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    Jun 05, 2015    |

Interview with a Type Guru v 2.0

As a follow up to our last “Interview with a Guru”  (Patrick Kerwin’s thoughts on using Type with teams), we had the chance to interview Linda Kirby and get some tips on using the MBTI® instrument with leaders. Linda Kirby is an organization consultant and trainer. She designs and delivers organizational training programs focused on applying the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) Step I and Step II tools to leadership development and change management to name a few.

1. What makes the MBTI assessment such a valuable tool for leadership development and coaching?

I always use MBTI® type and the theory of personality on which it is based for leadership development. It positively affirms the leader’s natural style, while making clear that every type has potential blind spots and areas for development. Most leadership style inventories and 360 feedback instruments produce “areas for development” that sound negative and critical to the respondent and often lead to defensiveness. Combining such an instrument with the MBTI tool’s understanding of one’s natural style is a terrific way to lessen defensiveness and open the leader to possible intentional development.

I always use the Introduction to Type and Leadership booklet — in workshops for leaders or working with individuals. Sharon Richmond did an excellent job on that booklet, makes it easy to use the dynamic approach to understanding type. The two-page descriptions with “assets” and “challenges” are very accurate, leaders respond very positively to that approach.

And I always use the MBTI Step II™ Interpretive Report with leaders. It allows us to focus on specific areas for development — “So let’s look at what initiating leaders do,” rather than “You need to be more Extraverted.”

2. What is the most difficult challenge in working with leaders to set developmental goals?

In addition to what I said in #1, I would identify two primary challenges in using the MBTI instrument with leaders:
First, most leaders believe they should be able to do everything well — be outgoing and connected to followers AND be thoughtful and reflective, etc. The approach of type — that there are two valuable, but opposite preferences, and one of them is preferred, the other non-preferred — can get in the way of leaders’ acceptance of this way of looking at personality. After E – I descriptions, many (most?) leaders say “I do both. I don’t have a preference.” I spend quite a bit of time with leaders using the “sign your name with the hand your normally use; sign your name with the other hand” activity, getting them to talk about leadership skills that seemed to come naturally to them and ones they’ve had to work hard to develop. Crucial for them to get the basic point of “natural” vs. developed skill.

Second, leaders never have enough time. My only solution for this is to hone my presentations so they do not come across as theoretical or wordy, and to get them applying type to leadership style from the beginning, so they see the practical value to them.

3. If you had a piece of advice for other practitioners working specifically with leaders, what would it be?

My learning with leaders is the same, really, as with any clients. Do not ever use type or the MBTI results or type descriptions as a straight-jacket. Never imply that type explains everything about them. Make clear that we’re looking for their “best-fit,” and they are the judge of that. The MBTI instrument is solid, the reliability and validity evidence is very extensive and good; but no 93 or 144 questions “know” you better than you know yourself.

Psychological type is one way of understanding personality, very useful, very insightful, but adult personality has many influences beyond our natural preferences. We’re helping them identify that “natural” personality, and always recognizing that our family, our culture, our training, our life experiences have influenced how we have developed that natural style.

Type is a tool to help us understand ourselves and others and to be more effective in whatever we do.

More about Linda Kirby:

She is co-author of the MBTI® Step I and Step II Certification Program. She leads Certification and applications programs for the Myers Briggs Foundation and for CPP, Inc., in the US and for CPP distributors around the world, training in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, India, Kenya, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, South Africa, and Dubai.

Linda Kirby has a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, taught at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, for 10 years, and is now headquartered in Denver, Colorado.

Kirby’s publications include:
MBTI® Practitioner’s Field Guide (2011), with N. J. Barger, CPP, Inc.
Type and Culture (2007), with E. Kendall and N. J. Barger. CPP, Inc.
Introduction to Type® and Change (2004), with N. J. Barger. CPP, Inc.
Introduction to Type® (1998), 6th ed. I. B. Myers, rev. by L. K. Kirby and K. D. Myers. CPP, Inc.
Type and Change: MBTI® Leader’s Guide and MBTI® Participant’s Guide (1997) with N. J. Barger. CPP, Inc.
Developing Leaders (1997), co-ed. with C. Fitzgerald. Davies-Black.
WORKTypes (1997), with J. M. Kummerow and N. J. Barger. Warner Books.
The Challenge of Change in Organizations: Helping Employees Thrive in the New Frontier (1995), with N. J. Barger. Davies-Black.
Introduction to Type® Dynamics and Development (1994), with K. D. Myers. CPP, Inc..
“Uses of Type in Organizations” and “Multicultural Uses of Type,” chapters in Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, & Hammer, eds., MBTI® Manual, 3rd ed. (1998). CPP, Inc.