At Thought Ensemble, we are always working hard to understand ourselves and others in order to improve the way we work together.  We have used MBTI as a personality type indicator over the years and have found it to be very helpful in understanding our differences in a safe way.  We got our whole company together in person a couple weeks ago and one of the things we did was a little in depth analysis into our MBTI types.

Step I of the MBTI has four pairs of opposing preferences: Extraversion (E) / Introversion (I); Sensing (S) / Intuition (N); Thinking (T) / Feeling (F); Judging (J) / Perceiving (P). Your type is a 4-letter acronym representing an overall personality type, e.g. INTJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging), which is my preference.

The MBTI Step II assessment continues and delves deeper into five sub facets for each of the MBTI Step I results. Since the Step II assessment explores five sub facets for each of the four primary types (E/I, S/N, T/F, J/P) the combinations of our individual preferences are fairly unique.  It is not uncommon to test “out of preference” within one or more of the sub facets, which is why you can’t always peg people to a type based on one specific behavior.

For example, one of the sub facets of Introversion and Extraversion is Contained versus Expressive.  Introverts tend to keep things to themselves, whereas Extraverts tend to share more.  One of my friends was explaining this facet to another friend by using my holiday letters as an example of “Expressive”.  At the end of every year, I’d write to my 100 closest friends about all kinds of things, including the drama of whatever recent breakup I’d weathered and my vision for the next year.  That’s not typical for an Introvert; I’m way out of preference on that one in that I’ll share all kinds of personal things with people I barely know.  And, there I go again.

Back to our workshop.  We did a few exercises throughout the day and one of my favorites was within the J versus P preference.  The theory suggests that there are two general ways of dealing with the world around us: Judging (J) personalities tend to be organized and orderly and make decisions quickly. Perceiving (P) personalities tend to be flexible, adaptable and keep options open as long as possible. One of the five facets of the J / P preference is Early Starting (J) vs. Pressure-Prompted (P).

The exercise was simple.  We told everyone that they had a project to complete and it would be due 30 days from today.  It would take <24 hours to complete.  Everyone was to line up on day 1-30 in terms of when they’d start the project.  Think about that… where would you line up?  I was in the middle of all my colleagues at about day 20 or 10 days before it was due.

One of the most interesting things about this was how many of us were “out of preference”!  In fact, we only have two Ps in the whole company and they are two of our earliest starters.  On the flip, some of our strongest Js are total procrastinators! (oops, I mean “pressure prompted”).  So, that was fascinating to start, but then hearing them talk about how they need to work to be most effective was even more interesting.

Early Starters explained that they’d be completely stressed out if they waited till the last minute.  Their freshest thoughts come without the stress of a deadline.  They want to complete a task, so that they can move onto other things.  Some of them really like starting early so that they can have time to ruminate on an idea or a project and see if they can improve it.

Pressure Prompted colleagues explained that if they were asked to work on something too soon, we wouldn’t get their best work.  They like to percolate on a problem in the back of their mind for a while.  They are inspired by the last minute rush.  And, they fundamentally believe that it is better to wait in case new information comes to bear.

I love knowing where all my colleagues sit on this one.  Forcing people to operate outside of their comfort zone, either way on this spectrum, will not produce ideal results!  Think about yourself and those you work with and this one dynamic might really help you understand each other better.