The Electronic Discussion on
Group Facilitation
Process Expertise for Group Effectiveness
Moderator: Sandor P. Schuman

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

From the Electronic Discussion on Group Facilitation

The following is the collection of responses compiled by

John-Paul Morgante <>

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: (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

Myers-Briggs LO2100:

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 ( (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 <>

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" <>

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" <>

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 <>

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 <>

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" <>

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 <> 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:    (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" <>

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

been mixed.

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

team progress.

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

enhance results.

An excellent source for those seeking certification in MBTI is the program

run by Otto Kroeger (Otto Kroeger Associates,703-591-6284), through NTL

Institute (1-800-777-5257 or 703-548-1500).