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When to use MBTI

MBTI may, in the opinion of some, lack scientific validity but this ignores its real usefulness and purpose in leadership and team development.

As assessment and leadership experts we are the first to question the validity and reliability of certain psychometric tools which have not been thoroughly accredited by The British Psychological Society (BPS).   Typically, we caution organisations against using any tool which does not require a BPS qualified practitioner to administer it who is trained extensively in the use of the chosen tools.  So, given the criticism by some people of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), you may be surprised that we use the tool when working on leadership and team building consulting projects.

The BPS recognises the MBTI as being a psychometric tool of some validity but has also hosted debate on the usefulness of the tool.  We already know that the MBTI and other, similar type indicators, are not valid for recruitment assessment.  Anybody advocating its use in selection is acting against the expressed wishes of the MBTI test publishers.  This is because it is hopeless at predicting job performance as it predicts preferences and not abilities or character traits. Therefore, this tool is not a valid predictor of performance and it is unethical to use the tool in selection.  Indeed, the outcomes may be easily manipulated and, in any case, there are no such things as a good or bad type.

Therefore, when we assess leaders and high potentials for recruitment assessment, we use either the OPQ32 from SHL or the Hogan range of tools. Usually, we recommend that business simulation assessments and ability tests are used in combination with personality assessment. These are combined with feedback interviews from our experts to provide a full picture of a candidate’s fit for the role and the organisation.  We usually provide bespoke feedback reports because they give a tremendous insight into a candidate’s potential success.

So how do we use the MBTI?

Simply put, the MBTI is a theory of people’s preferences as to how they prefer to experience events and to behave.  Therefore, this tool is primarily about with what we are most comfortable.  People with a strong Feeling (F) perspective don’t normally enjoy debate as much as people with a Thinking (T) preference.  However, this does not mean that “Fs” cannot do it. It is just that they exercise a preference not to, and this is the common misconception people make when interpreting the MBTI Step 1 tool.

Reassuringly, research shows that the much respected Big 5 Personality Model does correlate well with the MBTI. Our experience of using the tool based on extensive practitioners’ use and participant feedback shows that:

  1. The tool works well in a team setting and can help people to understand their own preferences and that of their colleagues and team
  2. It is very useful as a tool to understand the team dynamic and style differences between people. This can, therefore, identify areas of conflict, stress and explain how people work together in problem solving.  Moreover, it helps facilitate discussion on how to resolve and improve these issues
  3. It is powerful at stimulating a desire to change and refine approaches, holding productive meetings, presenting information, project governance and even work processes. For example, in a recent workshop it became clear that the way certain managers present information and reports did not meet the preferences of some team members who had fundamentally different preferences.  Those who had an F (Feeling) did not necessarily see the need to provide summary data and detail to help those with a strong T (thinking).  The differences between those who make decisions based on feelings and emotions (F preference) and those who rely on logic and rational (T preference) had not been appreciated before the workshop by the group
  4. It stimulates a desire to learn and change, and fuels an appetite to improve amongst participants. Often, this can lead to a desire to undertake the “gold standard of development which is a 360-degree feedback which is often combined with The Hogan Development Survey (HDS) and/or OPQ32

The MBTI remains a great leadership and team building tool when properly administrated and fed back by experts either on a one-on-one basis or in a group environment.  It should only ever be used for its designed purpose and participants must understand its limitations as well as value.  Above all, it is most powerful when used as a facilitation tool which helps stimulate development and change.

Matthew Davis is an expert in business psychology, leadership consultancy and organisational development.  He is currently a part time Doctorial Researcher at The University of Sheffield Management School as well as a trusted advisor to numerous businesses and executives.

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