Odyssey of a Leader

An e-Portfolio by Kirstin Pantazis

Blog Post #3 – The MBTI

Introduction

The MBTI form M is a personality inventory that helps people to see their individual preferences in how they make decisions.  It can be used as a basis for determining leadership strengths and weaknesses and for understanding how to build a well-balanced team (Truskie, 2011).  By evaluating our own preferences and those of our teammates, we get a better understanding of why we function the way we do and how we can increase team cohesion.

Team Analysis

A seven-person team of managers of a production was described in blog post 2.  Their interactions could be understood through the lens of the MBTI. Because each member of this team did not complete the inventory, the classifications presented here were constructed using the author’s analysis of the member’s behaviors.  Even an estimation of the MBTI classifications of a team member is useful for understanding the team dynamic (Vedantam, 2019).  Estimated results for each team member were:

Costume Director (CD):  The CD recently took the MBTI and was an INTJ (Meyers & Meyers, 2015) – a strategic leader with a focus on the big picture or long term but struggles with communicating vision and with keeping morale high since they are not great with people.

Production Director (PD) – The PD’s estimated preferences are ISTJ – a detail-oriented leader with the ability to weigh all pros and cons, making well-reasoned decisions, but struggles with the emotional needs of the team (Storm, 2017).

Assistant Production Director (APD) and Townsfolk Director (TD) – The APD and TD were estimated to be ESFP.  They are charismatic leaders who are excellent at spur of the moment problem solving but find it hard to focus on the future (Storm, 2017).

Fight Director (FD) and Noble Director (ND) – The FD and ND were estimated to be ISFJ.  They are thoughtful leaders who struggle with big picture and avoid confrontation (Storm, 2017).

Military Director (MD):  The MD was estimated to be an INFP, a sincere leader who struggles with conflict and confrontation because they take it personally (Storm, 2017).

Team Patterns

This group of managers who has worked together for many years share a few common attributes.  The most common middle pairs of MBTI attributes are S and F; the team is highly sensing and feeling.  Many people who focus on sensing and feeling favor the cooperation model of teamwork (Truskie, 2011).  The team is led by an ST, sensing and thinking, who often prefers to establish and follow rules to produce reliable results indicating a consistent cultural pattern (Truskie, 2011).  The L4 model presented by Truskie (2011) bases its four cultural patterns on only the middle dichotomies.  Inspiration and achievement are each respectively represented by a single team member.  Based on the above estimations, the team is mostly comprised of introverts.  This means they take additional time to reflect on their own experiences before deciding.  This is contrasted to extroverts who are usually ready to discuss immediately (A. Miller, personal communication, June 20, 2020).  With a primarily introverted team who favor the cooperation model of planning functioning under a leader who prefers consistency, there is ample opportunity for conflict.

Team Interaction

When the tree fell on the tent, as described in blog post #2 – part 2, we can see how the TD’s actions might reflect their preference for charismatic leadership.  They jumped into immediate action without reflecting on how that action would impact the larger team goals of preparing the cast for an event opening.  The PD then relied on their ISTJ – detail-oriented leadership style to make decisions without consideration of how those decisions would affect the morale of the rest of the team.  The preference for introversion and cooperation by most of the remainder of the team is evident in their unwillingness to immediately express their frustration with either the TD or the PD and in their unwillingness to hold their colleagues accountable for their decisions (Truskie, 2011).

Improving the Team

The team needs to recognize its preferences and then actively look to engage those members with different preferences so that the overall approach is balanced.  When each team member understands their personal styles and tries to understand their colleagues’ personal styles, they will increase communication and thus team cohesion (Lencioni, 2002).  Each member needs to understand the value in different ways of thinking (A. Miller, personal communication, June 20, 2020).  With many introverts, the group may need to hold pre-meetings or give breaks before discussion.  Another strategy may be to send out notes or an agenda ahead of time so that everyone can process their thoughts and be ready to discuss.  With a majority of cooperative leaders, the team needs to acknowledge the importance of productively arguing their viewpoints.  The team leader, who was estimated to be a consistent leader, should be aware that their team values cooperation but that they also need firm guidance and reminders of the importance of producing results.  As a member of the team with new, specialized knowledge regarding the usefulness of personality inventories and leadership styles, I could share this knowledge with the rest of the team and provide specific recommendations to improve team function.  The PD, as a consistent leader, is likely to embrace an agenda before each meeting and scheduled breaks, as well as being the one to hold the team accountable.  The majority of the team, as feeling individuals, will likely grasp the importance of pre-production meetings to strengthen the team and improve communication.  Through implementing these simple steps based on the MBTI lens, the team will become more efficient and productive.

References

Lencioni, P. (2002).  The five dysfunctions of a team.  Jossey-Bass.  San Francisco, CA.

Storm, S. (2017, June 28). The leadership styles of every Myers-Briggs® personality type. Psychology Junkie. https://www.psychologyjunkie.com/2017/06/28/leadership-skills-every-myers-briggs-personality-type/

Truskie, S. (2011). Coaching transformational leaders with the Myers-Briggs assessment: for a high-performance organizational culture [White paper]. CPP.

Vedantam, S. (Host). (2019, April 15). What can a personality test tell us about who we are? [Audio podcast episode]. In Hidden Brain. NPR. https://www.npr.org/transcripts/712876949

Blog Post #2 – Part 2 The Importance of Building Trust

Team Dysfunction

While the production team was able to successfully prepare the cast and site to open the 2019 festival, they suffered due to an absence of trust, the base of Lencioni’s five dysfunctions of a team.  All members of the production team have been with the festival for long enough to be able to rely on likely behaviors of the other team members, what Lencioni (2002) terms predictive trust.  However, they did not always exhibit behavior associated with the far more important vulnerability-based trust.

When the TD had a tree fall on a tent in their area, they handled the problem without asking for suggestions or help from the rest of the production team.  Over the course of a full day of rehearsals, rather than rehearsing, the TD and their cast members removed the tree and restored the tent.  Afterward when the other team members heard about what had happened, they all expressed frustration at not being told of the situation.  While the production team acknowledged that the TD was fully capable of solving problems on their own, a display of invulnerability, the team suffered when a member was not open to trusting the team enough to ask for help.  This situation is reminiscent of the Lencioni (2002, p.151-152) incident where Mikey brings a finished brochure to the table during a group meeting without having received input from any of the other team members.

The tree that fell was a base for one of the planned fight shows and once fallen would have made a wonderful base for a future bench needed to spruce up a different area on the site.  Not completing what had been scheduled for the Town area during that day of rehearsals meant that the next day’s full cast events had to be rearranged.  Due to the last-minute nature of the rearranging the PD played a more dictatorial role in creating that schedule leaving the other team members frustrated at not having autonomy in their respective areas.  Had the TD told the rest of the team what happened and asked for help many other production issues could have been dealt with immediately rather than solving one person’s problem and creating future work for other team members.  The team was still able to meet its goals but they had lost some of their ability to trust in the team because one member had acted on ego.  The also displayed an absence of trust in their inability to call the TD on their actions within the group – they all knew that there was a problem but they were not vulnerable enough with the team to talk about their frustrations without fear of future reprisals.

Team Recommendations

The team should take more time in pre-meetings and throughout the rehearsal process to become familiar with each other and their personal strengths and weaknesses.  Raising the individual and team awareness of their strengths and weaknesses can start with a low risk round-table exercise as demonstrated by Kathryn in her first off-site meeting (Lencioni, 2002, p. 63-67).  To ensure that this endeavor is successful the PD, as head of the team, will likely need to lead the team by demonstrating their willingness to be vulnerable by acknowledging their weaknesses.  As a team member I, as CD, will need to be ready to openly share my own weaknesses and to call out other team members if they give shallow or unrelated answers.

Lencioni (2002) describes a ‘Team Effectiveness Exercise’ (p. 197) that asks the team to work collectively to name the pivotal contribution of each team member as well as the most dangerous attribute.  If the production team of the festival were to engage in this activity before the start of the season, in the first in-person meeting, it would remind the team of how to be vulnerable with each other and also get the team to recognize the strengths of each of the members.  As the team works together yearly but with large breaks in between, it will be important for the team to regularly spend time reconnecting and reevaluating the members’ unique abilities.  It may also be beneficial for the team to meet during the months long break between their yearly festival so that they stay connected and do not have to start at the beginning of the trust building process each year.

References

Lencioni, P. (2002).  The five dysfunctions of a team.  Jossey-Bass.  San Francisco, CA.

Blog Post #2 – Part 1 Description of a Team

Team Scenario

The production team of a local festival is a 7-member volunteer team that was tasked with preparing the cast and site to open the 2019 festival.  The team must train the 80-person, all volunteer, cast to provide multiple instances of interactive, educational entertainment while wearing historically accurate costumes.  The team was also tasked with ensuring that the physical site, 3 stages, 2 cast areas, and the grounds, was ready to welcome thousands of visitors each weekend.  There were five rehearsal weekends before the festival opened to prepare.

Each member of the team has been with the organization for more than 5 years and each has been a part of similar festivals for at least a few additional years.  The production team had one in person meeting before the 5 rehearsal weekends and additional meetings throughout the rehearsal process.  This included in-person morning meetings at the start of each rehearsal day and wrap-up emails after each rehearsal weekend.  Additionally, the production team had an in-person meeting after the festival closed to discuss the event and to plan for future events.

Meet the Team

Production Director (PD):

PD is the team leader.  They report to the executive producer of the Festival and to the Board of Directors.  They are ultimately in charge of spending and accounting for the production budget and ensuring a quality show that leaves guests eager to return.  PD has been with the organization for more than two decades and has been the PD for more than 10 years.  They are younger than some of the rest of the team but have more experience in this organization and with this type of organization than any of the other team members.

Costume Director (CD):

I am the CD and am tasked with ensuring that the cast of the festival is costumed in historically representative clothing that evokes the feel of the time period while ensuring the safety of the cast and guests.  The CD is also in charge of creating and caring for all fabric decorations on the site of the festival.  I have been in this position for more than 10 years and have been with the organization since it began.

Assistant Production Director (APD):

The APD is tasked with being the right hand of the production director.  They are there to step in if anything happens to the PD and to assist in any way needed to ensure the preparedness of the cast and site for the festival opening.  The APD has been with the organization for almost two decades and has been in this position for almost a decade.  The APD is older than the PD but not more experienced.

Fight Director (FD):

The FD is tasked with creating multiple small fight shows and training interested cast members to safely perform them throughout the festival.  They are also in charge of ensuring that any weapon carried by a cast member is properly restricted so as not to be a danger to any festival guest.  When not training fight cast the FD takes a large role in preparing the physical site.

Area Directors: Noble Director (ND), Military Director (MD), and Town Director (TD):

The 80-person cast of the festival is split into three areas who are each headed by an area director.  The responsibility of each area director is the same.  They provide area specific training to the cast to ensure that different aspects of life are shown to the festival guests.  Each area director must provide at least 3 area specific shows that involve at least half of their area cast members in each show.  Area directors are also asked to provide plans for historical looking areas and the manpower to ensure that their area is ready to welcome festival guests at opening.

Blog 1 – Online Orientation for EdD in Leadership

Reading through the prompt for this blog post makes me wonder what experiences we missed out on by switching to a Zoom format for the orientation to VCU’s doctoral program in leadership in higher education.  Has we not been struck with a global pandemic; we would have engaged in a full day’s worth of team building activities during our orientation.  Due to a compressed schedule and online format we engaged in only one team activity – prioritizing three projects for a K-12 school system and university.  The teams were faculty generated, had members of all different leadership cohorts represented, were each led by at least one faculty member, and were given approximately 40 minutes to complete their recommendations.  Reflecting on the activity has shown me the gaps in my knowledge of team building and the importance of a leader understanding not just themselves but the dynamics of how they work with their team.

Impact of the De Facto Leader

My group was led by our faculty member.  They began introductions as soon as they joined the room and set the standard for what should be included in the introductions.  The faculty member then began calling on each of the remaining team members in an order they designated.  Introductions of the team took a full 20 minutes of our allotted time leaving little time left for robust discussion or challenging of opinions.  The team very much ended up running as a traditional classroom with a teacher who would call on each student and then respond to each student rather than as a roundtable discussion among equals.

Reflection on My Role

Thinking back, I wish that I had had the comfort level or the strength to step in so that we could have had more robust discussion.  When confronted with an individual who was clearly acting as the de facto leader and was my senior in this academic institution it was easy for me to slip into the traditional role of student – but it chafed.  Everyone did get a chance to express their initial ideas, but it was done in a way that left me feeling unsure of the teams’ final decision.  If I were asked how my teammates felt on the issue or on our decision, I am not confident that I could answer accurately; I did not learn enough about their opinions or views in this activity.  I felt that we had not expressed all our objections or questions.  We ran out of time and a decision was made rather than a decision being made in the given amount of time.  Our team leader, our faculty member, clearly had getting to know us as a top goal rather than having a robust discussion about prioritizing projects.  Leaders and what they are focused on can drive a team even when there are clearly written or stated goals in another direction.

Conclusions on Teamwork

Previously I have often thought that a team must know each other in order to work well together.  I still believe that teams work best when the members understand each other’s positions and dispositions, but I have revised my view to include a more detailed description of what knowing each other means.  My team spent half of our time talking about ourselves in introductions, but it did not go deep enough to allow us to work well together.  Listening to the level of detail that other teams reported back makes me wonder if dedication to a clearly defined goal, and a leader who always keeps the team on track, is more important than knowing your team members.

Questions for Future Learning

I also question how to call out a leader who is not encouraging healthy teamwork.  We know from Leadership on the Line (Heifetz & Linsky, 2017) that leading is a risky business, but it seems just as risky to be a member of a team with a dysfunctional leader.  I hope to learn not only how to be a better leader but how to be a better team member as well.  How can a member of the team, who sees that the team might not be functioning well, lead from inside the team?  Can one member of the team make a difference when the other members of the team are content to continue in the team’s present style?  I have been on teams where there is more than one person who acts as the leader and when they do not agree it can spell disaster for the team with the team working against itself rather than together toward a common goal.  How do you avoid this issue if you are a member of a team with an ineffective leader?

References

Heifetz, R. A., & Linsky, M. (2017). Leadership on the line: staying alive through the dangers of change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

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