I will never forget presenting a team-building program using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) when the self-proclaimed "senior" member of the group said "maybe I'm just old but most of this I've learned through my fifty-plus years of working with others." I had to smile. Because here's the deal, if you spend fifty-plus years paying attention to how you react and how others react to you in various situations and analyze what works and what doesn't, you don't need these types of assessments. However, if you want to shortcut that learning process and learn from others (yes, please!) there are tons of ways to do it. I like to call this Relationship Shorthand.
There are three main instruments I like to use and each one is based on research. Is this an exhaustive list? Not by any means. These three instruments are the ones I find give my clients solid information they can act on to improve their understanding of what they bring to the table and how to work more effectively with others.
This instrument was created by former Gallup chairman Dr. Donald O. Clifton and Gallup has continued and expanded the research and analysis around it. They have passed the 10 million mark on individuals around the world who have taken the instrument and StrengthsFinder 2.0 was the top selling book on Amazon.com in 2013 (each book comes with a code to take the instrument online). The research began looking for what qualities make someone successful and turned into the development of a list of 34 talents and the knowledge that successful people maximize their performance by operating within their own top talents. (Book link is an affiliate link.)
I have used this instrument with a number of clients and they consistently reply that the top five identified talents are reflective of them. The instrument identifies an individual's top five talents and advocates those five areas for practice and development. With practice you can develop these areas into "strengths" defined as something you can do repeatedly with near perfect performance every time. Think of it this way, an Olympic Ice Skater does not get to that level by practicing the shot put.
Clients always want to know what are at the bottom for me? A list of all 34 ranked is available for an additional charge. But I don't recommend starting there. There is too much of a temptation to start at the bottom and focus on why they are there. Every person has one talent at #1 and one talent at #34. Can you practice and become competent at #34? Yes. But as you go down the line you have to spend more and more effort to make incremental increases in performance. You should spend your time and resources where you will get the highest return on investment - at the top of the list!
I like to use this instrument with clients first. I do like to have the full 34 for clients I will be working with over a period of six months or more or clients in a Leadership Development Program/Track so we can really focus on the top ten. I like using the instrument with teams as well to focus on what each person brings to the team. Each talent has a "what I bring" and "what I need" element and these are great ways to show people that if you want the best out of someone you need to give them what they need (there's that shorthand!).
Gallup recommends using a coach to "unpack" your talents and convert them to strengths. Why? Going back to the Olympic athletes - they all have coaches to help push them further. If you are serious about investing in your professional development you deserve the same.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
The MBTI was development in the early 1900's by Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers based on Carl Jung's work. While the mother-daughter pair and the psychologist worked at the same time, he reportedly viewed their work as "women's parlor games." In one of the great "I'll show you" examples in history, the instrument is now available in over 20 languages and more than 1.5 million people take it each year.
The basic theory is that each individual has a preference on four dichotomy scales and those preferences do not change over time. While individuals have a preference, we need to be able to act on each side of each dichotomy in order to be effective and productive. With practice and study, you can learn to spot individual's preferences through their words and actions. This is a great relationship shorthand for working with others. If you are trying to persuade me to join a project and you know that I tend to focus on the big picture and how things affect the people involved you want to start there to get my attention!
There are tons of Jungian-based assessments out there not to be confused with the copycat MBTI assessments that pop up on social media (and are quickly taken down by the copyright holders). Which one is best? I like the MBTI. You can only taken an assessment through a certified professional so if you have a link that is providing you with an instant answer outside of a professional it is not the real MBTI. (Link is an affiliate link and does not include an online assessment.)
I like to use this instrument with clients who have a pretty well developed sense of self-awareness. Too many organizations throw this instrument to their employees without proper instructions (answer the questions as you would if it were entirely up to you and you didn't have to take into account the thoughts/desires of those around you or the culture/environment in which you work). Without this and a solid debrief that includes a blind self-assessment first, you often get results that reflect the predominant organizational culture. Does this mean the assessment is invalid or the questions are faulty? No, it means individuals are conditioned by parental preferences and organizational culture to pick what they think is the "right" answer.
I like using this instrument (including the Step II facets) with individual clients to help them understand what they need to keep their energy up, take in information, make decisions, and execute plans and projects. I love using this with teams to help improve group decision-making! The relationship shorthand value comes from again understanding that those things you take for granted as informative and restorative may not work for other people, understanding what others bring to the table, and making sure everyone is being included.
Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation - Behavior (FIRO-B)
The FIRO-B was developed in the 1950's reportedly to help decide who to send on nuclear submarines together (six months together contained in a relatively small space!). It looks at three basic needs (inclusion, control, and affection), whether they are expressed by an individual, and whether they are wanted by an individual, each on a 1 to 9 scale. A high Expressed Inclusion is demonstrated by the person who asks everyone in the office to lunch, cc's all, and replies to all. Wanted Inclusion is whether or not you want to be asked to lunch, cc'd on every e-mail, or receiving the replies to all. The individual benefit comes from knowing what you need and what you are showing (and where the two might be sending mixed messages). Think of the person who worries that no one invites them to lunch but never invites anyone else to lunch. We tend to assume (granted not a great thing to do) that people want what they are showing us but this is not always the case. Unlike the MBTI, the FIRO-B is a snapshot in time and you cannot become proficient at guessing people's wants at any given time. But knowing the differences will be a shorthand because it will help you learn to ask the right questions to meet other people's needs.
DeAnn Malone is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach and an MBTI Master Practitioner who offers individual coaching, team-building, and program facilitation around the Clifton StrengthsFinder, the MBTI, and the FIRO-B for corporations and non-profit organizations.