Know Your Team: Leveraging Employee Personality Types

Identifying the different personality types on your team empowers you to lead your team to heightened productivity. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) identifies 16 personality types based on a combination of four personal preferences. Here are the four personal preferences along with tips to best leverage personality types.

4 Personality Types

1. Introversion vs. Extroversion: Interacting with the World

Professional woman working on laptop in a modern office conference room.

How they differ:

Introverts prefer to have time to think about their ideas. They value solitude and need time to recharge after socializing. Introverts can run out of energy quickly when put in group situations for too long, so they usually prefer to work alone most of the time.

While introverts focus on their internal world, extroverts focus primarily on the external world. Extroverts prefer to generate ideas in a group setting and feel most energized during back and forth communication. They easily become bored when they cannot actively participate in a conversation.

Leading these types:

Try not to schedule meetings out of the blue. Extroverts may have no problem with this, but a spontaneous group discussion may discourage introverts, who may seem quieter than usual if forced to speak before ready.  It’s not that introverts inherently feel shy or closed off, they just need a moment to process their ideas before forming an opinion. Give introverts a heads up about meetings so that they have ample time to mull over their ideas before presenting them.

Since extroverts thrive in discussions where people feed off each other’s ideas, invite extroverts to lead meetings. Take things a step further and ask them to send out an agenda of discussion topics in advance. This gives introverts time to reflect prior to the meeting. Also, have a system that encourages sharing ideas after the meeting. Give extroverts a platform to toss out ideas and introverts a platform to share ideas after having time to reflect.

2. Sensing vs. Intuitive: Gathering Data

How they differ:

wooden ruler and pencil on top of paperFor a sensing person, facts and figures win out over ideas and theories. An intuitive enjoys thinking about how things work, figuring out how things are interrelated, and considering the future.

Leading these types:

Sensing people perform best in jobs where they can measure tangible results. For example, if you are rolling out a new product or a new marketing campaign, your sensing people will thrive with a duty that involves tracking the results of the project.

Intuitive individuals can generate overall plans and determine which results should be tracked. A pairing of sensing individuals with intuitive ones fosters the development of big goals alongside the practical aspects of achieving those goals. Intuitives easily see the big picture and therefore do well with goal setting. Give intuitives the opportunity to dream big and think outside the box.

Once the overall plan is envisioned, task sensing people with the responsibility of focusing on the feasibility of the goals. Sensing people are adept at figuring out the step-by-step process in achieving goals.

wooden chess pieces3. Feeling vs Thinking: Making Decisions

How they differ:

A thinker makes decisions primarily through logic with little consideration to how people will feel. They stay calm and objective. A feeler makes decisions with an eye toward harmony and prioritizes feelings.

Leading these types:

The people-oriented nature of feelers allows them to understand others’ needs and capabilities. This makes them well-suited to delegate job duties and tasks to other employees.

older man looking down at smartphoneEncourage thinkers to see the “people side” of a problem. Be aware that thinkers may be perceived by customers or other colleagues as uncaring or harsh. To combat this, remind the thinkers on your team that their coworkers and clients they serve are people with valuable perspectives. Try incorporating ice breakers before meetings where members should share a little bit about their lives, unrelated to work. This can personalize communication between thinkers and their coworkers so that they become familiar with others’ personalities and preferences.

4. Judging vs. Perceiving: Structured vs. Spontaneous

How they differ:

The judging person is well organized. They work off of lists, and they stick to a schedule. The perceiver is spontaneous, sometimes impulsive, and enjoys the unknown.

Leading these types:

Allow judgers to bring structure to projects. Note that judgers can be dismissive to new options or ways of doing things, so encourage them to entertain other viewpoints. One way to accomplish this is by creating a culture that both values idea sharing and ensures that all options are heard and considered. This will give space for all perspectives in a group since members will be required to discuss topics with an open mind.

By their nature, perceivers want more data. Utilize this gift by asking perceivers directly if they see any blind spots in the organization and what specifically can be done better. Encourage them to scrutinize the organization and provide ideas on improvement. You will find that perceivers possess foresight that can keep your business on the right track.

Understanding the Whole Person

 Combinations of these four personal preferences yields 16 personality types. Also, examine how your personality type affects the team. For example, if you are an ESTJ (extroversion + sensing + thinking + judging) consider that your management style may be deemed “too bossy” by people who prefer introversion and intuition.

man looking at cactiIf you are an ISFJ’s (introversion + sensing + feeling + judging) you may have a difficult time delegating tasks. Employees may view this as a lack of trust in their capabilities. As you begin to assign tasks based on personality types instead of prescribed job descriptions, you may find it easier to delegate tasks. Further, as an ISFJ, you understand the capabilities of others. Use this gift to tell employees exactly where they excel. Encouragement fosters trust.

To get the best out of your employees, let go of arbitrary personnel practices. Instead, assign employees to the job duties that best fit their personality type and best align with what they want to be doing. For example, a high-level manager who is an introvert may not want to attend networking events. Take this responsibility from the introvert, and give it to an extrovert who will better excel in the more social role of networking.

Armed with an understanding of the personality types of yourself and your employees, you’ll be able to guide your team to peak performance and best equipped to anticipate potential problems ahead.


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