Using MBTI to Facilitate Self-Empowerment and Understanding of Others
Having used a variety of assessment tools, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is my first choice as a coach. It measures personality preferences and can facilitate increased self-awareness (resulting in empowerment) and enhanced diversity appreciation (resulting in understanding and acceptance of others)—aspects needed in life, at work and as global citizens of the world.
As a Certified MBTI Practitioner, I use this amazing tool in one-on-one coaching and in groups, as well as for self-management and personal growth as a coach. In this article, I’ll share some background information regarding MBTI, followed by practical examples in coaching contexts.
MBTI provides extremely useful information, in relation to personality type, for both clients and coaches, which typically includes:
- Predictable behavioral patterns
- Blind spots
- Strengths to leverage
- Areas for growth
- Tips for action planning
MBTI is a reliable and valid tool, with research and updates spanning more than 70 years. Based on Swiss psychiatrist Carl G. Jung’s theory of psychological types, MBTI was developed by an American mother (Katherine Briggs) and daughter (Isabel Myers). The MBTI simplifies Jung’s theory and indicates eight personality preferences, made up of the following four pair groups:
- Extraversion (E) – Introversion (I)
- Sensing (S) – Intuition (N)
- Thinking (T) – Feeling (F)
- Judging (J) – Perceiving (P)
Everyone’s personality includes all the above. Completion of the MBTI Step I questionnaire identifies preferences within each of the pair groups, resulting in a four-letter code. For example, my MBTI personality type code is ENFJ, as my preferences are Extraverted, Intuition, Feeling and Judging. There are 16 personality types; all are equal—each with strengths and areas for development.
The following examples of MBTI application in coaching are in relation to the Extraversion/Introversion pair group.
During a team building session using an MBTI Step I report, participants were divided into two teams for a group activity: one made up of those with the “E” – Extraverted preference and one with the “I” – Introverted preference. After exploring the opposite group’s preferences, all rejoined for a group coaching conversation, based on the question: “How might the new knowledge gained about the other preference contribute to increased team cohesiveness?” All agreed the key elements were increased understanding and acceptance (crucial foundations of any successful team).
A person from the E team shared the realization that he’d been judging coworkers who sat alone at lunch as not being team players. Through MBTI, he gained an understanding that people with an I preference simply needed time alone to recharge and re-energize, which has nothing to do with being a team player.
Someone from the I group revealed he no longer viewed those with an E preference as being a “runaway train” when seeming to take over conversations in meetings. From the MBTI, he recognized external processing as a natural E preference.
Insights, such as those attained in both instances, have the power to reduce and/or eliminate potential conflict and/or stressful situations.
While the MBTI Step I has eight personality preferences, there is an expanded version—the MBTI Step II, which outlines five facets for each of the eight preferences, resulting in a total of 40 facets.
The example below draws on the Expressive facet of Extraversion and the Contained facet of Introversion, which each relate to communication skills (specifically, levels of openness in sharing one’s feelings and thoughts).
In a coaching session using an MBTI Step II report for development, the client cried when reading her Expressive facet description. Her parents and three siblings constantly criticized her for sharing so openly (as they were extremely selective in what they’d share and with whom). She felt like the family black sheep until seeing that being Expressive was part of her personality. While one can’t assess another’s MBTI type, she sensed that all her family members fit descriptors for the Contained facet. Her natural expressiveness was validated through coaching with MBTI. And she gained an understanding—as well as a de-personalization—of her family’s comments.
Coach Professional Development
Coaches who have a preference in the Expressive facet are likely to be comfortable sharing direct communication to clients; however, they may find it challenging to maintain silence while clients share.
Conversely, a coach with a Contained preference will likely find it easy to hold space when clients are sharing, and they may find it challenging to provide direct communication (feedback, observations, challenges, etc.).
Both self-management and growth—as a coach, client or team—involve stretching to the opposite facet, such as people with an I preference mindfully practicing E attributes (and people who tend to be Expressive practicing to be more Contained).
With broad-based applications, there are multiple MBTI products addressing numerous topics, including stress management, careers, conflict management, sales, change management, communication skills, emotional intelligence, customer service and leadership development. In any coaching context, MBTI can increase awareness of an individual’s personality and how it influences these things. It also enhances diversity appreciation through the realization of links between behavioral patterns and various personality types.
Of key importance, consistent client feedback attests to new knowledge attained through MBTI as being life-changing.
Imagine a world with an ever-increasing number of self-aware, empowered and accepting people! Coaching is an approach—and MBTI is a tool—that can help make that vision a reality. Why not try MBTI?