If you’ve spent any time on the internet in the last few years, I’m guessing you’ve come across an online personality quiz or two. You know, the ones that ask you what kind of potato you’d be if the world was orange, how your IQ compares to Einstein’s, or which Disney princess you’re most like- or my new favorite; how you are as a person based on what pen you choose… all that fun jazz. They seem like a bit of harmless fun, but I never do them, because apart from being a waste of time, they can end up being just a way to collect your data and personal info!

But you’ll also find more “serious” personality tests that you can use strategically to get to know yourself better – and the results can be pretty useful when it comes to leading yourself, your team, and your business more effectively.

The DISC profile, Kolbe A, and the Myers-Briggs tests are some of the more popular ones you may have come across. Today I’ll talk about Myers-Briggs as an example, but if you feel like trying them out, do a little research and use whichever one you think will give you the most useful information. I like Myers-Briggs because it gives you a quick result that is easy to interpret, and you can find lots of great explanations of the results online that’ll give you a quick overview of what the various personality types are like.

How does the Myers-Briggs test work?

The Myers-Briggs test has a series of questions for you to answer. There are no right and wrong answers here. The more honest you are in the answers, the more the test will tell you about how you work. 

Completing the test gives you a four-letter code that tells you where you naturally sit in relation to four different axes:

Extroverted vs Introverted
Feeling vs. Thinking
Sensing vs. Intuitive

Judging v.s Perceiving

When you look at your results, remember that these axes are only indicators and that you’ll never be only one end of the scale, there will always be elements of the other side of the spectrum in you as well.

Knowing the 16 different  Myers-Briggs personality types can be so useful for your business, as well as everyday life.

For example, let’s say you’ve got a client that asks you for a checklist of things they need to do before working with you. Then you’ll know that they ask because they find comfort in checking things off on a list (The Judging indicator at play here).

If you’re on a Zoom call (or in real-life conversation, but I’m writing this in Covid times, and most exchanges are digital these days) and someone is talking endlessly,going back and forth between two opposite opinions, that’s a strong ‘Extrovert’ indicator. So you can smile to yourself, and think, “okay, this is one of those people that need to say their thoughts out loud to help them process them.” 

I don’t see Myers-Briggs as the complete truth, more as a tool that helps me understand myself and those I work with a little bit better. It’s also a reminder that the people around me are not deliberately trying to annoy me, their view of the world is just different to mine. 

What does the results of personality tests have to do with leadership?

When it comes to self-leadership, your Myers-Briggs type can help you gain an insight into how you might work differently from others. For example, if you prefer the pressure of a tight deadline and do your best work at the last minute (Perceiving indicator), then you can set up your work schedule to make that happen. If you’re very process-oriented, but the task itself is not as important (Feeling indicator), you can focus on work that’s all about systems, efficiency, and the “how” of things.

It’s definitely worth both you and your team members taking the Myers-Briggs (or a similar) test. The results can help you figure out the best way to speak to each of your team members, as well as being a good indicator of how to clearly communicate what you want for your business – because that may not be the same as what’s natural for your team members to give you!

Let’s take me as an example. I’m the type of person who will leave dishes in the sink if something else needs to get done that I think is more important. (Hello Intuition indicator.) That “something” could be playing games with the kids, fixing something in another room, whatever… I’m also the type of person that will then completely forget about the mess I left in the kitchen. 

That’s not a problem in our house because my husband knows that about me. So he will just leave everything where it is, and I will get back to it eventually. But you can see how if you’re in a situation with people who don’t know you that well, it could really annoy them. If they’re the type of person that can’t leave the kitchen until it’s spotless (often a Sensing, Judging, Indicator combo), it could quickly turn into a conflict. They may feel like they’re spending their entire day cleaning up after me, while I don’t even take the time to recognise what they’re doing.

But if we both know how the other feels about cleaning up, there’s no problem. They can say, “Hey, I cleaned up the kitchen after you,” and I’ll thank them for their hard work and apologise for not getting back to it. (Or they’ll just remind me to get back in there and clean up my mess! 🙂 ) Either way, we both know where we stand. 

It works the same way in your business. Say that the test shows you absorb and process information best when you hear it, rather than reading it. Then you might ask your team members to communicate with you through voice notes rather than writing you long emails or text messages if they’ve got something to share with you. 

Don’t forget to consider your team members’ personality types too. If they fall on the Introvert and Thinking ends of the scale, it could take them an hour to record a five-minute voice note for you that sounds “right”, so in that case, it might be better for them to just go with the email.

Turning awareness into actionable insights

Myers-Briggs will not give you the absolute answer on what the best process and approach for your business is. But it can give you some valuable information on how people work inside your team and how you can best work with them. This awareness will help you minimise the little things that might be an annoyance if you don’t realise that you are just wired in different ways.

Try it out for yourself and see what you discover. I’m willing to bet that doing the test and getting to know yourself a little better could uncover some surprises and “ah-ha” moments that’ll make your life and business so much easier.