wonderful people developer and coach, Vicky Blissett, it was brilliant.
Not only did I feel immensely valued and grateful when my line manager put me forward for employer-invested training, but I was also able to take so much away from it.
It helped me to confirm some elements of my leadership and management style that I had received positive feedback on in the past, and understand how and why they helped others.
And where I needed to continue to learn and adapt.
Afterwards, I felt I had things even more under control than I had previously realised – not because I was immediately better or had suddenly become the ‘ultimate manager’ – but because I felt a real sense of clarity.
I could now see much more clearly why things I’d done in the past had resonated or worked with others, particularly during my first real efforts in mentoring at Tank.
And those times when things hadn’t gone to plan too of course!
Plus, I could now see where there were opportunities to push myself even further. I now had more confidence to make bigger, more positive steps in my approach to management, leadership, and mentoring.
It has also helped me to question myself far less than I used to.
And perhaps, subconsciously, it was a factor in restarting this blog.
A big part of all of this clarity was Vicky introducing us all to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
Before reading on, if you’ve never heard of MBTI, then here’s a summary from Vicky herself (you’ll hear more from her throughout this):
“MBTI is a framework for personal development that gives you the tools to better understand the actions and mindset of others – helping you to be better equipped to lead, manage, and give feedback without it becoming personal or critical. Crucially, it also gives you the chance for subjective self-awareness in yourself, and how you view those you work with.”
Following a questionnaire, your results are analysed and you’re given a report detailing how clearly your answers showed a preference for one letter from each row in the image below:
Using these letters there are 16 possible combinations.
And as Vicky would make a great point of highlighting when presenting us with our results, these are preferences, not ability or capability:
“Fundamentally, the results of any MBTI score indicate your comfort zone. Yes you’re given a four-letter type, but that’s just surface-level. The scores are not about fitting you into a nice neat box, but giving guidance to better understand your behaviourial traits, alongside every other element of what makes up your personality (background, education, gender, etc.)
“Crucially, as all of this also applies to those you work with, as it can help you understand and appreciate others even more too.”
And for complete disclosure, here’s my results:
The real beauty of seeing your results more clearly – and then as you’re taken on your MBTI journey by someone like Vicky – is that you start to appreciate what drives you and why, how you feel about receiving new information, how your decision-making forms, and so much more.
As Vicky says:
“If you’re open to exploring your personality type in the context of this framework, you’ll get much more out of it. Most importantly, understanding your type, and the types of others, can make it so much more relatable to your day-to-day.”
As an aside, Vicky was a huge help in supporting our group to find the right fit with our personality types, particularly if our preference for one letter versus another was very central.
I was comfortable with what my results showed and didn’t change them, but her guidance to see this more clearly was invaluable.
Time to meet me… again – an ENTP
When reading my results, the following hit home… hard:
ENTPs are innovative, strategic, versatile, analytical and entrepreneurial. They enjoy working with others in start-up activities that require ingenuity and unusual resourcefulness.
16Personalities adds the following information for ENTPs which also hit home… harder:
Quick-witted and audacious, people with the ENTP personality type (Debaters) aren’t afraid to disagree with the status quo. In fact, they’re not afraid to disagree with pretty much anything or anyone. Few things light up these personalities more than a bit of verbal sparring – and if the conversation veers into controversial terrain, so much the better.
It would be a mistake, though, to think of ENTPs as disagreeable or mean-spirited. Instead, people with this personality type are knowledgeable and curious with a playful sense of humor, and they can be incredibly entertaining. They simply have an offbeat, contrarian idea of fun – one that usually involves a healthy dose of spirited debate.
It explains a lot!
Ask my wife…
As I researched ENTP even more, particularly using 16Personalities strengths and weaknesses, I could better understand where I really excel, and also learn a bit more about the areas where I can improve.
And, critically, why my worst traits are extremes of my best qualities.
As you can probably tell, that article was inspired by some self-reflection following my MBTI results.
Importantly, these letters shouldn’t and don’t define me.
I don’t act like some argumentative, unfeeling logician all the time (just sometimes… I’m not a maniac), but seeing those descriptions in writing opens up your brain to the reasons why you may think or react like you do, not just how.
And while I’m now confident enough to own my personality traits, and flex when managing or leading, I’m able to say that I know I really am an ENTP, and I wouldn’t change that one bit.
We all evolve as we grow, particularly when we start to work, and the lines between structure and authority become far more flexible than they were in education, but I do believe using MBTI as a guideline would be a real benefit to students and those just graduating.
Why not learn it all earlier than I did?
And if you or your team has never done this process, give it a go.
Working with others
Not only will it help you to better understand yourself, but it will also help you when working with others.
And I cannot overstate how important that is.
For example, someone I manage is my exact opposite – ISFJ. Here’s their definition on 16Personalities:
In their unassuming, understated way, people with the ISFJ personality type (Defenders) help make the world go round. Hardworking and devoted, these personalities feel a deep sense of responsibility to those around them. ISFJs can be counted on to meet deadlines, remember birthdays and special occasions, uphold traditions, and shower their loved ones with gestures of care and support. But they rarely demand recognition for all that they do, preferring instead to operate behind the scenes.
While we work extremely well together, we often see things from different points of view, which ultimately helps us make more effective and considered decisions.
Plus it offers extra advantages for me when managing or leading, especially in 121s.
Seeing things differently from someone else allows you to offer an alternative perspective to what they might be experiencing.
This doesn’t make your view any more right than theirs, but it can help unlock any blockers in their mind – whether those are emotion-led, confidence-related, or something else entirely.
And, true to my ENTP form, I do enjoy the hearty debates these differences bring!
On the flipside, I know that as someone with an E preference, I can be quite dominant in meetings (honestly, not intentionally!), but as I am aware of that even more, I understand how that can be seen by others.
Especially, the completely different way, an I personality is viewing that same meeting from a drastically different point of view. If I can bring them into the meeting, then it’s additional voice, from a different angle, that might just have the idea that cracks the problem we’re all there to discuss.
I know that’s where I can help them even more.
As a manager, this lesson is well worth knowing, otherwise you’re only ever hearing the same voices, without a change in the conversation.
And what good is that?
They're more guidelines than actual rules...
Remember, these are guidelines based on frameworks and as we are all human it can miss the nuances of our personalities – but that doesn’t make it any less relevant.
And there’s certainly a valid point of view that the seven billion people can’t fit into 16 personality types, but that ignores something I wasn’t aware of until I spoke to Vicky again…
There’s an MBTI step two!
An example analysis below:
This breaks down each letter into five sub-categories where, suddenly, you end up with millions of possible combinations.
(I don’t have the maths skills to even understand how to work that number out.)
To say I’m keen to do step two is a huge understatement!
The 16Personalities test is a great starting point for understanding more about personality types, but bear in mind it’s slightly different and a recruitment tool (MBTI can only be used for development).
If you want to properly get to grips with your MBTI type in more detail for you and your team, then contact someone like Vicky.
If you happen to be working in education, or you’re curious about your own kids, then get them to take the Buzz Quiz. It follows a similar structure but the fun bit is it connects your personality type to an animal – mine’s a falcon.
Thoughts are welcome, as ever, in the comments. 👇
(Or if your personality type means you’re not keen on public comments, drop me a DM on LinkedIn. Points awarded for anyone who can spot the film reference in the subtitle…)
A huge thank you to Vicky Blissett for answering all of my questions with so much detail. As we’re both Es, we nattered on for a long old while, and could have carried on longer! Connect with Vicky on LinkedIn or visit her site, ProPopulus, for your training requirements.