I‘ve spent the last two days in a leadership training course for work, and the main focus of the course was determining your Myers-Briggs personality type and then learning how to take the various personality types into account when developing your leadership style.
I’ve never taken an MBTI assessment before, but I’ve always been curious about them. The idea is based on Jungian theory on cognitive function that attempts to explain how people perceive the world and make decisions. There are 16 basic personality types based on four “dichotomies” and where you fall on the spectrum of each of these pairs: Introversion vs extraversion; sensing vs intuition; thinking vs feeling and judgement vs perception. You can read more about this on the Myers-Briggs Foundation website if you’re curious — it’s fascinating stuff!
When we were doing some exercises ahead of actually taking the personality assessment, I had a very hard time deciding where I sat on most of the dichotomies. I’m the most introverted extravert you’ll ever meet, and rated myself as more introverted. The only dichotomy on which I clearly fell to one side or the other was on the thinking versus feeling spectrum — “When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances?” Um, logic? In decision making? What a concept!
Even after I got my personality type through taking the test, I was waffling. It said I was an ENFP, which means my tendencies are toward extraversion, intuition, feeling and perception: “Warmly enthusiastic and imaginative. See life as full of possibilities. Make connections between events and information very quickly, and confidently proceed based on the patterns they see. Want a lot of affirmation from others, and readily give appreciation and support. Spontaneous and flexible, often rely on their ability to improvise and their verbal fluency.” Okay, so that pretty much sounds accurate, but I still kept flipping through the descriptions, wondering if maybe there was another one that was even more accurate, until I came across one line in the ENFP description that made me laugh: “ENFPs are reluctant to make decisions and commitments and can often appear flighty to others.” Ha! And once I started really reading the description, I couldn’t get over how clearly it described me.
Here’s a couple of the snippets from one site’s description of the ENFP type that made me blush in recognition:
ENFPs are warm, enthusiastic people, typically very bright and full of potential. They live in the world of possibilities, and can become very passionate and excited about things. Their enthusiasm lends them the ability to inspire and motivate others, more so than we see in other types. They can talk their way in or out of anything. They love life, seeing it as a special gift, and strive to make the most out of it.
Most ENFPs have great people skills. They are genuinely warm and interested in people, and place great importance on their inter-personal relationships. ENFPs almost always have a strong need to be liked. Sometimes, especially at a younger age, an ENFP will tend to be “gushy” and insincere, and generally “overdo” in an effort to win acceptance. However, once an ENFP has learned to balance their need to be true to themselves with their need for acceptance, they excel at bringing out the best in others, and are typically well-liked.
Because ENFPs live in the world of exciting possibilities, the details of everyday life are seen as trivial drudgery. They place no importance on detailed, maintenance-type tasks, and will frequently remain oblivous to these types of concerns. When they do have to perform these tasks, they do not enjoy themselves. This is a challenging area of life for most ENFPs, and can be frustrating for ENFP’s family members. (Bwhahaha, remember what I said about housework? OMG, this explains SO much!!)
The gift of gab which they are blessed with makes it naturally easy for them to get what they want. Most ENFPs will not abuse their abilities, because that would not jive with their value systems.
Having an ENFP parent can be a fun-filled experience, but may be stressful at times for children with strong Sensing or Judging tendancies. Such children may see the ENFP parent as inconsistent and difficult to understand, as the children are pulled along in the whirlwind life of the ENFP. Sometimes the ENFP will want to be their child’s best friend, and at other times they will play the parental authoritarian. But ENFPs are always consistent in their value systems, which they will impress on their children above all else, along with a basic joy of living.
ENFPs are basically happy people. They may become unhappy when they are confined to strict schedules or mundane tasks. Consequently, ENFPs work best in situations where they have a lot of flexibility, and where they can work with people and ideas. Many go into business for themselves. They have the ability to be quite productive with little supervision, as long as they are excited about what they’re doing.
Because they are so alert and sensitive, constantly scanning their environments, ENFPs often suffer from muscle tension. They have a strong need to be independent, and resist being controlled or labelled. They need to maintain control over themselves, but they do not believe in controlling others. Their dislike of dependence and suppression extends to others as well as to themselves.
Are you reading this Mom? Are you howling with laughter? So that was interesting, but what absolutely blew me away was another worksheet that listed some of the challenges that an ENFP leader might face in the workplace. I absolutely need to photocopy this for every person in my team, including my boss, and tape it up on my wall and maybe cut and paste it into my next performance evaluation!!
ENFP leaders tend to face the following challenges:
– may not complete what gets started
– has high need for external affirmation
– resists the need to ground their vision in past and present data, and struggle to describe their vision in tangible, specific terms.
– become discouraged by others’ critiques of their vision, even if they are generally supportive
– hesitates to give critical feedback, being reluctant to risk hurting others
– lose credibility with people who expect leaders to provide them with a structure to follow (e.g. roles, clear boundaries, detailed plans)
– leaves responsibility for implementation to others and neglect to follow up, sometimes setting a poor example of being accountable for results (eek! So scary, so true!)
– becomes immobilized by the sheer volume of details that must be handled and lose enthusiasm for an idea
I found this on another website, and again, am blushing in recognition:
For some ENFPs, relationships can be seriously tested by their short attention spans and emotional needs. They are easily intrigued and distracted by new friends and acquaintances, forgetting their older and more familiar emotional ties for long stretches at a time. And the less mature ENFP may need to feel theyâ€™re the constant center of attention, to confirm their image of themselves as a wonderful and fascinating person. (You DO find me wonderful and fascinating, right? RIGHT?)
In the workplace, ENFPs are pleasant and friendly, and interact in a positive and creative manner with both their co-workers and the public. ENFPs are also a major asset in brainstorming sessions; follow-through on projects can be a problem, however. ENFPs do get distracted, especially if another interesting issue comes along. They also tend towards procrastination, and dislike performing small, uninteresting tasks. ENFPs are most productive when working in a group with a few Js to handle the details and the deadlines. (Bwhahaha, details? Deadlines? Pffffffft.)
And finally, from another course handout, “nearly all of the problematic characteristics can be attributed to […]the common ENFP problem of wanting to understand and experience everything at all costs.” (Really, this is so elemental to my personality, and I have never realized it until now.) “The main driver to the ENFP personality is Extraverted Intuition, whose purpose is to understand the world as one Big Picture, seeking connections and meaning in everything. If their ability to seek understanding is threatened, the ENFP shuts out the threatening force.” (What’s that, you disagree? Lalala, I can’t hear you!)
I am utterly gobsmacked over this amazing new insight to my own motivations and perceptions. So of course, now I want to know the personality types of Beloved, of the boys, of my family and friends. I know it’s neither a justification for behaviour nor a prescription, but having this insight explains SO MUCH of my own behaviour and some of the chronic problems I’ve had with procrastination, clutter, and my voracious appetite for external validation. It’s not my fault, it’s my personality type!! 😉 It was funny listening to the instructor, who also happened to be an ENFP, list some of the strengths and weaknesses of this particular personality type: warm and insightful, but easily distracted; with no realistic grasp of deadlines, and much better at instigating projects than following through on them.
If you’d like to take the test and determine your own personality type, there’s an online test here. I want to go back to the office and have my whole team take this test!! I’m dying to compare notes — anybody else been through a revelation like this? Did it knock you on your ass as much as this has done for me?