Tag Archives: Myers Briggs Type Indicator

Difficult people are not necessarily being difficult!


By Elisabeth Goodman, 31st March, 2015

How to work with difficult people is a subject that many managers struggle with

How to work with “difficult” people is one of the topics Janet Burton and I explore in RiverRhee Consulting’s 3-day Introduction to Management course , and in our tailored in-house supervisor and line manager courses. I also previously referred to this subject in one of our newsletters on the subject of creating exceptional managers.

Elisabeth Goodman presenting the Introduction to Management course

How to work with “difficult” people is one of the most popular aspects of our courses, being one that many new and even more established managers can find quite challenging. I wonder whether it’s because the whole area of managing interpersonal relationships, dealing with conflict, emotional awareness and intelligence is something that is largely neglected in our educational system. We are so focused on academic achievement, that this essential aspect of work and indeed home life can be under-developed, unless other people in our lives have helped us to learn about it, or we have taken the initiative to explore it ourselves.

Difficult people may just be being different – we should take time to understand them

As I wrote in the newsletter, difficult people are not necessarily being difficult, but just different! Our different personalities, perspectives on, and beliefs in life will lead us to approach our work differently, communicate differently and generally act differently. At any moment in time, there will also be other circumstances happening in our lives that might be influencing how we think, feel and behave.

When faced with what seems to be a difficult situation or person, we would do well to step back and reflect on why they seem to be difficult, and to also step forward into the other person’s shoes. It may indeed be some aspect of our own behaviour that is creating or at least contributing to the situation.

We all make assumptions and try to mind read. One of the most obvious solutions, but also the one a lot of people will avoid, is to actually have an open conversation with the person concerned, to understand their perspective as well as communicate our own. Several of the managers we’ve worked with have dared to have those conversations as a result of what they’ve learnt on our courses and have been greatly relieved by the outcome.

Other strategies and tools to help us understand “difficult” people

There are various other strategies at our disposal, such as active listening, coaching and assertiveness that can help us to better understand what is leading to people being “difficult” as well as helping us to influence any associated behaviours and situations in a positive and constructive way.

We use various psychometric tools in our training ranging from Honey and Mumford’s Learning Styles, to NLP representational (or communication) styles, Belbin’s Team Roles and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator). These can be very illuminating in terms of understanding our different perspectives and approaches to life and work.

I’m in the process of reading “Working Together”[1], a book about transactional analysis (TA) in the workplace. TA, and the “OK corral”[2] originated with Eric Berne in the 1970s. It’s about understanding our beliefs about ourselves and how we believe others view us – often something we have inherited from childhood – and how that influences our behaviour and interaction with others. It can lead to individuals being generally passive or aggressive rather than assertive in their behaviour, or to responding passively or aggressively in certain situations.

The OK Corral - based on the work of Eric Berne

The OK Corral – based on the work of Eric Berne

In an organisational setting, the nature of the “OK” dynamic between individuals can influence the dynamics within teams and make a difference between a dysfunctional team and one that thrives on open discussion and attains high performance. The open and positive behaviour of senior and middle managers can make a difference between engaged and ‘empowered’ individuals in what Wickens (1995)[3] calls an “ascendant” organisation, and one where people are alienated, acting in an anarchic way, or where there is total apathy.

In conclusion – it’s worth spending the time to understand people, to create a more positive working relationship

As one of my own exceptional managers once told me, the work of a manager can be as much as 80% about people, and only 20% about tasks. If people are being “difficult” we should take the time to understand why they appear to be so. The root cause may be something that we can do something about or otherwise influence.

As Mountain and Davidson point out: people working together don’t have to like each other to still be able to work effectively together. In my own experience, better understanding can lead to something that is more akin to liking (if that was not there already), and certainly to a more positive working relationship.

[1] Mountain, A. and Davidson, C. (2015) Working Together. Organizational Transactional Analysis and Business Performance. Farnham, England, Gower

[2] Eric Berne’s 4-box matrix matches the various combinations of “I am OK”, “I am not OK” and “You are OK”, “You are not OK”. The “healthy position” being “I am OK, You are OK”.

[3] Wickens, P. (1995). The Ascendant Organization. Basingstoke, England, MacMillan Business

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Capabilities & Methods pillar for the Enabling Change SIG.

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The mindset for Open Innovation – at “Open Innovation in Action” SBC OI summit


By Elisabeth Goodman and Lucy Loh

We had the opportunity to lead a break-out session at the recent Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst (SBC) Open Innovation summit.  It was a day filled with interesting presentations, panel discussions, networking and break-out sessions.

Open Innovation is all about people

Our session was one of the last in the day, so that delegates had had several opportunities to hear and reflect about the question of mindsets and the importance of soft people skills by the time they came to our break-out.

Stefan Lindegaard (@lindegaard) drew our attention to this in a big way in his presentation, when he stressed some of the key characteristics for success as being a networker, communicator, intrapreneur, and an influencer.  Also on his list was the ability to adapt, to tolerate uncertainty and to be an optimist.

The intrapreneur was particularly important in making things happen within the company by paying attention to people and creating the right conditions for innovation.

The pre-lunch panel session exploring the highs and lows of Open Innovation also homed in on the key characteristics for OI.

(By the way, some of the words have lost their associations in the word cloud – such as ‘not control freaks’ and being willing to ask difficult questions’ and ‘admit ignorance, whilst the reference to the bar – is about the place for carrying out negotiations!)

The mindset for open innovation is also about personality types

One of the participants in our break-out pointed out that it was also a question of people’s character when we asked them what the right mindset might be.  That was a great segway for our presentation, which explored two models.

In our first model Elisabeth reflected on how some of the personality type preferences described in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator are particularly relevant to different stages of (Open) Innovation, but that an organisation needed a blend of all personality types to be successful.

We need to find some unique individuals for successful Open Innovation

In our second model Lucy shared the results of her research into mindsets for innovation, and concluded that to be successful, organisations needed to seek out some unique characteristics.

The break-out closed with some final thoughts from the participants, who thought passion to keep going through the ups and downs, and the ability to listen to and understand others’ language and frames of reference were key to successful collaboration in Open Innovation.

Our full presentation is available on Open Innovation in Action – SBC OI summit website.

Notes

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting (http://www.riverrhee.com), a consultancy that helps business teams to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. Elisabeth has 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry where she has held line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and in Lean Sigma and is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals), and APM (Association for Project Management).

Lucy Loh is the Owner and Principal Consultant at Lucy Loh Consulting (http://uk.linkedin.com/in/lucyloh), a consultancy that helps businesses and organisations develop their business plans, and manage change in their organisations and teams to be able to deliver those plans.  She is also a RiverRhee Consulting Associate.  Lucy has 25 years’ experience in BioPharma, where she has held management roles in strategy development and all aspects of performance management, as well as extensive internal consulting.  Lucy has expertise and experience in organisation development, benefits management and in designing and leading business change. She is a certified Master Practitioner of NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP), which enhances her work in change management and individual coaching.  She is also an accredited trainer with the Institute of Leadership and Management for Strategic Leadership.

Personality Type and Project Management – with reference to MBTI


Having recently completed OPP’s Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Step 1 qualification, I was fascinated by Dr David Hillson’s letter1 in this months’ APM Project Magazine Inbox, and Patrick Bird’s article in the previous issue on ‘Type Setting’2, which prompted the letter.

Both the originating article and the responding letter refer to the ability to identify different character types, and the importance of understanding how these may then affect how people behave in projects.

Patrick Bird describes four character types:

  • Analytical types – who value facts, accuracy, time, competency and logic and are often risk averse.  They like some independence of action but will build relationships over time and, providing trust has been earned will be cooperative, dedicated and loyal.
  • Amiable types – whose priority is building relationships, and using personal opinions, understanding and mutual respect to reach decisions.  They will resist management by force and authority
  • Expressive types – motivated by recognition, approval and prestige, are excited by big ideas, and often don’t commit to specific plans. They tend to be risk takers and take more stock of the opinions of prominent or successful people than logic or fact.
  • Driver types – results oriented with a focus on efficiency or productivity rather than the development of relationships.  They are willing to accept risks but want to get to way the pros and cons and move quickly to decisions and results.

There are some parallels between these character types that Patrick Bird describes, and some of the personality types described by the Myers Briggs Type Indicator3.  The MBTI is based on the work of the Swiss Psychologist, Carl Jung, and is the result of 20+ years of research by Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isobel Myers, 40,000+ articles, and further work by OPP and others.

Unlike Patrick Bird, MBTI describes 16 personality types, and also stresses that these reflect how people prefer to behave, not necessarily how people actually behave.  Over time, and with the influence of their environment, people will learn to develop their behaviour so that they may act differently to their preferred profile.  Although, as Patrick Bird rightly points out in his reply4 to Dr David Hillson, they may fall back to their preferred types under stress.  However, under extreme stress, people may also display some quite opposite behaviour to their usual preferences!

The MBTI’s broader interpretation of type may address some of Dr David Hillson’s concerns: people will display some of the characteristics of all 4 character types described by Patrick Bird – given that there are potentially 12 more types than these.  Likewise, it is wrong to put people into boxes in this way.  Just because people may have a natural preference to behave in certain ways, it does not mean they will always behave in those ways.  People will learn to behave differently and, with self-awareness (also sometimes referred to as emotional intelligence), will choose how they behave too.

Finally, as Patrick Bird also points out in his reply to Dr David Hillson, the important thing in project management, and indeed in any aspect of our working or private lives, is to recognize that what we do is not only about the tasks, but about understanding the people involved and the relationships between them.  The MBTI’s 16 personality types, and Patrick Bird’s 4 character types, can provide us with tools for increased personal awareness and positive understanding of the differences between people.  The importance, as with any tool, is to use them with awareness, flexibility and care!

Notes

  1. Dr David Hillson, “Type setting or type casting”, Project, March 2011, Inbox
  2. Patrick Bird, “Type setting”, Project, February 2011, pp.34-35
  3. Patrick Bird’s four ‘character types’ approximately relate to the following MBTI types respectively: ESTP, ISFP, ENFP, INTJ.  More experienced MBTI practitioners please feel free to add your own interpretations!
  4. Patrick Bird, “In reply”, Project, March 2011, Inbox
  5. OPP has published an entire booklet on project management: “Introduction to Type and Project Management”, by Jennifer Tucker, reference 6177, which I will be taking a look at, and possibly writing another blog on this topic.
  6. Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting: enhancing team effectiveness using process improvement, knowledge management and change management.  Follow the links to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting (http://www.riverrhee.com), and about Elisabeth Goodman