Considering the previous blog posts establishing a team scenario, this blog post will apply the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory to the team members and observer to apply analysis and insights into team dynamics. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality inventory that can establish order and consistency from random variation in behavior by evaluating the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgement (The Myers & Briggs Foundation). As an instrument, Myers & Briggs Foundation reports the wide use by a variety of individuals, although the MBTI also has its fair share of detractors who cite the lack of validation in long-term studies creating a “curiosity why the instrument is used so widely, particularly in large organizations” (Druckman, 1991, p. 99). Here, the overview of personality preferences offered by the MBTI is acknowledged, while recognizing the fluidity of personality types and seeking to learn from the situational implications.
Team Member Analysis
Brandon, Head of Sales, fits major characteristics of the ESFP type. Brandon is a charismatic leader with boundless optimism who struggles with the details of unfamiliar tangibles and avoids conflict by constantly moving beyond past challenges (The ESFP – Psychology Junkie). In the branch, Brandon’s top performer status yet constant avoidance of conflict within his own department are indicative of the strengths and weaknesses of an ESFP type (ESFP Relationships).
Holly, Head of Software Engineering, fits major characteristics of the ENFP type. Holly is a resourceful, encouraging leader who gives her team freedom to work (The ENFP – Psychology Junkie). Holly struggled with prioritizing, finishing projects, and keeping track of details (ENFP Relationships). As a developer, Holly was managed in organization and details, yet as a manager of developers, Holly struggled to motivate her team in a role that required detailed and organized methods.
Lisa, coordinator of change management, fits major characteristics of the ISFJ type. Lisa is a committed, organized team member who excelled in meeting deadlines (The ISFJ – Psychology Junkie). By often failing to take care of her own needs, Lisa often struggled with inability to see the big picture and was prone to burnout (ISFJ Relationships). The polarity of Lisa’s attributes created a team member quick to task completion with high accuracy, but unable to frame small issues in relation to overall operations. Lisa’s frequent outbursts spoke more of her own burnout than of the team member failings.
My MBTI classification as an ISTJ type (introverted, sensing, thinking, judging) emphasized responsibility and loyalty to organization and family, desire to work to fulfill commitments as promised on time. Potential faults include preference to complete work deemed necessary while resisting work that does not make sense (Myers & Myers, personal communication, 2020). In the scenario, my decade long commitment to the corporation, while advancing the mission of the branch instilled trust from corporate leaders to be entrusted to lead the branch through significant transition.
The strengths of the ISTJ type defined as stability in a chaotic work with a steady and sensible disposition while implementing plans and organizing people (Myers & Myers, personal communication, 2020). When I arrived at the branch, I devised a long term plan to change the branch operations despite the difficult mix of personalities while maintaining an eye on the overall goal of reshaping the branch as a functional segment of the corporation.
The weaknesses of the ISTJ type are defined as being social when comfortable and struggling to see the sense in needs that are different from my own (Myers & Myers, personal communication, 2020). From the moment of arrival at the branch, my leadership disposition was in an always on mode with few moments of downtime. Daily, there were personal disputes to settle which always involved one staff member calling out another. Without the time taken for daily reflection, making sense out of each team member’s needs was neglected in favor of considering the group’s dynamics.
Impact on Interactions
The team operated with primary leaders heavily weighted toward Feeling preference basing decisions and conclusions on personal and social values. This preference demonstrated a primary goal of understanding and harmony while maintaining a steadfast professional presence within the team (Drenth). These positive influences within the team provided a structural framework of positive-minded shared goals by team members. Emphasizing these as the overarching goal often served to rally the team beyond petty grievances.
Detrimental to the team was a misalignment of roles with Holly’s perceived ENFP type and leading a team driven by organization and detailed tasks. Holly struggled with factual data and making decisions on the logical pros and cons of outcomes (The ENFP – Psychology Junkie). As supervisor, having previously ignored deficits in Holly’s performance, I was required to address those deficits and assist her professional growth. By focusing on perceived deficits as an ENFP type, we were able to strengthen the leadership over the team with the most critical deliverables. Equally detrimental to the team was the impact of Lisa’s daily cycles of burnout and blame. Focusing on the fierce loyalty to the branch and the details of her role, I was able to reduce Lisa’s obsession on the mistakes of others.
Analysis Insights and Recommendations
Indicative of my preferences within the ISTJ type, I responded to the branch with a controlled and measured response. Other operational managers had been unable to succeed in uniting this team from the operational role. Considering the collective, perceived MBTI types of the team, leading with objective and fair responses while maintaining a sense of humor produced consistency and willingness for major members of the team to adjust their practice with more team-oriented goals in mind.
Prior to my arrival, the team had been heavily focused on management by group meeting. This style was not conducive to all preference types, particularly when considering the middle traits and SF leaders (Truskie, 2011, p. 4). Based on the middle traits, I identified and encouraged Brandon (SF) as the charismatic crusader favoring cooperation and Lisa (SF) as a work horse and quiet champion each to leverage positive overall change on the organization.
The most significant recommendation from this exercise calls for leaders new to an organization to utilize the MBTI and other personality inventories as a means to test the water of the teams before jumping into the hard work of organizational change and optimization. Reflection on this data and self-awareness of actions taken and the rationale for those actions remains a significant guide for future actions and decisions.
Drenth, A. J. (n.d.). Extraverted Feeling (Fe): A Closer Look.
Druckman, D. B. (1991). In the Mind’s Eye: Enhancing Human Performance.
National Academy Press.
Psychology Junkie. (n.d.). The ENFP – Psychology Junkie.
Psychology Junkie. (n.d.). The ESFP – Psychology Junkie.
Psychology Junkie. (n.d.). The ISFJ – Psychology Junkie.
Personality Page. (n.d.). ENFP Relationships.
Personality Page. (n.d.). ESFP Relationships.
Personality Page. (n.d.). ISFJ Relationships.
The Myers & Briggs Foundation. (n.d.). MBTI Basics.
Truskie, S. (2011). Coaching Transformational Leaders with the Myers-Briggs
Taking the first steps toward pursuing a doctoral degree are never easy. Combining starting a doctoral program, balancing a full-time career and juggling a family is enough to give anyone pause. Add in a pandemic and increasingly dire economic situation that creates a weekly shift in expectations, planning and level of certainty of the future creates a recipe for even calmest minds to question, “What am I doing?”
And yet, on the beautiful morning of May 16, 2020, logging on to the Zoom meeting for doctoral orientation at Virginia Commonwealth University is exactly where I found myself. The groundwork for success was laid by my wife who awoke all the children early and ushered them out to adventures unknown in order to create the calm and quiet that I would need to focus on the information and pertinent introductions being shared.
This orientation for my personal educational journey was quite unlike the previous three journeys that I have taken with VCU School of Education. In my undergrad program (BA ’02, BA ’02), my graduate teaching program (MT ’03) and my post-master’s program in Educational Leadership (’08), we always had significant face-to-face orientation experiences. And, yet, here I found myself 23 years after first stepping on the Monroe Park Campus logging in to a Zoom meeting to take the first steps on another (final?) journey with VCU SOE.
Our orientation proceeded as normal, or at least as normal as anything that was inherently meant for a personal presence adapted into a digital world can be. It was a pleasure to see and hear from all the guides who will shepherd me through the next three years.
For the final 45 minutes, we turned our work toward the teamwork scenario that had been shared with us a week prior. At that moment, the shift in our environment became clear. This orientation and the group work assigned was perfect for the day-long, face-to-face orientation. That day and for many days to come, however, we lived in a pandemic-affected world that would require us to constrain this activity in time as well as into a digital space. These dynamics shortened our conversation and significantly diminished the time we would have to offer solutions to the scenario.
The teamwork scenario process included pre-planned groups, divided by cohort and assigned specific moderators. Once transferred to our group through the magic of video conference technology, the moderator began by eliciting opinions and rankings of the items in the scenario outline. Participants shared, albeit reluctantly at first. The moderator used probing question and asked for specific opinions from those who did not initially volunteer. The moderator worked to guide the team to build consensus and then sought a team member who would present the consensus to the larger group.
In this scenario, there were few prescribed protocols. Whether to rank the two groupings of topics separately or together was not specified. No ground rules for the discussion were articulated. The group was given great autonomy with only mild guidance from the moderator.
Team members initially responded with open ideas from their current backgrounds keeping an eye toward what could be done in the short term to bring stability to the local schools and long term to create viability in the higher education programs that were outlined in the scenario. Of the four student group members, we represented diversity within educational settings: one from private K12 leadership, one from non-profit leadership, one from public higher education student success and myself from private higher education leadership. As opinions were expressed and outliers from the consensus emerged, the moderators worked to assess if the outliers would acquiesce to the consensus or obstinate and remain with their original ideas. In the end, all were able to express their ideas, the group was able to find consensus weighted toward the will of the group while inclusive of the opinions of the outliers.
The group, and the moderators, remained even and level-headed, avoiding confrontation. There was no dissent, although polite acceptance of the opinion of all was evident. The initial interactions conveyed a demeanor expected of a first-contact meeting of graduate students in the initial stages of the program.
The activity felt shortened due to pandemic scheduling to the point where time constraints allowed the group members little more than one opportunity to express opinions. What could have been a dynamic discussion was confined to an overview of opinions, moderation to seek consensus and quickly creating a summary of proceedings. The conversation lacked a structural framework like a cluster discussion. One technique could have been to have all use the available Zoom polling to rank items from the beginning, then after discussion, to have the group re-rank to see if opinions or consensus were impacted by the discussion.
The lack of time for the scenario activity due to the pandemic-adjusted style of teaching should serve as a stark reminder that styles of teaching and learning from pre-K to graduate education will have to adjust dramatically to maintain the level of engagement that schools of education have been striving for over the last 35 years. Adjustments might also have to be made daily, weekly or on-the-fly as new pandemic conditions emerge.
During this activity, I found myself concerned about the limited time for the activity due to pandemic changes of the format of the orientation. While being on camera, I felt more aware of my facial impressions and visual cues in order to make a strong first impression to my group members and moderators. Being at ease with the Zoom technology served as a strength during this exercise due to having over 5 years of experience participating, conducting and teaching in remote synchronous web conferences.
After the activity when returning to web conferenced meetings in my career, I became more aware of several lessons:
- major decision-making via web conference necessitates more structure than typical face-to-face meetings
- careful moderation is needed in web conference meetings to avoid consensus being built around the loudest voice in the “Zoom”
- decision-making in a remote setting requires careful planning for time, whether tackling a large project over a long meeting or breaking the project into sprints that can be completed in stages of shorter meetings
At the conclusion of this activity, I have been researching:
- What are the best practices for reaching consensus and how have they been adapted for remote digital environments?
- When developing frameworks for teamwork scenarios, does it remain relevant to develop frameworks based on modality (face-to-face, remote synchronous, remote asynchronous) or, in times of fluid modality, would modality-agnostic frameworks best serve educators and moderators?