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Myers-Briggs and Executive Coaching

Gaye asked me to interpret “INTJ”.


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)


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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4 personality types and the internet. Tell us your story, if you will?

Walking to the Library this morning, I wondered how “conserver-holders” will cope in the kinder, more sharing, culture of social media.  Conserver-holder is one of four basic personality types.

Top right are Controller-Takers. They leap into action, take charge and when stressed, take over!

Bottom right are Adapter-Dealers. They get on fabulously with everyone. They tend to be diplomatic. When they are stressed, they give in to get along.

Top left are the Supporter-Givers. They are fabulously generous with their time and they take a long term view of everything. Under stress they help too much and are taken for a mug – and get grumpy with people who take them for a mug!

Bottom left are the Conserver-Holders.  They are the slow and steady, prudent and cautious. They don’t mess up. They sort out our paper work but are stubborn under pressure. The worst thing you can ever say to them is “this is important”. They’ll stop dead in their tracks. Let them make the rules, follow the rules and work at their own pace!

As a technical aside, psychologists will recognize a basic 2×2 with extraversion on the horizontal and neuroticism along the vertical. The labels are from the 1922 vintage Lifo which labelled the interstitials usefully naming the strength and the weakness of each type. Like many tests of that time, the authors attempted to measure personality under favourable and stress conditions. In practice, most people favour 1 or 2 types and change under pressure.

Conserver-holders and the internet

My thoughts on conserver-holders have come out of interesting conversations I’ve had with people who were very opinionated but rapidly backed off when I’ve asked them to give a youngster a guided tour of their industry – half an hour of their time and some responsibility.

There is an old slightly sexist joke about how to select medical students: throw them a rugby ball. If they catch it, they’re in. It they throw it back, they get a scholarship.

Conserver-holders tend not to win scholarships because they they don’t want to throw the ball back!

How will they cope in an age when sociability, reciprocation, initiative and kindness are the norm? Will they use the internet? Will they prefer to lurk?

Personality and web design

Of course, web designers already advise us to put information needed by Conserver-Holders below the fold. The Controller-Takers and Adapte-Dealers are greeted at the top of the landing page. The Supporter-Givers and Conserver-Holders at the bottom – because they are more patient.

Maybe the role of Conserver-Holders on the internet is to keep the systems running and defend the systems from attack?

What do you think? What is your “type” and what role do you play?

(Of course, the conserver-holders won’t tell. But the other types might!)

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