The Power of Myers Briggs for Start Ups

We hold a quarterly team day to ensure that we are nourishing our most important asset…  our people.  In an entrepreneurial environment, it can be hard to come up with the resources (cash, expertise, time) to create meaningful exercises that dramatically accelerate a team’s ability to form and perform, beyond the stereotyped foosball table and free sodas.

Don’t get me wrong…  we have our Friday Sales Meeting (a weekly all-company happy hour where you have to pound your tasty beverage if you are caught talking about work) and we regularly get the team together for outings like the Thanksgiving Texas Hold’Em Smackdown or the July 4 “Grill ’em.”   But these are social events, intended to be casual, easy, and free flowing.

At Windsor Circle, we actively engage each team member with a Myers Briggs Assessment and then spend 2-3 hours going through exercises to understand how various types of people interact, and how it applies to the people in our team as they express those personalities.

Resources

  • Human Metrics has a quick and free assessment here.
  • Typelogic has good descriptions of the various types here.
  • John Fahlberg, a retired Target executive, has coached us numerous times on this disciple.  If you’d like him to coach your team, visit his site, and tell him I sent you.

Observations

Just to get the juices flowing, I thought I’d summarize some of the comments and observations from our experience yesterday.

  • 100% Intuitive, 0% Sensing – This vector has to do with how people take in data.  Sensing types do a lot of research, and then shape their world around the existing data.  Sensing types seek “what is.”  Intuitive types engage high level concepts and patterns, placing high importance on imagination.  Intuitive types seek “what could be.”  It was fascinating to find that in our team, we were 100% “what could be.”  We theorized there was a selection bias here…  that the startup environment attracted those who loved the art of the possible, and that the risk and unknowns of the very early stage process might drive those who seek data and structure away.  It also made us think about next hires…   might be good to balance us out a bit!
  • “I hate being praised publicly” – One of our engineers, who has a strong expression of introversion, shared with me that he not only didn’t care about being praised publicly for doing well, that it actually made him uncomfortable.  A well meaning extravert (like me) might sing his praises in a team meeting, completely unaware that this is actually a painful experience.  What this specific team member expressed was that he was much, much more motivated by being given a thorny technical problem to solve and the time to solve it.  Unlocking his zeal and passion for Windsor Circle, therefore, is much more about planning and allocating tasks than it is remembering anniversaries or publicly praising him.
  • Brad’s Time of the Month and Carrie’s Internalization – My co-founder, who runs sales, holds responsibility for client renewals.  During our monthly billing cycle with clients, there are always a few that raise their hand to cancel their contracts (primarily for non-usage on the clients’ part).  And it drives Brad batty.  He wants our clients to be successful.  He wants Windsor Circle to be successful.  And when he processes a few calls / emails in one day (triggered by the billing) he gets grumpy.  Under stress, his personality type (ENFP) feels overextended and edges towards shutting down.  One of his team members, Carrie, has a high social component to her personality type (ENFJ), and therefore internalizes others’ stress.  They discovered that when Brad is in “his time of the month” that she also feels stress because she’s wondering what she has done wrong.  Knowing the pattern will help them operate more smoothly.
  • I Get Irritated by Those Who Won’t at Least Consider the Impossible – The book that we’re using details each personality type, and describes what irritates them and how they may irritate others.  Two strong traits of mine are that I am drawn to things that others haven’t done before, and that I deeply believe that they can be accomplished with enough vigor, passion, intelligence and hard work.  I have a very strong negative reaction to those who look for reasons why something won’t work instead of inventing innovative ways to actually pull it off.  In reading my personality type handout, I discovered that it’s a known phenomenon that us ENFPs get irritated “by those who won’t consider the impossible”.  And, interestingly, other personality types may become irritated by an overly optimistic and unrealistic approach to new projects that my personality type expresses in extreme situations.  The awareness of types is what’s important here..
  • I Need Time to Process – My co-founder and CTO, Chris, is a strong INTP.  He draws energy from having time to center, without distraction, and process things.  His predilection towards logical, data driven, non-emotional information gathering and decision making means that in times of high stress, he needs time to go process things.  My personality type in the same situation requires high degrees of social interaction and group brainstorming.  Both approaches are fine…  but under stress, operating without an understanding of what the other person needs is a recipe for conflict.  Here’s a post about a specific experience that started off hard but ended up bringing Chris and I even closer as co-founders.

We uncovered a lot of other interesting insights during our session.  I hung the resulting charts in the kitchen area so that our team will see where we landed, how we interact and perceive the world, and how to engage one another in ways that will help us out-compete those who are not specifically working to build their teams with the intentionality that we are.

I’m excited to be blessed with a team that works so well together and trusts each other with personal perceptions and sensitivities.  It was amazing to me how often a team member would speak not only about how their personality type may become irritated by others, but how often they named how they might irritate others.  That high trust is the hallmark of a good group of people who are pulling together to excel at a shared task and who are investing in each other.

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