A few months ago, my colleague, Amy, and I had the pleasure of lunch with one of my modern-day heroes – Kathy Myers – an original researcher into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and contributing author to “Intro to Type”. Kathy is the daughter-in-law of the late Isabel Myers, who created MBTI with her mother, Katharine Briggs.
As you might imagine, Kathy is still very passionate about MBTI and was keen to tell us about her experience of first noticing her own MBTI preferences in action.
“As a young girl, I kept wondering ‘What’s wrong with me?’ I kept being asked why I didn’t talk more, why I didn’t socialise more. My MBTI results explained it all… as an Introvert, it just wasn’t my preference. It was such a relief knowing there was nothing wrong with me. I would just need to push myself to talk and socialise more if that was what I wanted to do.”
MBTI was first published in 1943 and remains the psychometric tool of choice for many team & executive coaches alongside the newer complementary tools such as Gallup’s StrengthsFinder. With its simple yet illuminating 4 dimensions, it helps build self-awareness and can reduce conflict. (The CIPD’s latest survey found that the most common cause of conflict is a clash of personality or working style (44%) rather than a conflict of interest.)
We asked whether Kathy knew when they created it, how life-changing the tool would be for so many millions of people, and Kathy seemed genuinely delighted to hear of our many success stories using MBTI.
I have my own story of course. Working in IT, I enjoyed what I was achieving and yet wanted something different. Learning that my preference was for Intuition (N) and Feeling (F), I researched the kind of roles people with an ‘NF’ preference enjoy, and so made a move and felt much more at home in Human Resources roles.
However, it is not just a powerful career management tool. The leader of a Pharmaceutical drug development team wanted to explore possibilities for a promising compound. These explorations were initially not welcomed by his team and others because there were few facts within the exploration to engage them. Using his understanding of MBTI, he realised he had to find ways to persuade the team to get engaged and so urged them to concentrate on seeking the data needed for further investment. They finally stumbled upon something very significant in the field of cancer. We underestimate the power of appreciating each other’s working styles at our peril.
Meeting Kathy Myers reminded me of the timeless value of MBTI and encouraged me to have a fresh look at my own preferences. If you’re reading this, perhaps you might like to do the same.