On an exceptionally lovely no-rain-in-the-forecast spring day last month, eleven curious and intensely engaged 14 West employees gathered around our conference table at 1217 St Paul Street, about to launch into a team building activity. The group was divided into five sub-groups. The facilitator of this special meeting had strategically seated each employee at the table based on a personality assessment result. And that’s when snippets of clarity and understanding joined us at the table.
Flashback to 2 weeks earlier: Eleven of us experienced various feelings of enthusiasm, skepticism, optimism, and nervousness as we each completed an online Myers-Briggs questionnaire. Although there were 144 questions, it took only 20 to 30 minutes to complete the assessment (MBTI® Step II™ ). The instructions encouraged us to respond quickly/automatically, no need to deliberate over questions or phrases…whatever response dominates, there’s your answer. There are no right or wrong answers.
Flashback to 1 week earlier: Each of us met individually with the Myers-Briggs facilitator for 35-45 minutes, having our results explained to us. We also learned how our type personality was perceived by others. Enlightening!
Back to the intrepid group gathered around the conference table, where each of us were seated in an assigned position. We had just returned from a small-group breakout session where we had discussed a few questions that the facilitator posed. The three simple questions pertained to how we would respond to a particular social event.
Then the fun began. We went around the table, group by group, each team sharing their responses. Many of us were surprised by the answers shared and the perceptions that we had held.
By knowing one another’s personality types, we started to gain an appreciation of our differences in communication and leadership. We had a better understanding of why some people wait until the last minute to accomplish a project objective, while others dig in immediately, and can become anxious when the “last-minuters” delay providing the information they may need. We learned which environments we worked best in and where others provided supportive strength to our weaker areas, fusing the team into a single-bodied organism. This knowledge isn’t restricted to our work environment, it crosses over into relationships with friends, partners, and children too.
Prior to our team personality assessment, I had preconceived notions about a couple things:
First, I KNEW, without a doubt that I was an introvert. I had practically devoured the book Quiet, and felt an affinity to the characteristics and traits of introverts. While reading it, I quizzed my husband, family, and friends asking them, “Hey, do you think I’m an introvert or an extravert”? When they all answered incorrectly, I nodded knowingly; my mother had taught me to maintain an air of mystery and obviously, even those closest to me had no idea about that facet of my personality.
Except I was totally wrong. I’m not an introvert. The Myers-Briggs assessment had uncovered my true self. While the way I recharge my batteries shares some introverted characteristics (for example, hand me a book, a cup of tea, quiet solitude…and 50-70 pages later, I’m ready for my next social engagement), my go-to core preferences are building relationships, public speaking, and proactively introducing myself in groups where I don’t know anyone.
Second, I have been a Certified Public Accountant for many years; in my mind, I’m about as imaginative as a can of spam. I was living by the stereotype that accountants are non-creative nerdy bean-counters, and that is how I visualized myself, playing a bit role in the idea-generation realm.
And then one day I took my own advice. I started to think differently and contributed clever ideas too (sometimes they were clever, sometimes…not so much). Maybe I had been sitting on the sidelines, not actively participating because my ideas may have seemed silly to me or I was reluctant to let myself be vulnerable. But ever since I jumped into the creative fray, I’ve enjoyed the energy that it provides.
I also found that with the Myers-Briggs acknowledgement, it made it “safe” for me to add my inventive and sometimes-ingenius-sometimes-quirky ideas because it was revealed that I have an intuition preference, which I often rely on to perceive patterns and interrelationships.
There are many benefits to having an awareness of personality types for the teams that you lead. Team performance can be optimized by clarifying the roles and traits that people bring to the team. Teams are made up of a composite of skill-wielding members, there will be a mix which may include a combination of those that are dependable, productive, influential, good at networking or delivering results, results-oriented, process-oriented, innovative, or relationship builders. As a leader, one of the ways that you can support your team is in finding and developing their distinctive strengths.
Sonya Cowen, a Partner and Director of Assessment at Winsborough LTD, an executive leadership organization that specializes in developing high functioning teams declares, ”A core strength of gifted leaders is to be self-aware. It can predict performance in managing teams and driving success in any business initiative. When you understand how you behave at your best and at your worst, you can effectively channel your most useful traits into building dynamic, winning teams and creating an organizational culture of achievement and team spirit”.
How did the team personality assessment project initiate at my office? I attended a PMI Baltimore chapter lunch meeting this past February; Deb Richmond, PMP*, presented a fascinating overview of MBTI® Step II™ to an inquisitive audience. This instrument can be used as a tool for personal growth, understanding yourself and others, team building, and improving project success…because projects also have an MBTI type.
After the PMI lunch & learn, I asked Deb if she would come to my office and do some team-building exercises and assess one of our accounting teams. Deb’s exercises and her shockingly accurate ability to predict the behavior of the various participants was awe-inspiring. We were provided illuminating insights into how we work together and provided tools to enable us to improve our various strengths.
The team unanimously requested that Deb return to provide quarterly workshops pertaining to communication and/or leadership; we want to build on the information that we learned and sharpen our collaborative skill sets.
To quote Henry Ford: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success”.
Type awareness leads to better management of our energies, but is not predictive of a person’s behavior and does not determine a person’s competency for any particular task. The awareness of differences can encourage a respect for the varied ways people work together effectively.
Our curious and intensely engaged team are highly motivated to explore more about ourselves and our teams together.
*Deb Richmond, PMP is a member of the Baltimore Chapter of PMI, she is a Six Sigma Black Belt and a certified practitioner of the MBTI® Step I™ & Step II™ Instruments.