Project Team Personality Types Quiz
As project managers it falls upon us to bring different personality types together into a coherent and functioning project team. We can be likened to conductors who ensure members of our orchestra work in harmony to create the music. However, each personality type requires a different approach. For example, we will not get our point across properly if we’re too direct and overly data-oriented with a touchy-feely type person. By the same token, we would not want to be too touchy-feely with a no-nonsense type person. If a person or team is too analytical, there will be little creativity. If a person or team is too sensitive, compromises will proliferate and fewer decisions will be made with confidence.
We project managers can benefit from knowing our fellow team members’ personalities and how each team member best works, so team members and projects are set up for success. Knowing our team members’ personality types helps us:
- Adjust our management and leadership style for each individual.
- Understand what best motivates a team member to do their best work.
- Understand what learning style works best for each team member.
- Know what communication method they prefer.
- Build their trust and loyalty.
- Ensure our project runs smoothly and efficiently.
- Identifies their preferences, rather than just competencies, abilities or skills.
This paper focuses on the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), but no personality sorter is infallible. A down-loadable paper-based quiz, analyser and brief descriptions of each personality type may be found here. Or you might prefer a free on-line version that also analyses your quiz results at http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp or http://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test or do all three and compare, or simply dismiss the whole business as total nonsense. Believers, whose numbers seem to exceed the number of skeptics might have their project team members each do the quiz and then share and discuss their results at the start of the project – maybe at the project kick-off meeting. But remember that no personality type is better than another, as each personality provides it’s unique benefits to each project. The quiz is a tool, not a test.
This particular tool divides personalities into sixteen different types, which if nothing else suggests some greater degree of precision than many other personality tests that divide us into only four categories. My experience is that people complete the personality quiz about themselves and usually express surprise at the accuracy of the result, confirming their own view of themselves – a self-fulfilling prophesy. Thus, it may also be revealing if we were to ask a colleague or even several colleagues to assess ourselves. The 16 personality categories are summarised here:
Extroverts (E) are focused on the external world, including people and things. Introverts (I) are inwardly focused, interested in ideals and symbols. Extroverts and Introverts are opposites. Intuition (N) is about unconscious perceiving. It includes the recognition of patterns and abstract ideas, as well as visionary thoughts. Sensing (S) is perception with our five senses and focuses on the real world. Intuition and Sensing are opposites. Thinking (T) is making decisions based on facts, like a court judge. Feeling (F) is making decisions based upon a personal point of view. Thinking and Feeling are opposites. Perceiving (P) concerns the perceptive side of one’s personality externally, either through Intuition or Sensing. Judging (J) emphasises the judging side of one’s personality. Each dimension highlights the dominant personality trait. However, an Extrovert is still capable of Introverted thought. Personality exists on a continuum, and most personality tests show where each person falls on the preference scale.
Extroverted (E) or Introverted (I)
It is very natural to see Project Managers as Extroverts, because they must communicate constantly. But to declare that only Extroverts belong in Project Management is to deny a critical part of the profession. Project Managers must be able to communicate in many ways to many people. The managers that are working with people from nine to five every day are typically in the office early or out of the office late, doing much solitary work off-hours or on weekends.
Either an Introvert or an Extrovert can do the Project Manager job successfully, so long as they can also act opposite to their dominant type. An extreme Extrovert, with no interest in ideals and solitary work, will eventually fail in the job. An extreme Introvert, with no interest in seeing their ideas take shape in the real world, will also fail.
Intuition (N) or Sensing (S)
Intuition and Sensing can both serve a Project Manager well. Most Project Managers are Sensing dominant. Concrete, observable information is critical. Many modern management techniques favour the sensing personality type. They focus on concrete, observable outcomes, and explicitly exclude intuitive judgement. “Feeling uncomfortable” with an option or “just liking” one option over another can be misleading.
Experienced Project Managers develop a sixth-sense about their projects. They know when the project has a problem, and they have an uncanny ability to ask the right questions to uncover that problem. Intuitive people look for patterns and have a vision of abstract ideals. Project Managers must also be capable of abstract thought and able to defend a vision. Even the Sensing manager will look for patterns in their project data to form opinions about the likelihood of project success and failure.
Project Managers can tolerate extremes in the personality dimension of Intuition versus Sensing. They must be able to operate somewhat on both sides of the line, but could favour either side and still be successful. Perhaps this personality dimension is a main source of diversity in style. It is not uncommon to see heated discussions, with one person demanding more facts, and another insisting that he or she just “knows” everything will work out fine. Sometimes these disagreements may be fact-based; one person feels evidence is shaky, while another believes the existing evidence. When the discussion is emotionally intense, though, it is probable that a sensing personality simply cannot accept the conclusions of the intuitive personality. Personality differences can be an enormous source of conflict among project team members and other stakeholders. When two people have a different “style”, think about this personality dimension; it may help to explain their conflict.
Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
A Project Manager can thrive with either a focus on Thinking or on Feeling. This personality dimension will perhaps have the greatest impact upon selecting a positive work environment for the project manager. An organisation that requires objective, fact-based decisions from Project Managers will favour a Thinking manager. An organisation that looks for managers to inject compassion into project decisions will likely favour a Feeling manager.
Thinking and Feeling personalities can be happy in either type of project environment, but they are more likely to thrive in a corporate culture that matches their personality. It is important to note that a Thinking personality can have extreme compassion, and may be more sensitive to people’s feelings than a Feeling personality. Personal values come into play. The key question in the personality type is what their primary, default reaction is: objective or personal. Given the number of people involved in most projects, a Thinking personality who is sensitive to emotional needs of stakeholders is probably preferable to a Feeling personality. The Feeling personality is more likely to weight subjective elements in the decision. He or she may have a difficult time taking into account the needs of all stakeholders. A Thinking personality who makes decisions with little consideration for subjective concerns, based upon simple right and wrong, can be very destructive on a project.
Like Sensing and Intuition, the difference of Thinking and Feeling is one of project management style. The most successful managers will combine elements of both, but can be successful with either type of dominant personality.
Perceiving (P) or Judging (J)
The natural tendency for most Project Managers is the Judging personality type. Given the constant need for decisions that come with the job, Judging personalities are naturally drawn to it. The job is complex, though, and some element of Perceiving, or data gathering, is necessary for success.
An ability to operate in both spheres is desirable. The Perceiving manager becomes paralyzed if he or she must constantly gather more information. At some point he or she must decide and act. The Judging project manager meets failure if he or she cannot take the time to gather required information, making decisions too quickly and with too little information. Between those two extremes, we can be successful. The Perceiving manager can gather information up to a point, and then make a judgement. The Judging manager can gather required information before following his or her natural tendency to decide.
Personality differences along the Perceiving and Judging dimension can amplify conflicts between Intuitive and Sensing types. It is difficult enough if one person intuits the answer while the second is focused on concrete evidence. If one tends to make quick decisions, while the other prefers to collect more data, the conflict between them can grow quickly.
Personality Types and Project Management
Put each of the four dimensions of personality together, and we get a four-letter summary – the MBTI code. Given the above discussion, in theory at least, an ESTJ is possibly the most appropriate and most common MBTI for a Project Manager. But all profiles are described in positive terms. There is no fail-safe method to pre-select the ultimate Project Manager. Also, the typical Project Manager has often held a number of titles before becoming a Project Manager.
On one occasion I was invited to help resolve a problem in an Upper Hutt (NZ) organisation. Two team leaders were not communicating with each other and their animosity had paralysed the progress of the project. Eventually, with the protagonists’ permission we shared their personality profiles, which resulted in some better mutual understanding and allowed us to negotiate some rules to ensure improved communication. However, about a month later I checked with the General Manager and discovered that both team leaders had departed the organisation. At their exit interviews it became evident that up until my intervention, the only reason they had stayed on was to outlast the other person. True story. Perhaps the personality quiz helped.
Anyway, personality assessments answer questions about why we prefer a certain management style, why we are comfortable with certain people, and why certain situations have a dramatic effect on our happiness. Expecting personality uniformity is unreasonable, even within a specialised profession like our own.
Myers-Briggs is just a tool and if all our decisions are based on it, then we too are a tool. We should not use Myers-Briggs or any other personality assessments to disqualify someone from working with us on a project if they bring the right capacity, commitment and capability, but if we do happen to know our team members’ personality types, this may be of assistance from a leadership perspective – perhaps if we need to sort out a personality conflict or persuade, influence or convince a team member of something.
From bumps on the head to ink blots to handwriting analysis, science has come up with many personality tests, but Myers-Briggs remains the most popular, but is about determining our preference, not our ability. There might be things that we’re good at that we don’t enjoy, and there might be things we enjoy that we’re not good at. The MBTI helps us find our comfort zone, the types of activities we’ll like and be most content with, but not necessarily those at which we’ll be especially competent. The intention of using of Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicators is NOT to alienate, discriminate, stereotype, disqualify, and/or be biased as this would not only be unethical, but in most countries it’s also illegal.