Understanding Your Style


June 2000

Understanding Your Style

CIDMIconNewsletter Katherine Brennan Murphy, Best Practices Editor

In the past 25 years, we have witnessed an explosion of analysis tools designed to help us know ourselves better. This trend, sometimes called the Self-Help Movement, has infiltrated every nook and cranny of our lives from political polling to trite articles in popular magazines. Most of us have taken the tests or imposed them on others. So, is there a value?

The value comes not from the results, which can vary depending on your caffeine and inbox level, but from the process. In answering the questions and reading about what “type” you might be, you begin to look at yourself more objectively -you gain perspective. Effective managers and leaders have well-honed analytical skills. They are able to judge objectively the value of a product or a person’s performance against a well-understood set of criteria.

Effective managers are able to make these judgments without resorting to statements of relative value; in other words, they know that a “good” product meets certain quality, time-to-market, and market share numbers. Equally, they know that performance that “meets expectations” does just that-they can clearly articulate the objectives and behaviors they expect of others and discuss success and failure to meet expectations without implying that the person is “good” or “bad” in the process.

One of the most enduring analytical tools is the Myers-Briggs personality indicator. Based on the work of psychoanalyst Carl Jung, the results of this test indicate that you fall into one of 16 personality types. These 16 types are based on four scales:

  • Energizing-shows the degree to which a person is oriented to either the inner world (I) or the external world (E).
  • Attending-shows what a person pays attention to, either a preference for using senses (S) or imagination and intuition (N)
  • Deciding-shows how a person decides, either a preference for thinking (T) things through in a logical, objective way or feeling (F) things through using personal values
  • Living-shows the kind of life style the person prefers, either a preference for what the person judges (J) to be a planned and organized life or what the person perceives (P) as a spontaneous and flexible life

Your answers to the survey questions place you at a particular point on each scale and the composite of the score gives you your “type.” For example, I pretty consistently score as an ENFP (extroverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiving). Each variation of the test assigns a particular archetype to each personality type. For example, Keirsey in the book, Please Understand Me, calls ENFP a “champion idealist,” someone who is “abstract in thought and speech, cooperative in accomplishing aims, and informative and extroverted when relating to others.” I feel pretty comfortable with this description except when I’m feeling low in which case I usually score as an INFP, whose archetype is “healer idealist.”

Because this tool is used frequently in corporate and other organization settings, it is good to understand its jargon and background. Every community creates its own jargon, and sometimes, to be thought part of a community, we must employ and be comfortable using the jargon. I’ve included a number of Web sites to visit where you can take variations of the test and read about the traits of each type.

What do you learn from this analysis? First, you discover how you tend to view the world and how this world view may be completely different from the worldview of the person in the next cube. Second, if your entire team takes the test, you can rearrange assignments and expectations based on existing strengths and weaknesses. Third, you begin to observe the world of relationships more objectively-you begin to look for patterns, understand connections, and understand that “right” and “wrong” may not be as ironclad as you once believed.

At the New Manager’s 2000 Conference in August, Beth Barrow of Nortel Networks will lead a session on using analysis tools effectively. Conference participants will use an online survey to find out their Myers-Briggs “types” and then break into groups by type to discuss how each one adds to and detracts from managing information-development departments. We will publish the statistics in October as part of the conference report.

Remember, we are continually bombarded with information about who we should be, what is good, how to be better, the seven steps to freedom, and so on. To pick and choose the advice we internalize and act on becomes a key step in honing our analytical skills. Think of the texts, lectures, advice, and feedback you acquire as a well-stocked wardrobe from whose shelves you choose the most appropriate apparel and equipment for the job at hand.


Bridges, William, 1992. The Character of Organizations. Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, CA.

Hirsh, Sandra Krebs, 1985. Using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in Organizations. Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, CA.

Keirsey, David and Marilyn Bates, 1978. Please Understand Me. Prometheus Nemesis Books, Del Mar, CA.

Kroeger, Otto and Janet Thueson, reprint edition, 1993. Type Talk at Work: How the 16 Personality Types Determine Your Success on the Job. DTP.

Myers, Isabel Briggs, revised edition 1987. Introduction to Type. Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, CA.

Myers, Isabel Briggs and Mary H. McCaulley, 1985. A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, CA.

Myers, Isabel Briggs and Peter B. Myers, 1985. Gifts Differing. Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, CA.

Tieger, Paul, 1992. Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type. Little Brown. CIDMIconNewsletter