Management and Myers-Briggs- The Power of Understanding Tendencies

Steve Wyrostek
May 28, 2008 — 3,232 views  
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At Gentle Ears, we're experienced practitioners of Myers-Briggs instruments. So it was with great interest that we read two articles by Emily Yoffee in the commentary section of the Chicago Sun-Times (attributed to last week. Using their biographies and Myers-Briggs related research, Ms. Yoffee, "typed" the presidential candidates in interesting and on target candidate profiles.

First a bit about Myers-Briggs; Myers-Briggs was developed after WWII to assist GI's returning to the workforce in their career search. Considered to be 85% reliable, it's become one of the most widely used and most trusted of all of the personality assessments. The ninety-three item self report instrument results in the taker being slotted into one of sixteen four letter type preferences. A report is produced and a certified practitioner then reviews the results individually or in groups. It's used in corporations to increase understanding of personal strengths, improve work relationships between staff, expand group decision-making processes and to strengthen the ability of individuals to work well in teams. Positive experiences result from Myer-Briggs because there is no judgment, no right or wrong implied- just preferences.

Barack Obama: Senator Obama's type is ENFP (Extravert, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving). The person who has this type exhibits idealistic tendencies and sees many possibilities. They have an ability to inspire with words and enthusiasm. This has been an Obama strength which has come under criticism from Senator Clinton; "…the skies open up and celestial choirs are singing…"

Another characteristic is that ENFP's work well in an environment where everyone has a say and where group decisions reflect group intent. ENFP's tend to possess a "diplomatic intelligence" that they use to seek common ground and forge alliances. Yoffee notes that as an Illinois legislator, Obama worked across the aisle to get difficult legislation passed.

At times, The ENFP can become restless especially as tasks become tedious. Obama's stated aversion to paperwork might be an example of this.

Hillary Clinton: Senator Clinton's type is ESTJ (Extravert, Sensing, Thinking, Judging). These types tend to be steady, reliable, methodical, and detail oriented; the ones society cannot do without as ESTJ's  often remind others. If a public servant, they take on those burdens with determination rather than joy. They see themselves as dependable and accountable with their responsibilities. In other words, "ready to be president on day one."

ESTJ's look to take charge and provide everyone with their marching orders- pronto. Being most comfortable in the land of the unambiguous, they take pride on their command of facts and like to deal with sensible approaches. While they will listen politely to inspiring speeches they tend to scoff at soaring oratory, finding it impractical.

Not known as bold thinkers or doers, the ESTJ nevertheless demonstrates "a stabilizing and consolidating effect." This may explain the sense that Clinton would be much more comfortable pushing through tough legislation than changing society.
John McCain: Senator McCain is an ESTP (Extravert, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving). Having the same type as George Bush, McCain displays practical, optimistic and cynical tendencies all at the same time.  This type likes to be in on the action and has strong desires to make an impact. This explains McCain's ability to work with whomever he has to in the senate (including Democrat Ted Kennedy) to get where he wants to be.

The tenaciousness noted in this type underscores their ability to make do in stressful situations, a characteristic that McCain stirringly demonstrated as a POW. The ESTP is comfortable taking risks because there are not deterred by the possibility of failure by anyone, including themselves. Long term planning and management may not be their comfort zone but ask them to put out a fire and they're unrolling the water hose.
ESTP's chase no grandiose notions. They're rooted in what is effective in the real world and care not a whit whose feathers may get ruffled. The reputation of being a maverick may follow.

While Myers-Briggs indicators are not the only valid metrics or observations, their reliability can provide a path for the self aware manager to understand individual personalities and the resulting team dynamics.

But the real question is- Would you put these three together on a team and if so, what's your prediction of the team synergy?

Steve Wyrostek MBA, BA
President- Gentle Ears, Inc.
541 N. 5th Ave.
Des Plaines, IL  60016
[email protected]

Member HRMAC, SHRM, ASTD, Association Forum of Chicago Regular Contributor to the Business Ledger

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Steve Wyrostek