The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a self-assessment based on the Theory of Psychological Types, which was put forth by Swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung (1875-1961).

Jung suspected that the seemingly random behaviors of people could be anticipated and detected through patterns of measurable preferences in how they used their mental capacities. He observed that there were two basic mental functions:

  • Perceiving (taking in information)
  • Judging (making decisions)

Jung also recognized that those same people seemed to be energized in two different ways:

  • Extraversion (drawing energy from the external world)
  • Introversion (drawing energy from their own internal world)

During World War II, Isabel Briggs Myers (1897-1980) and her mother, Katherine Cook Briggs (1875-1968), waded into Jung’s academic theory with a goal to make it more practical for the common person. After reading Jung’s work, the mother-daughter team knew they could use it to help people make better life choices and learn to use the theory for themselves in constructive ways.

Adding to Jung’s original theory, Myers and Briggs recognized that people take in information in two ways:

  • Sensing (preferring to focus on the basic information taken in)
  • Intuition (interpreting and adding meaning to the information)

They also identified two different approaches to decision-making:

  • Thinking (making decisions primarily based on logic and consistency)
  • Feeling (making decisions based primarily on the people and special circumstances at play)

Because the Myers-Briggs personalities are so familiar, misunderstandings, over-simplifications, or other errors commonly cause professionals to overlook some very practical information that is right at their fingertips.

To demonstrate the practical insight of this personality model, the 4 broad temperament groups first identified by David Keirsey have been identified below by their strongest talent:

  • Stabilizing (Sensing + Judging)
  • Troubleshooting (Sensing + Perceiving)
  • Inspiring (Intuitive + Feeling)
  • Conceptualizing (Intuitive + Thinking)

Within each group, the 4 related personality types are described by the way they interact as they play their most natural roles on a team. With this information, you can easily see the benefits of aligning candidate or employee preference styles to key demands of job roles within your organization.

Stabilizing

The four personality types in this group share two characteristics, Sensing and Judging, that drive their desire to create stability in their lives, on their teams, and for the world around them.

Sensors trust facts, data, previous experiences, and the information they take in through their five senses. Judgers prefer structure and order by coming to decisions fairly quickly.

This group typically makes up 46% of the American population and is called by different names depending on who you talk to: Traditionalists, Stabilizing Organizers, or Guardians. Half of this group draws on the Thinking function for decision-making, while the other half uses the Feeling function.

Because the entire group prefers communication via concrete language and focuses on doing what is right, you'll want to place them in occupations and roles that function on clear-cut structure, instruction, and expectations. Feelers will naturally work in such a way that creates and maintains harmonious relationships with others as they fulfill their roles.

Strengths

Careful to pay attention to regulations and policies, obey the rules and laws, follow procedures and contracts, respect the rights of others and keep timelines, the SJs are great at keeping an eye on their responsibilities. They get the job done as efficiently as possible with the resources available to them. These team members are often respected because they are trustworthy and dependable.

Weaknesses

This particular group will bring stability rather than innovation to their teams. Because they naturally focus on the present circumstances and observable realities, Sensing-Judgers are not likely to show interest in abstract, theoretical concepts or future possibilities.

Long-range planning can be a struggle for Stabilizers. Their tendency to see things in a very black-and-white manner can result in overly quick decision-making or problems adapting to new methods or initiatives—causing these team members to seem inflexible and uncreative.

Pairing

When paired with the other letters in the code, the drive for stability takes on a more specialized focus:

  • ESTJ: Focused on results, the ESTJ combines a driving energy with an intention to lead the group to the goal. Depending on their ability to segment and organize, they drive to implement structure, take decisive action, and accomplish goals through other people. In short, they most naturally create stability by taking charge to get achievable results.

  • ISTJ: With a deep desire to know what to do, the ISTJ prefers to enter a situation with the understanding of what is expected. Depending on their ability to review similar past experiences, they drive to identify processes that allow them to enforce order as they move toward the expressed goal by clarifying information and measuring team outcomes by established standards. In short, they most naturally maintain stability using plans to get the results they desire.

  • ESFJ: An expressive, upbeat, enthusiastic style helps the ESFJ inspire others to move to action. Depending on their ability to connect with others, they drive to create a harmonious environment of caring and support by engaging others, making preparations, and encouraging participation with a contagious excitement that gets people moving along. In short, they most naturally create stability by using persuasion to facilitate an embraced result.

  • ISFJ: Working the process behind the scenes to create a positive outcome, the ISFJ approaches others with a quiet calm patience that often masks their strong convictions. Depending on their ability to review similar past experiences, they attend to the needs of people around them, follow established procedures, harmonize different viewpoints, gain consensus, and refine the results. In short, they most naturally maintain stability using understanding to get the best, integrated results possible.

Troubleshooting

The four personality types in this group share two characteristics, Sensing and Perceiving, that drive their desire to respond in the moment—or troubleshoot—in their lives, on their teams, and for the world around them.

Sensors trust facts, data, previous experiences, and the information they take in through their five senses. Perceivers prefer flexibility and staying open to possibilities through slower decision-making. This group typically makes up 27% of the American population and is called by different names depending on who you talk to--Experiencers, Troubleshooting Operators, or Artisans.

Like the SJs, half of this group draws on the Thinking function for decision-making, while the other half uses the Feeling function. Because the entire group prefers communication via concrete language and focuses on doing what works in the moment, they are most comfortable in occupations and roles that are free from too many rules, planning, or structure. They will naturally work in such a way that allows them to respond to the needs of others as they fulfill their roles.

Strengths

Skilled at recognizing the practical needs or problems being created in the moment, SPs are great at seizing opportunities. They approach situations with flexibility and resourcefulness, taking risks and improvising as needed. They enjoy the challenge of navigating the unexpected with courage and/or charm. These team members are often valued because they can be resourceful and upbeat.

Weaknesses

Because they are so naturally focused on present circumstances and observable realities, Sensing-Perceivers are not likely to be interested in abstract, theoretical concepts or future possibilities. This is why this particular group is best in the troubleshooting role.

Often unpredictable to other team members, SPs can be too quick to take action without first thinking things through. This often makes long-range planning a struggle, even stressful. Their tendency to miss important connections or patterns linking events can cause them to go around established rules, policies, or procedures. Therefore, these team members may seem impulsive and unreliable.

Pairing

When paired with the other letters in the code, the drive for troubleshooting takes on a more specialized focus:

  • ESTP: Focused on results and often taking action quickly, the ESTP combines a driving energy with an intention to lead a group to a goal. Depending on their ability to enthusiastically experience opportunities for action, they drive to identify resources that help them troubleshoot and accomplish goals through other people by moving dynamically through problems to find practical solutions. In short, they most naturally seize opportunities by taking charge to get achievable results.

  • ISTP: With a deep desire to know what to do, the ISTP prefers to enter a situation with an understanding of where the boundaries are. Depending on their ability to analyze the immediate situation, they quickly identify a process that allows them to troubleshoot and move things along toward the expressed goal through an innate understanding of mechanics and practical, task-orientation. In short, they most naturally seize opportunities using plans to get the results they desire.

  • ESFP: An expressive, upbeat, enthusiastic style allows the ESFP to focus on getting things going by inspiring others to action. Depending on their ability to experience and troubleshoot, they drive to charm and engage team members in a fun-loving manner that persuades them to get involved, explore options and possibilities, and discover new ideas. In short, they most naturally seize opportunities using persuasion to facilitate an embraced result.

  • ISFP: Working the process behind the scenes for a positive outcome, the ISFP approaches others with a quiet calm that often masks their strong convictions. Depending on their ability to determine values or priorities, they contribute in an immediate, practical way—interacting with a cheerful, low-key enthusiasm as they try to accommodate different points of view. In short, they most naturally troubleshoot using understanding to get the best, integrated results possible.

Inspiring

These personality types share Intuitive-Feeling characteristics that drive their desire to create inspiration in their lives, on their teams, and for the world around them. Intuitors are most interested in the meanings, relationships, and possibilities of information. Feelers make decisions based on their personal values, including the likely impact of their decision on the people involved.

This group typically makes up 16% of the American population. Its members are called by different names depending on who you talk to—Idealists or Inspirational Catalysts. Because the entire group prefers communication via conceptual language and focuses on doing what is right, they are most comfortable in occupations and roles that focus on human potential for positive change. They enjoy helping others grow, develop, or communicate.

The Perceiving half will naturally work in such a way that makes room for flexibility and staying open to possibilities through slower decision-making as they fulfill their roles, while the Judging half will add structure, order, and quick decision-making as they fulfill theirs.

Strengths

Knowing how to motivate others, find creative solutions, resolve or mediate conflicts, and communicate so that their teams work together effectively, NFs are great at inspiring others to do their best work. These team members are often respected because they are both charismatic and accepting.

Weaknesses

Because they are so naturally focused on abstract, theoretical concepts or future possibilities for people, Intuitive-Feelers are not likely to be content with only present circumstances and observable realities. This is why this particular group will bring inspiration and innovation to their teams rather than stability or patient troubleshooting.

For this group, long-range planning is often enjoyable, but their tendency to over-personalize and make decisions based on their own preferences can cause them to struggle to maintain practical expectations and healthy boundaries. They also may find it difficult to discipline or criticize others when it’s appropriate, and they may prioritize peace and harmony rather than voice valid dissenting opinions. These characteristics can cause these team members to seem unpredictable and overemotional.

Pairing

When paired with the other letters in the code, the drive for inspiration takes on a more specialized focus:

  • ENFJ: Focused on results and often taking action quickly, the ENFJ combines a driving energy with an intention to lead a group to a goal. Depending on their ability to connect with others, they drive to collaborate with and inspire others in order to accomplish goals that they believe are best for those involved. In short, they most naturally inspire personal progress by taking charge to get achievable results.

  • INFJ: With a deep desire to know what to do, the INFJ prefers to enter a situation with the understanding of what is expected. Depending on their ability to foresee possible challenges ahead, they drive to identify a process that allows them to inspire positive change as they move toward the expressed goal by identifying creative solutions and offering innovative ideas. In short, they most naturally inspire personal progress using plans to get the results they desire.

  • ENFP: An expressive, upbeat, enthusiastic style allows the ENFP to focus on inspiring others to move to action. Depending on their ability to interpret relationships, they explore the possibilities for new ideas, people, and activities by engaging and involving others, making preparations, encouraging participation in decisions, and sharing insights with a contagious excitement. In short, they most naturally inspire personal progress through persuasion to get an embraced result.

  • INFP: Working the process behind the scenes to create a positive outcome, the INFP approaches others with a quiet calm that often masks their strong convictions. Depending on their ability to determine values or priorities, they work to understand the ideals of others, guide by their own core values, and bring unity to the group’s mission by gaining consensus and refining the results. In short, they most naturally inspire personal progress using understanding to get the best, most integrated results possible.

Conceptualizing

The personality types in this group share two characteristics, Intuition and Thinking, that drive their desire to create vision in their lives, on their teams, and for the world around them.

Intuitors are most interested in the meanings, relationships, and possibilities of information. Thinkers make decisions based on their logic, including the data at play in the circumstances.

This group typically makes up 10% of the American population and is called by different names depending on who you talk to—Conceptualizers, Visionary Strategists or Rationals. Because the entire group prefers communication via conceptual language and focuses on doing what works, members of this group are most comfortable in occupations and roles that focus on designing change—seeing possibilities, examining multiple sides of the issue, understanding complicated intricacies, analyzing through logic, and outlining solutions.

The Perceiving half will naturally work in such a way that makes room for flexibility and staying open to possibilities through slower decision-making as they fulfill their roles, while the Judging half will add structure, order, and make quick decisions as they fulfill theirs.

Strengths

Able to see big-picture possibilities, understand complex concepts, recognize principles and trends, interpret and apply data, and envision and develop strategies, NTs are excellent at building systems for improvement. They enjoy the challenge, demand a lot of themselves and others, and are open to constructive criticism that is delivered respectfully. These team members are often respected because they are confident and inventive.

Weaknesses

Because they are so naturally focused on abstract, theoretical concepts and future possibilities, Intuitive-Thinkers are not likely to be overly concerned with present circumstances and observable realities. This is why this particular group will bring innovation rather than stability to their teams.

While they view long-range planning as practically playtime, NTs can be too complex for others to understand, may overlook necessary details, and be overly competitive or skeptical. They may challenge policies, assumptions, or even authority, and fail to see how their behavior impacts others. These team members can therefore appear arrogant and aloof.

Pairing

When paired with the other letters in the code, the drive for vision takes on a more specialized focus:

  • ENTJ: Focused on results and often taking action quickly, the ENTJ combines a driving energy with an intention to lead a group to a goal. Depending on their ability to segment and organize, they drive to organize change as they accomplish organizational goals through other people by commanding, strategizing, and motivating the team. In short, they most naturally create improvement in systems by taking charge to get achievable results.

  • INTJ: With a deep desire to know what to do, the INTJ prefers to enter a situation with the understanding of what is expected. Depending on their ability to foresee possible challenges ahead, they drive to identify a process that allows them to innovate and improve as they move toward the expressed goal by analyzing, problem-solving, and focusing on strategy. In short, they most naturally create systems for improvement using plans to get the results they desire.

  • ENTP: An expressive, upbeat, enthusiastic style allows the ENTP to focus on inspiring others to action. Depending on their ability to interpret situations, they drive to find new solutions to intellectually challenging problems by engaging and involving others, making preparations, encouraging participation, and sharing insights with a contagious excitement. In short, they most naturally create vision through persuasion to embrace desired results.

  • INTP: Working the process behind the scenes to create a positive outcome, the INTP approaches others with a quiet calm that often masks their strong convictions. Depending on their ability to analyze, they work to understand deeply complex problems and bring unity to the group’s mission by consulting and harmonizing different points of view, gaining consensus, and refining the results. In short, they most naturally improve systems using understanding to get the best, most integrated results possible.

Clearly, the differences in the way people prefer to take in information, make decisions, and direct their energy will naturally impact their behavior, strengths, and weaknesses. And while the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator should never be the sole method for determining hiring decisions, it can provide very practical insights that will assist you in helping employees find their best fit.

What questions do you have about using Myers-Briggs in the workplace? Ask us in the comments section.