Making decisions – how do you go about it?

In previous posts, I’ve talked about various preferences on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. One of the dichotomies that I find most difficult to explain, is the Thinking-Feeling preference. I find it difficult more so because although you can explain the differences in the preferences, my trouble arises when I try to markedly help someone uncover which is their preference. I’ve gotten better at it, and quite enjoy the challenge.

Let’s recap on some important things to understand with the MBTI. It’s a self-assessed questionnaire, so there is no right or wrong answer. If you think you’re one preference over another, you are the best judge of this. A facilitator can only help to describe the preferences and do nothing more. Preferences are the key to understanding how the MBTI should be understood. We can learn a range of behaviours over time and this can cause confusion over which preferences you have. Finally, the MBTI is not a recruitment tool and should never be used as such. It is only for raising self-awareness and understanding how to interact with others more effectively.

The thinking/feeling dichotomy then is focused on how someone makes a decision. Essentially, are they guided by logical, objective thought, or guided by their values and relationships with others? There are some interesting exercises I’ve done to help facilitate this discussion, and I’d like to share the scenario for one of these:

You are the captain of a team who have progressed to the next round in a tournament. You have 12 people to choose to be part of the team from a potential 20. a) how do you make the decision to choose the 12? b) how do you communicate this to the team?

In order for this exercise to be effective, a group of people need to be split according to where they think their preference lies. That is, have those who think they have a thinking preference work together, and those who think they have a feeling preference work together. Those who are unsure should float between the two groups.

There are a number of things to observe in this exercise which inform and confirm which preference each group is likely to have. From the thinking group they are likely to start drawing up a list of criteria almost immediately. They will consider factors such as individual performance, ability, success in competitions, attendance at training, and overall performance. They will be quite clear in their language when discussing these factors, and pretty much be in agreement that this is the way to decide who the 12 should be. In communicating with the team, they may choose to do this either individually or as a team, but will be quite clear that the decision was made according to the criteria. Again the language will be quite direct, and to the point, supported by justification of the reasoning.

From the feeling group, there will be a lot of discussion around the topic, and this may seem to go on for more than is necessary. For this group, the decision will rack them with concern over how people will feel about getting picked, about not getting picked, about morale, about team performance as a result of the decision. They will want the team to be fully engaged in the decision making process. As a result, they may decide that the decision be made by being open with the team about the task ahead of them and that 12 out of the 20 need to be chosen. This will feel to them to be inclusive, meaningful, and provide input from the players themselves. An alternative to this approach may be a set of criteria that focuses on team ethic, individual attitude, collegiate nature, willingness to help others. In either case, the language used to describe and communicate will be focused on the team, feedback will be an integral part of it all, inclusive language, and reasoning will be supported through benefits to the team and potential success in the next round.

I find this exercise really brings out the preferences quite clearly and people can decide quite quickly, after having done this, which preference they have. The challenge I have with this dichotomy in particular is how it can easily be confused that having a feeling preference means you are more emotional than if you have a thinking preference. And this confusion only arises because of the terminology used. In fact, emotions play just as important a role in both preferences. We are all intelligent enough to understand that emotions are manifest through many forms when communicating – body language, actual language, actions taken or not, facial expressions, laughter, tears, anger. And when having to communicate a message, from either preference, you can be equally passionate and enthusiastic about your point of view. The key difference is that one preference will use direct, clear, unambiguous, objective language (thinking), and the other will use language that focuses on relationships, creating harmony, is values based, and inclusive. (feeling).

It’s not that difficult working in a Judging world

I last wrote about how we work in an extroverted world when thinking about how we understand MBTI preferences. In today’s post, I’d like to take a look at how we understand the world of control and lack of control > Judging and Perceiving in Myers Briggs parlance.

As always, it’s important to bear in mind the key about preferences. Please run off and have a read of the post if you need to remember.

So the world of work is an interesting one. We come to work and are told that we need to be set objectives for our probation period. Make sure you have set meetings with your new starter so you can make sure they’re getting on well. Have a review meeting at the end of the probation. Set new objectives for the end of the year. Set more review meetings over the course of the year. Have weekly updates. Create workflow plans. Have to-do lists. Milestones are important. Projects must have clear deliverables. It’s all about hard and fast rules that make sense. And God help you if things aren’t SMART.

This is all about the world of judging. We need to have process, it has to be cold, calculated, and it has to be purposeful. But it’s not as clinical as I make out. There’s a reason for all this pain staking close to OCB (obsessive compulsive behaviour) type stuff. It’s security for the person who has a judging preference. And that security is vital for the person’s sense of ‘getting things done’. It’s not actually about control, or about tight deadlines, or anal behaviour – that’s just a lack of understanding about what makes this person tick.

And we can all do with understanding. Our behaviours are often indicative of some other level of reasoning that we need to be sure we have understood. This is where the MBTI can help (amongst other tools, but I’m clearly plugging for the MBTI here). As I’ve described before, it’s not solely about one set of behaviours. We’re all capable of displaying a complete range of behaviours. We have to first identify preferences, which then allow us to uncover meaning behind behaviours.

What about the kind of person who doesn’t work this way? You know the type. The one who enjoys what I’ve heard referred to as ‘wiggle’ time? I’m that kind of person. I don’t like restrictions. I am as laid back and care-free as they come. Deadlines? Pah! Milestones? *sends shivers down my spine* Planning? Huh? To-do lists? Erm… Yeah, that’s right I AM A JUDGING PERSON’S WORST NIGHTMARE. How can this person possibly work? How can they possible exist? WHAT THE FUCK DO THEY DO?

Well, just as above I’ve said it’s about security for the judging person, for the perceiving person, it’s about being comfortable with ambiguity. That’s the best tag line I can think of. A fuller description is > being comfortable with a lack of structure. What does that mean? It means that if you give a piece of work to someone who has a perceiving preference, don’t shit yourself if they’ve not made a move on it. They will, they’re just not fussed about when. It’s not they don’t care about the deadline, for sure they do. After all, it’s still understood it’s a business model they have to work within. They’re just happy to make it happen in their time.

And that’s where the internal battles arise. ‘You need feedback because’. ‘You’re a slacker because’. ‘You’re too focused on process because’. ‘Don’t worry it will get done’. As much as there is room for argument, there is room for understanding. The unfortunate thing, though, is that not everyone has access to someone who understand things as I’ve described them. If you spot it, hopefully the above can help. If you spot it in yourself, take the time to consider the above better.

As always, please ensure you work with someone who is fully qualified in using the MBTI, and not someone who has had secondary or no training.

Explaining MBTI preferences

One of the biggest difficulties people have with the MBTI, is the concept of only being one or the other. “Surely I’m both and I can do both” is the biggest argument against the ‘preference’ argument. Well, yes, you can. Naturally, in life, you grow to learn how to do a variety of skills and you learn where you abilities lie. The nature of ‘preferences’ though is about which we ‘prefer’ to do.

The insights you derive from the MBTI centre on your understanding of ‘preferences’. The classic signature exercise is a great way of visualising this task. If you don’t know it, sign your normal signature. Now sign it with your other hand. There are clear and obvious differences. The purpose of the task isn’t about the differences though. It’s about the feeling of writing with one hand over the other.

Our development means we often just do things one way, because that’s the habit we’ve developed. It doesn’t mean we can’t do the other things though. If we practice it enough, we will be able to, and that’s important.

Equally important though, is the balance we have in our lives. We cannot constantly practice one preference, either consciously or sub-consciously. Our psyche just doesn’t allow it. Everything about the human physical condition is about achieving balance, and our psyche is no different. I had a great discussion with someone once about his confusion of being an introvert or extravert. His confusion lay in his excessive display of extravert type behaviours over a sustained period of time, and his sudden change to a career as a lone consultant. One of the reasons I suggested this happened was because he had excessively practiced his extravert preference, and his psyche was forcing him to regain balance by practising his introvert preference.

On a more daily basis though, we see this in practise in the variety of tasks we do. This starts from the moment we wake to the moment we sleep. We will, and do, practise our preferences constantly. We just know that we prefer to do one thing more so than the other. The significance of deciding one over the other is about accepting that we have a preference.

We work in an extroverted world

I’m a big fan of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. I trained in it several years ago and have been mentally ruling the world with it ever since. It’s a powerful psychometric tool that offers a very understandable way to interpret the way in which we see the world around us, how we understand it, how we describe it and how we work within it. It’s one of the most popular psychometrics used and has been translated to over 50 languages.

I’ve written previously about how the MBTI can be understood by everyone, and it really can. Although it is a psychometric, and official training is mandatory, it doesn’t mean it can’t be discussed outside of the ‘club’. Indeed, I’ve often found colleagues who aren’t trained in it understand it so well, that their insights into where they identify preferences can be astounding.

I want to talk about the work context specifically, and what the Extroversion/Introversion preference can offer us in this context. The title of this post sums it all up really, but it’s worth exploring why and in what way. First, though, let’s clarify how the terms are defined in MBTI language. The key points to remember are:
– It’s about being one or the other
– It’s NOT about strength of one over the other
– It’s about where our energy comes from
– We can learn to do both, but will always have a preference of one over the other
– We will do both daily, that doesn’t mean you are both
– We will differ in the nuances of what behaviours we exhibit dependent on our preference

The world of work is a buzzing hive of activity. It has to be in order to survive. If you’re a sales driven organisation, everything in your being is about connecting with and interacting with others in order to convince someone you have something they need. You have to communicate and you have to display gregarious type behaviours. If you’re a customer service driven organisation, you are all about listening to and offering a service to those seeking you out. You have to listen, provide information, suggest options, and be engaging enough that they walk away feeling they’ve got the answer they needed. If you’re an administrative organisation, everything you do is about process and policy. That involves iterations of documentation, meetings galore, and checking requirements against what’s produced regularly. There are few organisations where displaying extroverted behaviours isn’t a core part of how you operate (libraries I guess?).

That’s all obvious though right? Right. So what does that mean? It means we’re effectively blocking out up to half of our working population and subjecting them to working practices which just aren’t suited to the way they like to work. Sound obvious? Well it might sound obvious, but how many of you know what to actually do about it?

How do you deal with these behaviours:
– The person who is quiet, softly spoken and doesn’t really say a lot. They’re pleasant enough, and actually very personable, but they’re just quiet.
– The person who in a meeting will say nothing throughout the meeting, even though you know they have an opinion they can share, but they’re not.
– The person who won’t initiate conversations, or social gatherings
– The person who doesn’t attend team/company do’s. Not because they have other commitments, they just don’t.

I could go on. This is a basic list of introverted-esque behaviours. If you’re reading that list and thinking – I could manage that by, or I could include them by, or they are missing out on so much because, you’ve really missed the point of their preference.

The preference of an Introvert drives them to not have a need to do all those things and more. For them it’s perfectly fine to just be by alone, to not attend team/company events, to have time off when you go home. They’re not conflicted by it, and they’re certainly not feeling like they’re missing out. These assumptions are all driven be those of us who are extroverted.

How do we help then? How do we make them (introverts) like us (extroverts)? You don’t, and you can’t, and stop thinking as if it will happen. This is the core of what the MBTI offers us in understanding the extroversion/introversion preference. We demand (informally) everyone to act in line with extroversion. We forget that not everyone wants to act that way and it’s perfectly acceptable for them to not. If we can be conscious of this, then we can foster a better team environment, and better working practices. As my old boss used to say, he learned to be a professional extrovert, but he didn’t stop being an introvert.

The science of… Psychometrics

Yesterday I started a series of posts on: The science of… Occupational Psychology. Today I continue with talking about psychometrics.

You mention psychometrics and people immediately think about profiling, being boxed in, being classed as unsuitable, and a host of other negative associations. It’s all hogwash of course. These things are spouted by those who have zero concept about how psychometrics should be used, their value and the insight they provide.<

Personality Theory

Where do we start? Well the first thing to understand is that psychometric tests are all about providing an easy to understand frame of reference for personality. This frame of reference is often steeped in two schools of thought. They are either based in trait theory or type theory.

Trait theory is about a scale of behaviour. The theory argues that we all have a range of behaviours, and we will exhibit various strengths of those behaviours. For example, we all have the capacity for ‘social boldness’ but we may differ the extent to which we display that behaviour. We can have a strength in this behaviour or it can be a weakness. The most popular psychometric that uses trait theory is the 16PF personality questionnaire – distributed by OPP Ltd in the UK.

Type theory is about either exhibiting a behaviour, or not. The theory argues that we will all have preferences for behaviour, and this is the place we will default to in any given situation. We might be able to learn the opposite behaviour, but this does not mean we can do both at the same time. It means that we develop a maturity in our understanding of behaviours and are able to exhibit both types. Thus, we may be extrovert by preference, but equally able to exhibit introvert behaviours when appropriate. The most popular psychometric tool that uses type theory is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator – distributed again by OPP Ltd in the UK.

Types of Psychometrics

As well as personality based psychometrics, there are also other types of psychometrics which are very commonplace – the biggest distributor of which is SHL in the UK.

Aptitude tests and ability tests measure your ability to do a certain task e.g. analytical skills, inference skills, deduction skills, critical reasoning.

Verbal reasoning tests measure your ability to understand verbal instruction.
Numerical reasoning tests measure your ability to understand mathematical problems

Construction of Psychometrics

The key thing that sets psychometrics apart from other questionnaires such as Belbin team roles or the Honey and Mumford Learning Styles, is that there is rigorous construction of the questionnaires. Every psychometric developed goes through a process of being validated.

This means it has to show to be reliable. That is, if you retake the questionnaire, your answers will be consistent.

It has to also show to be valid. That is, a set of or bank of questions measure what it purports to measure.

A set of norms is produced to enable a benchmark from the results. That is, whatever your results may show from a psychometric, you are measured against an appropriate norm group, and as such your results interpreted appropriately.

Standardised administration is a key part of psychometrics. Instructions on how to complete a questionnaire must be understood by anyone undertaking the test.

Feedback and Interpretation

The most important part of completing the questionnaires is receiving feedback from a fully qualified person. Qualification means they have attended a training programme where they learn about all the things I’ve mentioned above. Any person claiming they are qualified will have 2 certificates to prove this. One is the ability to administer and feedback results – a Level A qualification in occupational competence. The second is the ability to use, administer and interpret a specific personality tool. This is the Level B qualification in occupational competence.

A qualified person will be able to take your results and provide insight to you based on the answers you’ve provided. At no point should this be judgemental or profiling. Instead it should be only about feedback and insight.

Once you’ve received feedback you should always receive a report that explains the results.

Myths about Psychometrics

There are those who will tell you that you can fake a test, or answer it in your favour. The likelihood of you being able to do this is seriously slim. The construction of psychometrics means that the questions are designed to not be faked. that’s why you’ll often find that the same question seems to be asked several times in different ways. That’s done so you answer consistently. You might be clever, and you might think you can fake it, but you can’t. Trust me.

There are those who will tell you that you can’t change once you’ve been profiled. Oh that’s just nonsense. First you’re not being profiled. You’ve provided a set of answers and based on the information you’ve provided a set of results are produced. It’s totally based on the information you’ve given. Second – and importantly – you can change your behaviours. Significant life changing events can have profound impacts on us and they do. Death, birth, job change, redundancy, divorce, marriage, all have profound effects on our condition. And they can influence and change your behaviour. It does normally have to be something quite significant though in order for your behaviour to change.

There are those who will claim they can exhibit all behaviours all times of the day. Idiots. As I’ve explained above, you can learn behaviours, but that takes time and you will default to a way of being in most situations. You can and will learn how to act differently, but this will often be in relation to and dependent on the situation you are in.

Posts in this series:

The science of… Assessment Centres
The science of… Competency Frameworks
The science of… Ergonomics
The science of… Appraisals
The science of… Learning and Development
The science of… Occupational Psychology

>The Myers Briggs Type Indicator for everyone

>So I’d rule the world with the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. I think it’s a fantastic psychometric tool that can help you understand so much about yourself. I qualified to use it in 2005 I think and have been using it at every opportunity since! I often reflect on my preferences and what I’m doing to either strenghten them or develop my non-preferences. So what’s the purpose of today’s blog? To keep it simple and easy for everyone to read and decipher.

I won’t go into the history of the MBTI. As important as it is, I want to focus on the preferences.

So firstly, are you an ‘extrovert’ or an ‘introvert’? It’s important to remember that although behaviours are what are observable, behaviours alone do not dictate preference. For an extrovert, they gain their energy from people and being active and interactive. That can take any form deemed appropriate. For an introvert they gain their energy from their own world. That means removing themselves from normal activity to have time they can use to reflect and find that energy they’re looking for. Both are fully capable and often display behvaiours that are described as ‘extrovert’ and as ‘introvert’. Because of this, people often say ‘I’m both’. Poppy cock. Do you prefer using your left or right hand regardless of how well you may use either? It’s the same principle. We have a natural pull that means we either gain our energy from others (extrovert) or from ourselves (introvert).

Next is do you have a ‘sensing’ or ‘intuiting’ preference. A sensing person is someone who tends to prefer things such as facts, practicalities, data, proven methods. An intuiting person is someone who tends to prefer things such as ideas, interpreting meanings, finding connections. It’s startling how observable the behaviours are for a sensing person compared to an intuiting person. Sensing people describe things very literally, do things practically and enjoy working according to tried and tested methods. Intuiting people like to work with uncertainties and find out solutions to problems in interesting and creative ways.

The third set of preferences are ‘thinking’ and ‘feeling’. A person who has thinking preference is someone who makes decisions about the world using logic as their key vehicle. A person with feeling preference uses their personal values system as their driver for making decisions. A thinking person is all about the process and making sure it works – business first, relationships second. A feeling person is all about harmony and ensuring that others are consulted – relationships first, business second. What I like best about trying to figure this set of preferences is how people see themselves. They define ‘feeling’ as being ’emotional’, or ‘thinking’ as being more ‘rational’ where that isn’t how Myers and Briggs define it at all. You can display just as much emotion/passion and rational thought using either thinking or feeling preference.

Last is to consider if you have ‘judging’ or ‘perceiving’ preference. A judging person likes to plan the world they work in. For them it’s all about schedules, keeping things on plan, having closure with things, being tidy and very deliberate about what they do. A perceiving person likes to work in a way which seems to make no sense. They have rough plans, out of date to-do-lists and generally seem haphazard in their approach to the world. The best example of thinking how the two differ comes in seeing how weekends are planned. A judging person will know what is happening in the weekend to come from Friday evening through to Sunday night. They will have times things are meant to happen, who with, when, where, and how. Perceiving people will have an idea of what’s happening over the weekend and will likely finalise plans minute before the next event is meant to take place.

So that’s an overview of the MBTI. The next step normally is to assign yourself a 4 letter ‘type’: E = Extrovert, I = Introvert, S = Sensing, N = iNtuition, T = Thinking, F = Feeling, J = Judging and P = Perceiving. A possible 16 types exist. There’s no best or worst type. It’s all about helping you to understand how you best operate. You are then able to define how best to work best with others. So for example, my type is ENFP. This is technically defined as extroverted intuiting with introverted feeling. That means nothing if you haven’t been through a formal training process to understand ‘type dynamics’. For me though, it helps me to think about what my strengths are, how these influence my life decisions, what weaknesses I’m likely to display and how I can employ methods to counter these.

The great thing about the MBTI is that it’s easy to understand and gives an easy overview of self-awareness. If you take the time to study it further though you begin to understand more about yourself, insights into your own life and how to use the tool to help you do more.

The downfall of the MBTI though is that too many people think they get it when they really don’t. Language becomes easily confused. They try to define others according to MBTI behaviours when they don’t really understand the language. Because there are 16 types, people feel they are blocked in and pigeon holed. The classic response is, “surely I’m all of these things at different times in my life?” This line of responses is mainly due to a lack of appreciation for the tool.

So hopefully the above gives a brief overview to the MBTI. There are a lot of available online resources to help find out more. If you want to get a true picture though please find someone who is formally qualified by OPP in the EU or CAPT in the US. They will give you full feedback on the tool, give you the full and proper questionnaire to complete and help you go through a full self selection about what type best fits your personality.