Understanding Why Teams Don’t Work
By Paul Knudstrup
"I don’t understand Harry – he doesn’t seem to be a team player." "Sallie just tries to browbeat everyone over to her point of view; she never shuts up!" "Sam can’t take any criticism without getting really defensive.‖ "Jane can’t seem to make a decision without taking forever.‖
Sound familiar? Maybe you see yourself in one of these examples? Or do you spot a teammate who makes your life difficult?
Over the past twenty-five years, as we’ve used the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) while working with managers and teams, we’ve seen a strong linkage between MBTI type and behavior on teams. It’s no surprise. People consistently act in ways that are true to their personality preferences.
First, a quick detour to explain the basics of the MBTI:
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator describes eight personality preferences that all people use at different times. These eight preferences are organized into four dimensions. When a person completes the MBTI, the four preferences they identify as most like them are combined into what is called a "type." The MBTI describes preferences, not skills or abilities. All preferences are equally important; there are no "right" or "wrong" preferences or types.
The eight preferences used in the MBTI are grouped as follows: Extravert/Introvert — How a person interacts with others and is stimulated Sensing/iNtuition — How a person prefers to gather information Thinking/Feeling — How a person prefers to make decisions
Judgment/Perception — How a person prefers to orient their life *******
So how do these personality preferences affect people on teams? We’ve broken it down by each of the four dimensions.
Team Behaviors – Extraverts and Introverts
Where a person’s energy is focused (externally to themselves [E’s] or within themselves [I’s]) has a lot to do with how they behave in a team. Extraverts will usually be more vocal, will tend to more readily share their thoughts, ask questions, and state their point. Introverts will be less likely to do these things, unless the group is small and made up of people they know well. Strong Extraverts may try to dominate the meeting, while strong Introverts may have so little to say that other team members forget they are even there. Be aware of the tendency for people to behave in ways that are true to their Type. If you are a strong Extravert, avoid the natural tendency to interrupt others and to self-disclose so much. (Introverts often don’t care about how every point relates to you personally). Strong Extraverts can help the group by listening more and talking less. Strong Introverts can help the team by speaking up, sharing their thoughts and ideas more readily, asking questions, and using a slightly louder voice when making their point. In the United States, the population is about 50% E’s and 50% I’s. But the quiet, thoughtful Introverts are frequently dominated by the louder, more boisterous Extraverts. Team Behaviors – Sensors and iNtuitives
When a team is trying to problem-solve, brainstorm, and look at the "big picture," this next dimension frequently comes into play. Sensors tend to focus on practical, factoriented details, to get to the heart of the matter quickly, and to avoid theoretical discussions and explorations of all the alternatives. Intuitives tend to see relationships and patterns between discrete events or details that may be unclear to the Sensors. Intuitives may not pay much attention to the details, may be happy to skip over steps, may make errors of fact, and may be impatient with Sensors’ linear, detail-oriented approach. At the same time, the Intuitive frequently excels at the brainstorming and planning process, at dreaming up new projects or ideas, at being creative and future-oriented. The Sensor will typically be more present-oriented, more practical, and more focused on the details and facts associated with a...