Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
From the Electronic Discussion on Group Facilitation
The following is the collection of responses compiled by
John-Paul Morgante <JMORGANTE@wicsc.tdh.state.tx.us>
in response to the following post:
I work in state government training and we are looking into developing
a management and supervisor training program as it relates to team
Our -- actually my dilemma is that a portion of our training section
believes that MBTI is THE WAY to build teams. Another portion believes
in the principles of MBTI and that it can, or even should, be an integral
part of team building but not SOLELY built on MBTI principles.
I need some advice on this area: Has MBTI worked for you in team
building? If so, how? If not, why? Is "type" important in team
From: email@example.com (Clare Poe) Subject:
I use the MBTI quite extensively in Team Building, Conflict Resolutions,
Communication Skills and Understanding, Diversity Awareness, etc. in a
state Government setting. The quick answer is that MBTI is only a resource
and tool (one of many to choose from), that can help in the facilitation of
effective team building and other OD interventions. If an organization or
group adopts it (the MBTI) as a common framework, model or reference point,
then it can be more of a principle based tool? BUT it is not a panacea, or
THE only tool for effective team building.
A previous relpy on this thread for your info: Replying to LO2055 and
I have used the MBTI extensively in developing team building activities,
improving communication, and problem solving processes in organizations.
The MBTI provides for a model and common framework to relate leadership
style preferences with preferences of teams and team members. IT is a
"positive" model that recognizes the gifts that each member of a team or
organization brings to that entity !!
There are several research and other "Type" professional organizations
that do reserach and provide training and resources to apply MBTI in team
building and organization development settings. The Association for
Psychological Type publishes both the "Bulletin of Psychologocal Type"
and the "Journal of Psychologocal Type". Consulting Psychologists Press
in California also has many resources and texts on the subject. There are
several certifying organizations that also provide materials and research
results and other tools of the trade.
I agree with Bill (firstname.lastname@example.org (Bill Godfrey)) that it is an
instrument and resource that is a good as the way it is presented and used
in an organization. When an organization and the leaders and members of
that organization embrace, believe in and live out the concepts and belief
systems and thinking behind the models, it does make a big difference. I
coach managers in the use and applications of the MBTI toward continuous
learning and growth of individuals and the organization.
It is not a real psychometric instrument, as much as it is a human and
organization developemnt tool and model. It can be very useful for
effective work team development and performance.
Then ther are those who believe that a person's MBTI is not consistent
throughout ALL situations. A person may change 1,2 or 3 indicators
depending upon the environment they find themselves in. Margaret
Wheatley makes a good argument for the false readings of MBTIs.
It sounds like the MBTI believers you work with are looking for linear
solution to a multi-dimensional issue. IMHO, MBTI can be 1 of a
integrated set of solutions... depending on it alone is grossly
oversimplifying the issues at hand.
From:Robert Bacal <email@example.com>
I'm replying privately because I don't want to get involved in yet
another "war" on this subject. It was discussed extensively in the
TRDEV-L list a few months back.
1. An article published in the Journal for educational research on
the MBTI concluded a number of things...all suggesting that the
instrument was flawed and was not signficantly useful. Sorry don't
have the reference right now.
2. My experience is that the typologies are as likely to create
stereotyping based on type in teams as they are to create better
3. The typologies have few links to actual behaviour, since most
behaviour is influenced more by the situation than by any types.
4. Because typologies are so simple, and tend to be intuitively
sensible, they are very seductive...which means that while people
will claim that things are different, but the teams do not improve.
5. That said, many people firmly believe in the use of the instrument,
and swear by the results.
6. If you DO use it, be aware that they must be administered by a person
certified to do so. Even then you are not guaranteed that the person will
be able to explain the severe limitations of both the theory and the
From:"Heather J. Fox" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I've found that MBTI gives the team a "starting place" to explicity
compare how people operate in the given organizational environment.
It can also be used as an "anchor" to which the team can return
in its later stages for reflection/regrouping.
"Oh, so that's how this situation looks to you." "Oh, that's why
you're never on time for our meetings..." These realizations come
about through use of the various exercises Consulting Psychologists
Press offers. The trick is to keep the team from using the indicators
as a label and essentially as an excuse for poor behavior.
From:"Stuart C. Leinenbach" <SCLeinen@LANMAIL.RMC.COM>
My background is Human Resource Development, The MBTI, while very much
used today, should not be the sole criteria for team building, if fact, I
would not even consider it a factor. The MBTI is a snapshot of what the
individual is a the time the MBTI was administered, and should only be
used for personal reflection and growth. Those who try to predict team
outcome by stacking the deck with certain types also try to turn lead into
gold in their spare time. Develop a team using small group dynamics
techniques, don't try to "stack the deck"
From:"ANSON SEERS" <ASEERS@alston.cba.ua.edu>
In addition to those you've reached with your present inquiry, you might
find helpful responses from members of TEAMNET-L. It is a closed list,
but you can easily join by e-mailing a request to Kevin Roquemore at
My own reaction to your question, from the perspective of an academic
primarily interested in working relationships, is two-fold. One, the
research evidence indicates no special importance to effective teamwork
for MBTI-type variables. In a practical sense, this is quite comforting--
imagine breaking the news to a member that his/her score on a personality
questionnaire made more effective teamwork impossible. Instead, effective
teamwork is developed through the negotiation of interdependent roles.
What's really important is to improve communication among the members
such that some form of consensus can emerge about how the members will be
able to rely on each other. Then members will be able to have confident
expectations in themselves as team members and in the team as a unit. The
second point is important precisely because the expectations held by people
matter greatly in the efforts they put forth and in how they act to
coordinate their efforts with those of other people. If there are already
entrenched expectations that MBTI attributes are important, you should
include such in your teambuilding efforts. With it, the believers have
more "ownership" and, expecting their approach to improve teamwork, will
then act to improve teamwork. Without it, the believers will expect the
teambuilding to fail, prompting the opposite self-fulfilling prophecy. A
comprehensive approach to team-building should incorporate any other
strongly held implicit theories of teamwork as well. Keep in mind that the
effects of most team-building efforts are usually quite ephemeral. You'll
need a good bit of follow-on effort.
Anyone who relies solely on one approach to team building is usually
doomed to failure. I have been using the MBTI since the early 1970's and
found it useful as a tool for team building, ITP communications, spiritual
development when combined with its base of Jung, and personal and
professional development. One must remember that people are more than the
sixteen types that this instrument measures and of course adding more
people into the mix means that it becomes more complicated. Teams are made
up of more than type and you need to look at other variables such as
goals, roles, responsibilities, norms, cultures, procedures, communication
processes, group dynamics, etc. etc. In other words teams are mini-
organizations within the larger and need to be looked at in this manner.
Just as organizations are to be viewed as open and constantly changing,
so are teams. My advice is use the MBTI and any other instrumentation
for its purpose if it fits, but be prepared for the other elements that
make up a team.
From:Bill Kahnweiler <email@example.com>
MBTI has worked well for me in TB efforts. It's helped people reach a
deeper understanding of variations among people--their motivations,
communication styles, how they are and aren't persuaded, work styles,
etc. I use MBTI as a tool; as such, I find it helpful in TB but, like any
single tool, insufficient for true TB to take place.
I won't say "type" is important in TB--but some model or mechanism or
tool to help people understand (and eventually, hopefully APPRECIATE)
each other is, to me, an inherent part of TB.
From:Vicki Siegel <vsiegel@MINDSPRING.COM>
I use the MBTI regularly as a consultant working with communication/team
building and performance improvement issues.
THe MBTI's value is in helping people increase their self-awareness and to
become more aware of differences in the way people think, communicate
relate to others etc. It also helps people value and appreciate
differences and use them constructively. This is a pivotal part of team
development and team building. However, the MBTI, in my opinion, should
only be used as one of the pieces necessary to develop successful work
relationships and effective performance. It is, indeed, a very valuable
piece. And it must only be used by someone who is very experienced with
the MBTI and understands its application and limitations.
In my experience, using the MBTI up front has enhanced and complimented
the rest of my teambuilding, leadership and management development
programs with clients.
From:Susan Heathfield <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I have used the MBTI and other type assessments in training and in
teambuilding. It is a useful and fun tool that gives people a way
to begin thinking about peoples' differences. For example, I never
use the instrument without follow-up exercises in which I ask the
group to identify similar characteristics of people who share type,
how they might work more effectively with people who have different
types, etc. I would never build a whole training or teambuilding
effort around this tool. It is a tool for discussion and growth.
Other topics need more of our time. Sometimes, I even use it as an
opening exercies following introductions of participants, participant
expectations and needs, and session objectives and goals.
The MBTI can be a helpful tool in teambuilding. It allows people to
see how differences are both normal and helpful to the overall
performance of a team. I don't believe it is the only way to do
One of the more creative applications in teambuilding occurred several
years ago. I was working with a corporate staff organization that had
a lot of dissention between the team members. We used the MBTI and
completed an exercise where each person places themselves on a matrix
reflecting their type. When completed, the distribution of people
across the 16 types is readily apparent. We then explored the strengths
and weaknesses of the team because of the "holes" in the type matrix.
This produced some good dialog.
Next we had several typical project senarios written. The team then
took what they had learned about strengths and weaknesses of both the
individuals and the team as a whole to help in assigning people and
roles to the project. This seemed to really bring the point home about
how to take advantage of the differences among people on the same team.
From:Duane Tway <DUANETWAY@AOL.COM>
You might want to look at an article by Pittinger.
Pittinger, David J. "The utility of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator,"
_Review of Educational Research_, Vol 63, No 4, Pp 467-488, Winter 1993.
Abstract: "The MBTI is evaluated using a nunified view of test validity
that requires that validity be considered from an approach requiring many
sources of corroboration. A review of available literature suggest
insufficient evidence to support the tenets and claims about the utility
of the MBTI." And further, "There is insufficient evidence to justify
the specific claims made about the MBTI. Although the test does appear
to measure several common personality traits, the patterns of data do not
suggest that there is reason to believe that there are 16 unique types of
personality....[T]here is no convincing eveidence to justify that knowledge
of type is a reliable or valid predictor of important behavioral
conditions. Taken as a whole, the MBTI makes few unique practical or
contributions to the understanding of behavior."
IMHO and experience, no approach to teambuilding that does not help people
become aligned around a shared sense of purpose to which they are all
committed in spirit will be more than momentarily successful. Other
approaches may make people feel good for a while, but they do not
address the essence of what it is to be a team.
If you'd like to discuss this further, give me a ring. Hope this is
helpful. Be a shame to waste the opportunity to do something "real."
From:"Watson, Martha" <Martha.Watson@state.mn.us>
I 've had teambuilding experience involving MBTI and involving other
techniques. MBTI can be a useful teambuilding tool with a good
facilitator. But the same thing is true of lots of tools. One
disadvantage to using the MBTI is that some people really resent it.
For some, it's a fear that somehow they're being psychoanalyzed for
public display. For others, it's a fear of being labeled & stuck into
one of only 16 boxes & that they'll always be viewed as limited to that
1 box. Those fears are counterproductive to teambuilding, so that's
one reason for using something other than the MBTI, something that is
not as threatening.
From:Gerry Roberts <email@example.com> S
I have been involved with team building and the MBTI for over 10 years.
My initial reaction to your question would be that never build a program
using only one source. I am passionate about the MBTI, but it cannot
solve everything nor does it have all the answers.
I have been in charge of all of the team building programs at our
institution (6,000 employees) for 4 years. All re-engineering teams go
through 6 hours of MBTI team building with me. Of all the teams that
have done this, the only "dysfunctional" team was the one where I did
not facilitate. My conclusions, (as well as others), from this is that
if you have people who have solid knowledge about the MBTI and how to
use it for team building, you can use the MBTI for a very strong
foundation for team building. It's beautiful and works like a charm.
But any program is only as good as the knowledge level and expertise
of the presenter.
I highly recommend using the MBTI for team building and have experienced
phenomenal success with its use. It lends itself to dealing with team
issues such as decision-making, conflict resolution, etc. I have used
the MBTI to resolve seemingly insurmountable barriers between diverse
groups of people and individuals.
From:Gayle Porter <gporter@CRAB.RUTGERS.EDU>
I'd say you're headed for trouble if you have people who think there is
one answer to teambuilding -- be it MBTI or anything else. Many things
can be used as a starting point, but as the teambuilding evolves and needs
change, many more aspects will become important.
Learning about "types" can be useful for the appreciation it brings of
how people are different and how that affects the way the do things,
explain things to others, and filter the information they receive.
The result of staying open minded enough to deal effectively with many
different types of people is great. This can be aided by MBTI or other
things, or a combination of several approaches. It's not "type" that's
important. It's the greater understanding of differences that important.
MBTI is one format for helping people see themselves and others as people
with different ways of getting to a similar result.
But this is certainly not all there is to teambuilding. It still takes
skills to work with those differences through goal setting, problem
solving, conflict resolution, and building a combined identity. I don't
think any of these things follow automatically from MBTI, although it
can be one useful component to build from.
My concern, when I hear people express that MBTI is "the" answer, is that
it becomes just one more way to slot people. For example, your just
struggling with our suggestion because you're an INTJ . .. or, what
we need on this team is another ENTJ to balance our approach. The
qualities of a high-performing team go way beyond that kind of talk.
Finally, in acknowledging that people come in different types, you may
want to also consider that the MBTI approach will not be equally useful
to all people. If you expand to use other things along with the MBTI,
you have a better chance that each individual will find some grains of
wisdom to fit his or her personal needs/syle/type/knowledge level. Now
that I think about it, it sounds a little strange that an MBTI advocate
an claim that one approach is all that's needed for a group of different
individuals to learn to be good team members.
From:firstname.lastname@example.org (FRANK BELL)
I am not a big fan of the MBTI in training applications. IMO, it presents
a lot of information and just leaves it there. Furthermore, it's
difficult to administer and complex--even esoteric--to score. I do
believe it's an excellent vehicle for career counseling and therapeutic
Most of my co-workers and I prefer Carlson Learning's Personal Profile
(DiSC) family of instruments for team building applications in the
workplace. The are easy to administer and score, thoroughly researched
and validated, and behavior-oriented, rather than personality-type
oriented (in other words, they focus on what people do and on how they
interact, rather than on what they are). They are also prescriptive,
in that they make suggestions for alternative actions and approaches in
dealing with others.
From:"William D. Lovett" <email@example.com>
I have been using the MBTI in my consulting business for over 15 years
and many times with teams. The results of this usage with teams has
Of all of the management development topics that I teach, none get the
positive participant response at the end of the seminar that the MBTI
gets. Participants overwhelmingly think that the MBTI is extremely useful.
However, when I follow up in a few months to conduct a level 3 or level 4
evaluation, the results are quite different. The majority of the
participants (estimated to be over 80%) think it is a useful tool,
but really don't use it. The balance use it to some degree.
The teams that seem to get the most benefit from it are the ones who
incorporate it into their team meetings on a regular basis. Many teams
use placecards in front of team members as a reminder of the participant's
preferences. Also, if one member champions the use of type it becomes
incorporated into the team culture and helps members relate to each other
more effectively. It also helps to reduce conflict based on opposing type
preferences (e.g., S vs. N - details vs. big picture emphasis).
At first this surprised me. But upon reflection, when I realized how I
personally must concentrate on the use of type in team meetings, I had an
understanding of how others must feel about mastering type.
The use of type in teams is not much different than any other new skill that
is learned, if we practice it on a daily basis, we become more proficient on
its use. But if we don't practice the new skill, we will tend to lose it.
Of course, we all learned this intellectually in Adult Learning 101.
I have never experienced anything but success with the MBTI. It is
misunderstood, some people who have no business using it do so anyway,
and it is NOT the be-all to end-all. What's important is that the person
administering it be qualified to do so; ideally they should have been
through a qualifying seminar just for this purpose. Secondly, time and care
need to be spent in its explanation - it is not a personality test; it is
not a predictor of anything; it is not meant to be pejorative or demeaning;
it is not intended to be a tool for deciding what job someone should
have, etc. If used for its intended purpose, the MBTI can be a wonderful
teambuilding tool - but it should not be the ONLY teambuilding tool. First
of all, look at your reason for doing teambuilding in the first place - is
it being done because it's a "good" thing to do, because the group is new,
or because of problems? It's okay to use the MBTI in any of these cases,
but supplemental training which addresses other issues present in the team
only helps to assist in the MBTI's effectiveness.
The validator of the MBTI is the person taking it. The instrument merely
reports back to you what you just told it. If good directions were given,
and the group is in a non-threatening atmosphere, the MBTI can be a fun way
to get started on the teambuilding process. I introduce it as a tool for
self-discovery - the more we under- stand ourselves, the better we can be at
beginning to understand others, and we'd better be able to do this if we
are going to work together. There are people out there who have had bad
experiences with these types of measures - I have encountered some of
these and that is why I make such a big deal about how the process takes
place. I try my best to establish comfort among my trainees, because they
will learn more this way.
IMHO, it is and it is not. Assuming that one accepts the validity of the
MBTI and its 16 "types," we have found that type is not a factor in one's
ability to be a contributing member of a true team. However, we have found
that lack of diversity of "type;" i.e., too many introverts or too many
people focused on closure at all costs, can lead a team to distructive
groupthink or belief that consensus exists when it does not. Also, lack of
awareness of individual differences, and their value to a team, can hamper
We use the MBTI in teambuilding as a "just in time" tool depending on the
group's needs. Once one is trained and proficient in MBTI, it becomes
relatively easy to predict "type" based on observed behaviors, which helps
us put together balanced teams, but doesn't necessarily help individual
members. We find introduction of the MBTI, through a series of
experiential exercises, to be a great icebreaker and the start of awareness
that many interpersonal conflicts on teams can stem from lack of understanding that
points of view, and even "rulebooks," vary among individuals, and that
recognizing and capitalizing on differences can strengthen a team and
An excellent source for those seeking certification in MBTI is the program
run by Otto Kroeger (Otto Kroeger Associates,703-591-6284), through NTL
(1-800-777-5257 or 703-548-1500).