We recently went on holiday with the extended family to Vanuatu and it was fascinating to observe how different we all were in our ways of being. For example, some of us were crazy organised with an agenda full of activities. Others were very present, focusing only on what was in front of them in that moment. Inspired by the family dynamics, we decided to look at personality types in this post and podcast because, as a people leader, understanding the different ways people perceive and organise information, communicate and make decisions is incredibly useful in avoiding problems and improving effective collaboration within a team.
Isabel Myers and Peter Myers captured the idea of 'Gifts Differing' in their book of the same name and it’s helpful to think that each team member has a gift for the greater success of the team. However, it’s also important to note that these gifts can manifest very differently when they’re underdeveloped.
After reading this post, we suggest you take time to reflect on whether you’re using your gift in a way that’s functioning well or a bit dysfunctional, perhaps because you’re stressed or overwhelmed. Then using the template provided, you can push the question out to your team. So let’s dive into the different types.
Extraversion: Focusing on the outside world
Extraversion and introversion are about where you put your attention and where you get your energy. Look at a well-developed extravert and you’ll see someone with an active approach to their work. We call them ‘dynamic’ and this is a great gift to bring to a team. However, when extraversion is underdeveloped, it can look like hyperactivity. And with hyperactivity, there's often tension and anxiety, not just from the person themselves but also from colleagues who have to be around that kind of unbridled energy.
Underdeveloped extraverts might breathe shallowly from their upper chest and may not be able to finish a sentence as they jump from one topic to another. Even though well-developed extraverts can hop from subject to subject, there's always a thread or style to it that others can follow. In the range of responses people bring to a situation, well-developed extraverts bring breadth and variety but when extraversion is underdeveloped, this can look superficial and without any real depth of understanding.
Introversion: Focus on the inside world
An introvert who has well-developed type skills has a reflective approach to life. So, unlike the extravert who’s active and dynamic, the introvert will reflect on what’s happening, how they're feeling, and the information they've got in front of them. This reflective approach should be regarded as depth but when introversion is underdeveloped, it can come across as being withdrawn and secretive.
Because introverts don't readily share their internal ritual with the outside world, they can seem solemn and aloof - but in most cases, that’s just a label extraverts have placed on them!
Sensing: Focus on basic information
This is all about the type of information you know, like and trust.
A well-developed sensor is highly practical and good at seeing the relevance of things that can be applied straight away. If a sensor is underdeveloped, they might seem slow and dull in their approach, especially in response to certain questions. Have a look at their energy and how they respond to information.
A well-developed sensor brings data, so they’re great with case study information that backs things up with technical expertise. Underdeveloped sensors have a narrow focus to their data, so they could be picky with limited scope as if they've put on the blinkers.
We find sensors respond well to linking things to other similar things they already know. This enables them to make the imaginative leap quite easily.
Intuition: Focus on interpretation and added meaning
When we look at this preference, well-developed intuition has a rich imagination and can see lots of possibilities with a breadth of perspective.
If intuition is underdeveloped, lots of possibilities can look careless, as if they’re suggesting too many ideas with no discernment. This isn’t practical and can come across as ridiculous or dreamy. Since 60% of the population are sensing and 40% are intuition, intuitive people should try making their suggestions more practical. This way they’re more likely to get them across the line. This can be tricky, because to be visionary and think up solutions no one else has, you must stretch the boundaries.
The risk is that you’re seen as being impractical. If this is you, remember it’s all in the set-up and the words you use. Try explaining that these are your initial thoughts and you haven't thought of everything but you still wanted to share.
Thinking: Decision-making preference
Thinkers make decisions by analysing and evaluating situations in a logical, pragmatic way.
Someone with a well-developed thinking function brings consistency to a situation because they're fair, logical, driven and objective. An underdeveloped thinking function can be seen as uncaring or overly competitive.
And because thinkers are so consistent in the way they think, there's not much opportunity to think differently. Underdeveloped thinking types don’t ask questions or have empathy, nor do they offer or ask for support. This can make them seem unapproachable and cold.
Feeling: Decision-making preference
Those with a preference for feeling are ‘people people’. The wellbeing of others is important to them, and they like to be around others, helping them learn and grow.
But those with an underdeveloped feeling function can get hurt easily when people don't give them the acknowledgement they feel they deserve or the relationship isn't as they thought it was.
Feeling types bring harmony to a situation. They’re diplomats, great at working out where there’s conflict and trying to bring people together. They don't do well when there’s disharmony and when this preference is underdeveloped, this can come across as being overly sentimental.
It’s important to remember that harmony isn't always ideal. Conflict is a part of life and can also be productive. Harmony, whilst we might often prefer it, doesn't bring growth.
Judging: Orientation to the outside world
In a well-developed type, judging looks like someone who is very clear about what they want and goes for it. But turned up too much, they can become overly opinionated because when you're decisive, there's not a lot of room to move or scope for hearing alternative views.
Well-developed judging types bring a plan to a situation and everyone loves a plan because there's a focus to it. But turned up too much, it can become controlling. There has to be agreement.
Perceiving: Orientation to the outside world
Well-developed perceivers are inquisitive questioners. But turned up too much, this can look like indecision - there are just so many questions! The perceivers strength is to bring options to the table, but in an underdeveloped type, this can look like procrastination. There must be more discernment when it comes to asking questions.
Take MBTI to the team
We’ve produced a template for you to use in a team building environment but if you haven’t done the MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator), it would be a great idea to do so first. We provide workshops and programs so give us a call and we can help.
One way to use this template is to hand it out and ask everyone to spend some time reflecting on these areas in a self-assessment where they can score themselves from one to ten.
Alternatively, they could give an example of where well-developed types are being used in the team environment. If you have a strong trusting relationship in the team, you could take each element and have an honest discussion around that. That way, you're communicating, developing clear relationships, and creating more awareness of where the team is on and off track.
If you’re not that familiar with the Myers Briggs, or you're not comfortable running a session as a team leader, start simple with introversion-extraversion. Get everyone around the table to talk about where they see themselves and how they think they might be perceived by others, e.g. “My preference is for introversion and sometimes I think people see me as withdrawn and secretive but actually I’m just deep in thought”. Or, "My preference is extraversion and sometimes I think people see me as superficial, but what's really going on for me is x and y". This type of conversation could really become an 'aha' moment that has a lasting positive effect on the dynamics of your whole team.
Just like our holiday prompted us to think about our behaviour in a family dynamic, we hope this post will prompt you to check-in with yourself and reflect on whether you’re seeing a little bit of this or that creeping into your style and the way you’re operating. Let us know how you go.
Understanding the different ways people perceive and organise information, communicate and make decisions is incredibly useful in avoiding problems and improving effective collaboration within a team.