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Type and temperament.

Work more effectively, especially in groups, by understanding personality preferences.

All of us, at one time or another, have asked the question, "Where is this person coming from?" Answers can be hard to come by. But a technique known as "typewatching" offers a constructive method of gaining critical insights into personality differences. These insights can result in better working relationships, especially on committees and task forces. As people become aware of their own and others' personality types, communication and productivity increase.

True leaders understand the variety of gifts people bring to an organization and provide the opportunities for those gifts to grow and develop. As Max DePree wrote in Leadership Is an Art, "In baseball and business, the needs of the team are best met when we meet the needs of the individual person." Team members realize that they need one another and that their diversity is one of their greatest strengths.

Capitalizing on diversity, however, first requires an understanding of different personality types. Typewatching makes this possible.

The concept is based on psychiatrist C. G. Jung's theory that human behavior is predictable and classifiable. Or, as Otto Kroeger and Janet M. Thuesen state in their book Type Talk, "Typewatching is an organized, scientifically valid approach to name calling."

Each person has preferences about the way he or she gathers information and makes decisions. These preferences become the foundation of how we relate to people, tasks, and events in life.

The basic premise of typewatching is that there is no right or wrong way to gather information and make decisions, just individual preferences. These differences result in a rich variety of personalities that have to be understood and appreciated for organizations to work effectively. Without this awareness, the different psychological types are likely to have a difficult time working together because of the distinct ways in which they perceive their environment and make decisions.

Working effectively

For example, an individual who prefers detail and makes decisions based on limited information may have problems working with someone who likes to look at the "forest instead of the trees," and who has a difficult time making a decision because he or she wants to continue collecting information.

A typewatcher learns to use these differences to the organization's best advantage. For example, if you're charged with identifying emerging issues that may affect the association down the road, it would be helpful to know which co-workers are intuitive thinkers who can visualize the future.

Based on Jung's work and their own research, Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers developed a psychological instrument, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, to explain personality preferences in scientific terms. Qualified individuals administer the Myers Briggs test, which does not measure intelligence, motivation, or mental health.

According to the type theory, there are four pairs of preference alternatives:

* extrovert (E) versus introvert (I);

* sensing (S) versus intuitive (N);

* thinking (T) versus feeling (F); and

* judging (J) versus perceiving (P).

We are predisposed, according to the type theory, to one of these four preferences--much as we are born with a predisposition to being left- or right-handed. You may not have used the type theory label, but chances are you know an extrovert or an introvert when you see one.

Understanding differences

Extroverts get their energy from working with groups or things and are oriented to the outside world. They are living examples of the phrase, "What you see is what you get." When an extrovert answers a question, you hear the entire thought process from beginning to end.

In contrast, introverts enjoy social contact but usually on a one-to-one basis. Interacting in a group drains their energy and they need time to recover. They get their energy from reflecting on their inner world of ideas and feelings.

An introvert's process of answering a question takes place internally. They are sometimes referred to as pillow decision makers because they feel more comfortable about making a decision if they can sleep on it. In any case, you only hear the final product of the thought process.

We have all worked with those who like and trust facts and details. These sensing types are seen as realistic and practical. In contrast, the intuitive types prefer to focus on the big picture and are imaginative and speculative.

These two types represent distinct preferences for absorbing information. When a sensing person and an intuitive person are asked to review a document, the sensing person will find typographical errors and misspellings, whereas the intuitive person will identify problems in how the topic in the document was developed.

Once information is received, we have preferences on how we process it--by thinking or feeling. Thinkers make decisions using an analytical and logical approach and in a seemingly business-like and objective manner. In contrast, feelers will take the emotions and opinions of others into consideration when making a decision. They have a strong need to maintain harmony within a group.

Have you ever been in a meeting when, just as you think all the necessary information has been presented and an apparent agreement reached, someone says, "I would like to get additional information" or "Let's consider a new possibility"? You are dealing with a perceiver. In contrast, the judging members of the group want to get things settled or come to closure.

These eight preferences, each designated by a letter, form the basis for the 16 personality types. These personality types create the lens through which we see our world. An example of one of the personality types commonly found in management is ESTJ, or extrovert-sensing-thinking-judging, according to research by the Center for Applications of Psychological Type, Gainesville, Florida.

These are the very people with whom association professionals most likely will work. The chair and members of committees are or will be in the upper ranks of their member companies, organizations, or professions. ESTJs take responsibility and are serious, thorough, matter-of-fact, and practical. Does this sound familiar?

Determining types

The two approaches used to determine personality types are formal and informal.

The formal approach uses an instrument such as the Myers Briggs test. This psychological instrument poses more than 120 questions about how the test taker feels or acts in different situations. The qualified professional administering and scoring the instrument then uses the information for individual coaching, management training, team development, and group training. The Myers Briggs test can also be used effectively in board and committee training to increase communication and team building.

The trainer uses the results to develop exercises that help group members better understand themselves and other members. One exercise is to form subgroups of members with similar preferences and ask them to solve a problem or answer a question.

For example, if committee members divided into those with a judging preference and those with a preference for perceiving are asked where they would like to have the next convention, you will get two results. The group with a judging preference will identify the site of the next convention; the group with a perceiving preference may develop a list of possible sites and want to collect more information.

This example demonstrates that individuals have different ways of solving problems and expressing themselves, and that it is easy to work with people with the same preference. It also illustrates the weaknesses inherent in each preference. Those participants with a judging preference may not look at enough possibilities, while the group with a perceiving preference may have difficulty TABULAR DATA OMITTED TABULAR DATA OMITTED in making a choice and spend too much time collecting information.

A heterogeneous group is ideal for problem solving. The strength of each preference is used at each stage of decision making, and its weakness is mitigated by the countervailing preference. In essence, all participants find that they have value and are valued.

While the Myers Briggs test is certainly valuable, associations cannot constantly give written tests to determine the personality types of staff members and volunteers. A less rigorous, informal approach is based on personal observation of others' preferences. For example, some of the questions I use to help determine a committee chair's preferences include the following:

* Does the chair enjoy working with groups versus preferring to deal on a one-to-one basis with members?

* What types of information does the chair thrive on in discussions--factual or theoretical?

* Is the chair logical and analytical? Does he or she want to keep harmony within the committee?

* Is the chair decisive versus "let's look at another alternative"?

Similar questions can be used to develop a view of the personality types of the chair and members with whom you work. A chair who likes working with groups will feel at ease facilitating a committee meeting. The opposite will be true of an introvert who would rather meet individually with committee members when an important decision has to be made. The latter may enjoy letting the staff person take a lead in facilitating the meeting.

Communication will be good between a committee staff person and chair who likes factual information when the staff person provides concrete, detailed information. Starting a discussion on a theoretical basis could result in the chair not obtaining what he or she perceives as useful information.

If the chair is highly analytical, the staff person may need to provide information in a highly organized fashion and take care to keep harmony in committee meetings. The chair may not focus on human factors in the decision-making framework.

Insights into temperaments

A simpler method of understanding members and co-workers, developed by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates, suggests four temperaments. Each of the four temperaments is identified by two letters--SP, SJ, NT, and NF.

The sensing-perceiving (SP) temperament is very adept at solving practical problems in a changing environment. According to Keirsey and Bates, SP represents 38 percent of the general population.

The temperament trying to foster change is the intuitive thinker (NT). These visionaries represent 12 percent of the general population. The SP and NT work as kindred spirits because the SP thrives on variety, while the NT develops ingenious ideas that are the basis for change.

In contrast, the sensing-judging (SJ) temperament believes in maintaining the status quo and likes to resolve issues and problems in a structured and stable environment. Like the SP, the SJ represents 38 percent of the population.

Complementing the SJ temperament is the intuitive-feeling (NF) temperament, which represents 12 percent of the population. NF strives to maintain a harmonious environment in which decisions are made and is energized by this accomplishment. SJ wants stability, and NF helps by smoothing the waters in the group.

Temperament identifications can be extremely useful in delegating responsibilities. An NT, for example, should not be given a repetitive, detailed, demanding activity, such as overseeing a budget. In contrast, an SJ would feel uncomfortable in identifying emerging issues, because of the lack of clear objectives in the process. The SP temperament should be given a task that does not have much activity associated with it, such as planning a meeting that occurs every two years. Issues and activities that are ridden with conflict would be the least attractive for an NF.

Importance of diversity

A range of temperaments and psychological types is usually needed to effectively accomplish a task. Committee members and staff who understand the value of each type or temperament accept the importance of diversity.

Given that most assignments consist of different kinds of tasks, a committee with a variety of temperaments is ideal. If everyone were of the same ilk, some portion of the work probably would not be accomplished as effectively and efficiently as possible--or not at all. The aspect of a job that you dislike most may be someone else's strong point. Reliance on the strengths of others to accomplish tasks we do not naturally feel comfortable undertaking allows all participants to develop fully.

Benefits accrue to both individuals and organizations who understand types of personality and temperament.

Communication is enhanced because the sender understands how his or her audience likes information to be presented. The extrovert will want information communicated verbally and immediately, compared to the introvert who will want written information and time to reflect.

Effectiveness of group meetings is increased through the creation of an environment in which participants' strengths are acknowledged. In a brainstorming session, the participants can be asked to write down their ideas so that the introverts will have time to reflect; at the same time, the extroverts will feel comfortable verbalizing when the facilitator asks each participant to state his or her ideas.

A better understanding of those with whom we work nurtures healthy relationships. Some people are comfortable in making decisions and looking at cause-and-effect evidence, whereas others prefer to analyze human values and the effect decisions will have on individuals.

Understanding personality type and temperament allows us to build on our own strengths and those of others and to balance individual weaknesses. Committee members with a sensing preference look at details, in contrast to the intuitive person's gift of looking to the future. The sensors have a difficult time looking to the future, whereas an intuitive person may find detailed work unrewarding.

Exercise caution

We need to be careful, however, in using any management tool. Type-and-temperament identification should not be used to stereotype people. A person with a sensing and thinking preference may also have developed intuitive and feeling skills. Whenever possible, base a determination of a person's psychological type on a broad, representative sample of behavior in a variety of situations.

It may not be possible to obtain an in-depth knowledge of a new member's type in limited time. Try to be sensitive to the key behavior patterns of a new committee member and help him or her enhance innate abilities. Once a person understands his or her preference, he or she can also use this information to proactively address interpersonal challenges in different situations.

As with any new concept, people are likely to be skeptical about the value of typewatching. However, when you can help a committee member meet the challenge of working with another member, a boss, or a fellow worker by applying type theory, you will create a believer.

For example, one person, whose preference was intuitive and whose last supervisor had a similar preference, did not feel comfortable communicating with a new boss. Through a series of questions, it became clear that the new supervisor was highly sensing. The subordinate changed the type of information he gave the supervisor from broad overviews to detailed reports--a change that ultimately led to a more positive working relationship.

The more we are aware of basic preferences in how we gather information, how we make decisions, and the general environment we have created around us, the better we are able to understand ourselves and others. At one organization, for example, an interdepartmental team was formed to look at emerging issues. Each team member took the Myers Briggs test and, through a series of workshops, learned each other's preference. This knowledge helped the team develop a series of future scenarios and issues to be presented to upper management in record time.

The whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts when we can tap the strengths of people we come in contact with in accomplishing the goals of our organizations.

Gerald J. Edgley is director of strategic planning and management consulting at Dames & Moore, Bethesda, Maryland.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society of Association Executives
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:dealing with different personalities in a team
Author:Edgley, Gerald J.
Publication:Association Management
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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