Understanding ourselves and others is one of the increasingly important skills needed to be effective in agri-business organizations.
In order to harness the full potential of their organizations and to hit the financial, strategic and operational goals of their businesses, the best managers report that they need to know how to get the best from their people. For this reason, in addition to strategic human resources management in both CTEAM and CFAME, we use the Myers-Briggs Typology Instrument. We ask participants to complete a self-report that looks deeply at their own personality preferences and how the differing ones of others might be better appreciated and managed.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator instrument (MBTI) is one of the most widely used psychological-type tools. The information it provides helps people identify their natural styles (TYPE) in four areas. These include:
- The way people gain and use their energy (extravert/introvert);
- The way they take in information or gather data (through their senses or the big picture);
- The way people like to make decisions or come to closure (through logical analysis or the impact on people);
- The way they like to organize their lives (through structure or open-endedness).
These four areas, when combined, give us insight into why we sometimes act the way we do, prefer to do things in a particular way, or are disturbed when others do things differently. It is as if we are each wearing our own set of “life lenses” through which each of us sees situations in our own way.
In the work world, our own TYPE and the different types of our co-workers can influence how we behave and what we consider important. While the MBTI describes only one aspect of human personality and by no means is meant to compartmentalize, this knowledge adds another “set of tools to the interpersonal tool box” when working with a wide variety of employees.
The value of self-understanding and how others are different becomes particularly powerful when applied in our work situations.
Knowing more about your MBTI TYPE can help dramatically in understanding differing communication styles. While some prefer frequent face-to-face interaction, communicating by talking, with detailed information provided in a structured format, others prefer written communication, conceptual overviews without detail and more open-ended approaches. Ensuring that communication is effective for these different styles results in fewer misunderstandings and minimizes conflict over perceived misinterpretations.
What people find motivating and rewarding in their work environments also varies, depending on their TYPE preferences. While some individuals are motivated by continuing feedback and specific suggestions, others are much more energized by a broad reinforcement only at the completion of a project.
Team development can be enhanced by a thorough understanding of the style preferences and gifts of team members. Ensuring that the talents and differing approaches are being used maximizes the value of each member. For example, ensuring that those with “big-picture” talents are also talking with those whose talent is in the details creates a better result than if either is ignored.
Work styles can be dramatically different but still effective when individuals understand TYPE. Depending on different profiles, the pace of work, the tolerance for interruptions, the balance between discussion and individual time and the need to accommodate different time management approaches as long as the work gets done can either be sources of conflict or can create environments in which people can work to their full potential. Sometimes managers use their preferred style even though it ignores utilizing the full talent of their employees, simply because they imagine their way is the only way.
Understanding our own leadership style, its strengths and how it might be perceived by others can dramatically increase our leadership ability. For example, a strong, aggressive leadership style can be effective for some workers, but for others it shuts down communication and useful discussion, can curtail individual initiative and cause passive reactions by those intimidated by that style.
Understanding how our style may affect others allows us the flexibility to modify our approach to obtain the best result from each employee.
Research repeatedly shows that teams composed of diverse personalities outperform those where the members are similar-type individuals. The insight that MBTI provides can ensure that those diverse styles mesh into an effective, productive and satisfying work environment. We have seen the positive business and personal improvements when our course participants adjust their management processes after engaging in the Myers-Briggs module.
Susan Martin is an MBA and an instructor in AME’s training courses.