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Tag: personality

12 useful coaching questions based on the FIRO-B

Checkers Dessert Menu on Vinyl 3 by FredMikeRuby via FlickrPersonality questionnaires then and now

Almost a century ago, In the early flurrie of personality testing, it seems we were drawn to models that sorted us into types and then subdivided types with a secondary, intuitively appealing question such as what do we do under pressure, or what do we show and what do we want.

These days, we tend to describe personality along 5 lines.  We are regarded as having more-or-less extraversion, emotionality, openess, conscientiousness and agreeability.   We simply measure you on each and draw a ‘profile’ which we then reconstruct into a story you can understand.

Here is a version of the ‘Big Five’ from You Just Get Me.  As ever, long to fill out but with a cool interface.

Old Tests and Corporate Coaching

The older tests might be a lot clumsier in their formulation, and almost impossible to use in scientific models and investigations, but they are a lot easier for lay people to grasp and intuit.  We are also slow to change our ways and they are found in training rooms across the corporate world.

One very popular test is the Firo B.  We are measured on the extent to which we ask for or demand inclusion, control and affection and the extent to which we secretly want the same.  Some people, for example, will be inclusive to others but don’t  want a lot of inclusion themselves.  Others are the opposite.  They don’t include anyone but want to be included.  And so it is with control and affection too.

12 Coaching Questions

As a coaching tool, the FIRO-B leads to some good coaching questions that people find useful in understanding their style and preferences and how other people might experience them.

Preferences about inclusivity

If they are very including, they  can ask themselves whether they give others enough space?

If they are not including in their style and mannerism, do they ensure that everyone gets an equal chance to participate?

If they like to be included, they can ask themselves whether they expect others to seek their input unprompted and whether they take the trouble to ask for the input of others?

If they  don’t like to be included, do they meet with their team often enough to satisfy their needs?

Preferences for control

If I talk a lot about having everything organized and under control, do I also talk a lot about my ideas at the expense of the ideas of others?

If I am dismissive or disinterested in order and control, can I let people who like to be organized have their heads and set priorties?

If I have a strong need to be organized, do I regularly test whether it matters if a plan or arrangement is flexible or ambiguous?

I f I have a deep dislike for any order or organization, is it simply a personal need for independence or is there a real problem that should concern every one else too?

Preference for affection

If I am generally a very affectionate and expressive person, could I intrude less on others?

If I generally don’t welcome displays of affection and emotion, would it be possible to support and encourage others more

If I have a strong need for attention and interaction with others, am I too dependent on feedback on my work?

If I have little need for attention and interaction with others, does my emotional distance prevent me from being seen as supportive?

Use these questions at home!

Yes, do.  But don’t over-reflect.  The idea in coaching is to find something you can do that will bring greated comfort and effectiveness for both you and your colleagues.


Build your castles in the air ~ where they should be

Welcome to my kingdom by williamcho via Flickr“If you have built castles in the sky, your work need not be lost;
that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.”
Henry David Thoreau
  • A tribute to following your dreams, your deepest longings, your soul
  • A metaphor for the relationship between your soul and your personality that is seen by the world
  • An exhortation to take small practical steps in the world in which you find yourself
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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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MyersBriggs *SF* vs *NT*

The great distinction between the *SF* and the *NT* of the our world!

Overheard in a “period” novel on BBC Radio 4 from one sister to another who is more of a blue stocking:  Things remain the same even when we think them out!  And so we hear the great distinction between the *SF* and the *NT* of the world!


.  .  .  say the facts don’t change when we understand how they come about.


.  .  . say we will generate opportunities when we understand how the facts came to be.

And herein lies the paradox and limits of psychology

If I had to bet on who was an “optimist”, I would bet on the *SF*.  They are are usually more worldly and easier to get along with.

Yet the *NT* are more likely to be the innovators of the world and what is innovation if not optimism – faith in human nature for a start!

As a good *NT*, I agree with Kurt Lewin that there is nothing so practical as a good theory.  The explanatory power of old fashioned psychology has well-been reached.  We really should encourage psychology students to study literature too and celebrate and enjoy paradox!

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Heatmap of personality in Toronto

I love mashups and I love seeing online data that we used to bury in fusty dusty archives.

The Canadians, bless their cotton socks, have taken the personality scores of Toronto residents who logged in online and produced some heat maps.

Follow the link to see which parts of Toronto are

  • Introverted or Extroverted
  • Emotional Stability or Neurotic (Intense)
  • Open to Experience, or Not
  • Agreeable (or scratchy)
  • Conscientious

These are Canadians, hey.  So they are all conscientious.  But the city otherwise differs. Categorizing a place as one or another or neither, then we have 3x3x3x3 =81 personality profiles.  Decide the character of the place you would like to live and move in?

PS If they weren’t Canadians, there would be 3x as many profiles = 243 choices!

As for the technique, there are 3 steps for compiling personality maps

  1. The personality test is online. Anyone can log in and they are asked to add their postal code.
  2. Average scores are calculated for every postal code with more than 10 people.
  3. The averages are mapped on a heat map.


Technical Aside.  The personality test is commonly known as the Big Five.  It is the agreed “periodic table” of personality.

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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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What’s your preferred corporate culture?

Cool 2×2 on organizational culture

While tutoring some very smart undergraduates, I bumped into  very nice 2×2 model that I haven’t seen for years.  Deal & Kennedy’s model is used primarily to explain corporate culture.  It also correlates nicely with two factor personality theory – so it’s pretty useful for helping people understand their preferences for various workplaces.  It’s easy to use and remember and what’s more reading political commentary, I had an insight about competency frameworks that is quite useful.

Get drawing!

Grab a pen.  WordPress is not up for 2×2 tables.  Across the page put feedback (slow on the left and fast on the right), and down the page put risk(high at the top and low at the bottom).

Live or die in the next 20 minutes!

Top left is the fast-feedback high risk quadrant.  This is the world of surgeons, American police, City traders.  Everything happens quickly, and losses and gains can be dramatic.  This is the world of extraverted, neurotics – loud, quick, aggressive and dramatic.  Game of choice: squash! A one-one-one tussle with points scored in a fast and furious contest.

Fast but not furious

Bottom left is slow-feedback low risk quadrant.  This is the world of the factory, the retail bank and even the supermarket cashier.  Good or bad, feedback is quick but no one event is of great consequence.  This is still the world of the extravert.  Sociable people are at a premium provided they are amiable and easily content.  Indeed, they wouldn’t know what to do with aggression.  Game of choice: soccer.  Great teamwork that goes on for an hour-and-a-half with only one or two goals.

Leave it with me

Bottom right is slow-feedback low risk quadrant.  This is the world of very low skilled or very high skilled.  The work is deceptively simple.  Take an accountant.   A piece of paper is processed and there is no sense of the world changing.   A better example is a lawyer who writes your will.  You rely entirely on it being correct when it is inspected many, many years later by other lawyers.   The essence of this work is this long delay and ability to do fine work with no feedback.  This is the world of stable, unemotional introverts.  Game of choice : jogging.  One foot after another!

He’s my brother, he ain’t heavy

Top right is slow-feedback high risk quadrant.  This is the world of civil engineers putting up buildings  which will only show that nasty shortcut many years later.  It is also the world of educators – all those hours put in to person who may or may not make good.  This is the world of neurotic introverts.  A mark of people in this quadrant is other people take them to be a fool and abuse their good will.  They are also prone to feeling disappointed with the world.  Game of choice: golf.  You can lose it all on the last hole.

So what is my observation for leadership competencies?

Generally, the most obvious leader is someone who is extraverted and unanxious.  Leaders like quick feedback and are neither too prone to hi risk (likely to be quick tempered) or too prone to lo risk (too amiable and unable to hold the line).

Listening to the commentary on political candidates, I suspect that this rule-of-thumb holds in the lower levels of leadership (Lieutenant to Colonel).  At higher levels, the willingness to reserve judgement and wait to see how events unfold might also be important.

Any thoughts?  What is your preferred culture?

UPDATE:  Anyone from any quadrant can lead and be a good politician. Generally though, we will be happy in our basic trade depending on its match with our personality.    We will also learn to use all quadrants with practice, though under pressure, we are likely to revert to our preferred choice.

Knowing your preferences helps you understand why you dislike some tasks and how you can recraft them to make them more comfortable. It also helps you understand other people’s styles.

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Personality, the photocopier and puzzles!

I have a puzzle for my fellow psychologists.  What personality concept would you use to describe this personality attribute?

A colleague of mine likes untangling the office photocopier.  She is not only good at it, she enjoys it.  Well fairly evidently I don’t, so while she opened bits here and pulled out bits of paper there, I cheerfully launched into my work psychologist routine and asked her why she liked it.

Anyway, my dear colleague (who sorts out the machine for me quite regularly every Monday morning) said, “I like choices”.  She likes the idea that the problem could be “this or that”.

My colleague is also very good with students who are frustrated by bureaucracy.  As the student rants and raves about the idiocy of a form or an official/s demands for more paperwork, she begins: now let’s see, we have a choice of   .  .  ., we could do this, or this.

At this stage of my career, I am used to matching behavioral patterns with one or more theories.  On this Monday morning, I stared at my colleague, quite unable to neatly pigeonhole her preference for choice.  I thought she might be high P, but given she gets up at 5.15 every morning to get to the office before anyone else so she begin the day organized  .  .  . mmm?

Any ideas?


Another great psychological test based on the Big Five

This time based on the ‘Big Five’ from YouJustGetMe.

Results are presented as ten large balls, two for each dimension.

Conscientiousness: Disciplined and Casual

Openness: Alternative and Traditional

Agreeableness: Cooperative and Competitive

Extraversion: Extraverted and Intraverted

Neuroticism: Unemotional and Neurotic

The questionnaire is quick and easy. The results are immediate and are accompanied by a narrative.

Hat tip to Gumption.

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Good looking pleasing personality test

@ PersonalDNA

Refreshing interface, immediate report, advice, trait ratings and logo/description to put on your site.


The original post was about a personality test but a lot of people arrive here trying to find out the meaning of being good looking.  So I’ve edited the page and added the key psychological points of being good looking.

It seems to me that most people know if they are good looking or not.  We also know that some people are born with great attributes: they have symmetrical faces and are tall and well proportioned.

For the rest of us, this is what we can DO about being great looking:

  1. Smile.  Smile when you speak to someone, smile when you go down the street, smile when you sing in church, smile when you talk on the phone, smile when you are alone.  Smiling tells people that you like them, or that at least you are willing to give them a chance.  And they like you for giving them a break even if they are a teacher, a traffic cop or just the utility man trying to do his job.
  2. Listen.  Look at the person and follow what they are saying. Watch their body language and fall into step with them. Dance with them.  Repeat what you think they said before you add your own story.  Walk in their shoes!  Most people are never ‘heard’ and the relief people feel when you listen is palpable.  Watch for it.  Just remember to smile when you start speaking yourself.
  3. Spruce up.  People like to interact with someone who takes care.  There is no set way of dressing.   Just take care. Wash, iron, end, brush.  Fold your clothes at night.  Clean your shoes.   If you feel good, people catch your mood and feel good too.
  4. Exercise.  Look after your bod.  If you hate sport, dance.  A good bod is a good bod.  If you are working two jobs.  Take the stairs.  Do neck exercises in the shower.  Do Pilates quietly on the bus!
  5. Gratitude.  The last thing you should do every night is think about the people who gave you a break: the canteen lady who dished your food, the professor whose lesson made sense, the bus driver who took your money.   If you forgot to thank them in person, well do it next time.  But every night, go to sleep on the memory of people who did well what they could have done badly.  You will sleep better and look forward to tomorrow, smile more readily, listen more easily, iron your shirt with more humor and bound up the stairs with more energy.

And it will show.  People will notice you and want to talk to you.  Which will make you smile!

Enjoy!  Five steps.  Smile. Listen.  Spruce up.  Exercise. Gratitude.

And let me know if this list helped.  Thanks for coming by here.  Evey page hit brightens my day.