When I was in high school I went to a leadership conference and the organizers had each attendee take the Myers-Briggs Personality Test. (If you aren't familiar with this personality assessment, check out 16personalities.com. I found their analysis to be spot on and helpful as well.) I’m always the same type: ENTJ, the Field Marshall. It’s a relatively rare type and I had never met anyone else that was also an ENTJ.
On the last day of the conference, the organizers did something fiendish. They split the group of about 200 student leaders up into smaller groups by personality type. We were given a project to accomplish with those who were our same type.
There were only 2 other ENTJs. I immediately loathed both of these people. We all were supremely confident that we had the answers to lead the group to victory and we were all quite vocal about it. I began to wish that I had never met another ENTJ. Was I this terrible to be around? Our group made no progress on the project because we could not stop arguing.
After a certain amount of time, these conference organizers gave us all new groups. We were matched with a diverse group representing many different Myers-Briggs types. What a relief! The other groups had struggled too, in different ways. Certain groups couldn’t finish because they just socialized and never got on task. Still other groups over-deliberated. Some never had a leader step forward at all.
Each person in our new group had a natural role. I assumed the executive role and others helped the group cooperate and still others made sure we took all details into account. Compared to my ENTJ group, this was project bliss.
What I learned from this experience was that there is truly strength in difference. Hiring others who are just like you is not a winning strategy. Also, work is more fun if everyone is a little bit different. Quirks emerge when folks are not all the same. Not to mention that it leads to more productivity when skill sets complement each other rather than clash.
So, next time you take one of those personality quizzes on Facebook, think about the results those around you might get too and how that helps you succeed together. Consider this too in your choice of mentor and in your hiring decisions. If you are a big picture “N” (Intuitive), it might be worthwhile to have a “S” (Sensing) perspective in your office to balance your tendencies. You might be so idea driven, you miss critical details that would affect implementation. As a manager, if you are a “TJ” combination (Thinking-Judging), you’ll tend to make snap decisions based on rationality and you’ll often alienate those who are make slower decisions based on feelings. It’s a good idea to consult someone who approached problems differently, especially if your decision will affect many other people.
Learning more about yourself is fun and, like a horoscope, it’s entertaining to see how your profile "matches" you. But, I would challenge you to use these types to learn more about those around you for better understanding and perspective.
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Jessica Cloud, CFRE
I've been called the Tasmanian Devil of fundraising and I'm here to talk shop with you.