Myers-Briggs and Executive Coaching

Gaye asked me to interpret “INTJ”.

LIFO Test

I am sure you remember the LIFO?  An oldish test that casts people into 4 type?

  • Controller-Taker (extraverted neurotics)
  • Adapter-Dealer (extraverted stable)
  • Conserver-Holder (introverted stable)
  • Supporter-Giver (introverted neurotics)

Myers-Briggs

The Myers-Briggs is also old.  It is based on Jung’s types from circa 1920.  The test itself was developed and published after WWII.

It casts us into 16 types as follows.

  • Introverted or Extraverted (I or E)
  • Sensing or Intuiting (S or N)
  • Feeling or Thinking (F or T)
  • Judging or Perceiving (J or P)

Myers-Briggs and Executive Coaching in business

The test is still widely used for coaching and people often know their ‘type’.  And as with all personality classifications, we are also quite ‘fond’ of our type and believe it is the best type in the world!

Introverted – Extraverted is quite easy to follow: we like to spend time alone or feel better in company.

Sensing types like dealing with hard data.  They will often be in jobs which deal with facts and figures though a surprising number of accountants and engineers are N and see the world as patterns.  In the HRM world, the high S will be trainers and OD specialists.  The high N will deal with strategy and more abstract issues, quite possibly being quite out-of-it on the front-line work.

Feeling and Thinking is also obvious.  Feelers and Thinkers have a hard time understanding each other.

Judging and Perceiving can be confusing.  Judging people are planful but also judgmental.  Things must be just so but they also get things done.  Perceivers let things ‘unfold’.   They go with the flow.  I used to tell people visiting Zimbabwe to be High J, be ultra planful, but expect everything around you to be high P and go with the flow.  High J need to be doubly planful so they can adapt readily.  High P, of course, ignore High J and just smile sweetly and carry on as they were regardless.   Judgers also have to be careful not jump to conclusions and should always stop to think and ask themselves: Do I have all the relevant information?  Have I looked at this from all points of view?  Simply, they need to listen to the high P who see the bigger picture much more easily.

The interpretation of the types becomes a lot more sophisticated with what-you -see and what-you-get following some complicated patterns.

For most purposes, it is instructive to know someone’s preferred style.   But it is that, a preferred style.   By understand the ecology of preferences in an organization, we learn to appreciate people who “jump” in a completely different direction to ourselves and to build a mixed team around us.

Here is a link to an online Myers-Briggs questionnaire.

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Psychologists: Eyes and Ears To Spot Opportunties

Time is never wasted in reconnaissance

An old military friend of mine said: “Time is never wasted in reconnaissance.” It surely isn’t, though in ordinary life the word has unpleasant connotations. We don’t want to spy on people.  Nor do we want to get into the habit of thinking we can know what the future holds. When we think we know what will happen, we stop paying attention.

But whether we are going to party or to a war, it is useful prepare. It is very helpful to know what questions to ask about a place. It is useful to learn what we can to free up time to pay attention to more important things. Most of all, it is useful to learn about other people’s intent.

My mission is to understand the world they are trying to create

If I creep up to the crest of the brow to spy on my enemy, I want to know how many there are and how they are armed.

I also want to know what they are going to do, or rather try to do.

My mission is to understand the future that they are trying to create!

After all, I might prefer that future to one that I am going to make myself!  Sitting and watching them might be a very good choice for me!

Our mission is always to understand other people’s intent.  That’s why you hire psychologists!

What can psychologists do that you can’t do?

We often claim to be able to read intent with some magic tests and potions!  What we are good at is reading the other person’s intent and not confusing it with yours.

  • We are more accurate, just because we are less involved in the situation.
  • We also like reading intent. We are happy to do it all day long. We don’t get bored and impatient with people who are unclear about what they are going to do. And many people fit that category. They really have no idea what they will do in the morning. We’ll wait and watch and tell you when they have made up their minds.
  • Because this is our job, we will be mindful of ethics. There is spying and spying. And when you go too far in your spying, we’ll tell you to stop. We’ll tell you when you really have no right to information. We’ll tell you when it’s best that you don’t know because knowing will damage the give-and-take that is essential to forming a good relationship with other people. We’ll tell you when it is easy for the other person to fool you and when you should look away, lest you fall for the scam.
  • We will also teach you. What are the right questions to be asking? What can be asked and answered? If you are looking for conflict, what is the potential for negotiation? If you thought you have to divide the spoils, could you not multiple the spoils?  We ask what might happen to intent on both sides when you understand each other.

Intent is organic ~ it responds to understanding

Intent is not fixed. Intent morphs as action unfolds and people perceive or misperceive what is going on. Our job is to help you understand the dynamics of intent.  How can  we influence a situation to avoid worst case scenarios and improve the possibilities for surprising and delightful outcomes? We can’t make anyone else do what we want.

But we can look at the world through their eyes and let them see the world through our eyes. 

Together we might see a world that neither of us has seen before

That’s what psychologists do

  • They lend you eyes and ears to help you sense the unfolding of intent.
  • They show you ways of displaying the world so that you see more of it and others see what you see.
  • And they help capture incipient mutual intent so that we can do better things together.

Let me give you an example of psychologists at work

Let’s imagine that we are hiring engineers from around the world. We ask them to do the Myers-Briggs online. They may even know their Myers-Briggs profile by heart.

We find an engineer who has the skills and know-how that we want and to our surprise, he is an ISFJ.  We could say that is very un-engineer like, or we could engage defensively.  We can ask, for example, whether they will not get bored buy the “feelingless” nature of our business.  Or we can sense opportunity.

Our eyes might light up at the idea of someone who has the high level skills we need and who is helpful, supportive and pleasant. Together we might be able to re-jig the structure of jobs to give them a central supportive coordinating role which we’ve never made before because we thought we couldn’t fill it.

What has the psychologist contributed here?

1.  We knew what questions could be asked and answered in an economical way.

2.  We profiled intent.

3.  We respected and privileged the ethics of information about other people. We let them see what we did with the information about them and we let them influence what we did with it.

4.  In the process, we broadened our repertoire of intent. We found new things that we hadn’t known we could do or which had been too improbable to plan for.

5.  We saved you time, confusion and missed opportunities.

That’s what psychologists do. We lend you eyes and ears to spot mutual intent that you may miss.

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