Feeling uncomfortable or a little confused while adapting to life amid a pandemic? Understanding our personality profiles can help us make sense of the world, allowing us to navigate new norms in our fields of employment.

The challenges of the past year have tested us all – our lives have been turned upside-down by the effects of COVID-19 as we have battled the pandemic and its impact on our health services, social lives and economy. 

Many have lost their jobs or found themselves rethinking their careers and business opportunities. Certainly, 2020 will be remembered as a year that made us stop and look at what really matters. 

As an executive career coach and Myers-Briggs Certified Practitioner, I am curious about how people’s personality preference profiles impact these career changes and choices, leadership styles, work behaviours and potential. I use Myers-Briggs personality profile testing as a foundation exercise to identify the combination of individual characteristics that create a person’s distinct value proposition.

Myers-Briggs personality profile preferencing helps us understand the “natural why” of our energy cycles, responses, reactions and approaches to the world and, using these preferences, helps us identify our strengths and understand the unique ways in which we are currently responding to the impacts of COVID-19. Ultimately, we want to use this knowledge so we can thrive in all aspects of our lives – including in our workplaces – especially given these challenging times.

To refresh your understanding of Myers-Briggs personality profile testing…

Katherine Cook Briggs (1875-1968) and her daughter Isabel Myers (1897-1980) – as keen observers of personality differences – studied the work of Carl Jung (1875-1961) who developed his ideas about personality types in an effort to explain the normal, natural differences between healthy people. His observations concluded that difference in attitudes and behaviours result from the natural tendencies people have to use their minds in different ways. Jung defined eight patterns of behaviour which he referred to as ‘types’.

Briggs and Myers began research into personality profiles in 1917 and, for the next 27 years, built on Jung’s research to develop the four Myers-Briggs preference pairs as we know them.

If you have experienced Myers-Briggs personality profile testing, you may be familiar with the following dichotomies:

Extraversion (E) | Introversion (I)  –  the way we receive and give energy

Sensing (S) | Intuition (N) –  the way in which we take in information

Thinking (T) | Feeling (F) –  the way in which we make decisions

Judging (J) | Perceiving (P) –  the way we approach the outside world

The Myers-Briggs theory is that we all have a “natural” preference for one or the other in each set of dichotomies.

For example …

People with a natural preference for Extraversion prefer to recharge and give energy outwardly and be in the company of people. Whereas, people with a preference for Introversion prefer to recharge quietly, taking time out for solo hobbies.

People who prefer to take in information by reading data, reports, and facts would be classified as having a preference for Sensing, while people with a preference for Intuition would rather take in information through observation and recognising the experiences of themselves and others.

After undertaking the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), participants are allocated one preference for each of the four dichotomies.

There are 16 personality profile sets:

ISTJ      ISFP      INFP     INTJ      ESTJ      ESFP     ENTJ     ENFP

ESTJ      ESFJ      ENFJ     ISFJ      INFJ      ENTP    INTP     ISTP

The research suggests you are one of these profiles and that your profile doesn’t change. (Although, there is some evidence that changes can occur).

Have we been comfortable for too long?

Since the 1960s, our workplaces have been environments (mostly) where we have been expected to sit at our desks, do our work, look at the data, make decisions based on the data and operate in a structured and planned environment.

Pre COVID-19, our world of work:

  • Focused on past experience;
  • Integrated new factual information into an internal store of knowledge;
  • Focused on the facts that fit with a person’s interests and prior experience;
  • Applied past experience to problem solving;
  • Expected that others would be very serious and follow rules and procedure to the letter;
  • Placed too much comfort with the status quo, therefore not embracing necessary radical change.

True characteristics of the ISTJ personality profile.

As we all know, the world has now changed dramatically, and our world of work has been flipped on its head. Now, we are now operating in an ENFP landscape.

The emphasis is now on:

  • Exploring the outer world for new ideas, people and possibilities;
  • Seeking ways to create change;
  • Using creativity to solve problems;
  • The future;
  • A preference to rely on ingenuity and the ability to adapt to situations;
  • A lack of respect for traditional ways of doing things and for detailed procedures.

These are true characteristics of the ENFP personality profile – the exact opposite to ISTJ.

What we learn outside of our comfort zones…

Despite many of us experiencing work in isolation over the past 8 months, our work settings have shifted to favour the Extrovert (E). More than ever, we are required to give more of our energy to others because working in isolation means more effort is required to engage, motivate and inspire the people we work with.

During these uncertain times, it’s become essential to tap into our intuitive skills. More conventional methods of information gathering and decision making – such as the use of data reports –  are no longer the primary source or centre of truth. There are many other variables which can now affect a situation, such as how a person’s circumstances have been affected, their confidence levels, or how a business is going to let go of staff. While facts are crucial, our ‘gut instincts’ are also valuable. We are now required to use our Intuition (N) to acknowledge all the variables along with the data to draw our own informed conclusions – we can no longer rely solely on what can be seen such as tangible reports. 

When making decisions, we have become more focussed on the impact any outcome will have on people; to thrive we must ensure we prioritise understanding people’s individual circumstances and how COVID-19 has impacted them, and we are expected to be guided by personal and social values (F).

As part of our survival, our approach to the outside world must be flexible and adaptable (P).

To conclude …

How you receive and give energy:

  • Whether you are an Extrovert or an Introvert, it’s essential to acknowledge where your energy is derived from and what drains your energy. Your energy will be a source of motivation, clarity and engagement.
  • Introverts who are finding themselves Zooming their colleagues daily need to know they will feel exhausted, and it will be vital to recharge by spending quiet time alone. If this is you, take a couple of hours to recharge. 
  • Extroverts could be finding themselves alone throughout the day, so they must get out and be with people. If you know that being with others refuels your energy tank, go to the gym, coffee shop, or somewhere where there is activity.
  • Understanding how you give as well as recharge energy is essential during times of immense change; recharging your inner energy will decrease stress levels and increase focus.

Your preference for taking in information:

  • If you are accustomed to receiving information through reports, and making decisions based on tangible evidence, you may need to now engage your intuitive abilities to help you to make sense of this new world and the unseen.

Your preferences for making decisions:

  • If you have a preference for focusing on return on investment and making decisions based on the logical consequences of an action, you may need to adapt to a mindset that considers the impact on people and their circumstances.

How you approach the outside world:

  • If you have a preference for ensuring systems and processes are in place with a high level of organisation, you may have to adapt to a new environment where spontaneity, flexibility and adaptation have become critical.

It is estimated that ISTJ personalities are the most common profile in the world, accounting for about 13% of the population. Whereas, approximately 5-7 % of the population identify as ENFPs.

So, if you are an ISTJ you may be feeling overwhelmed in this new world. ENFPs, on the other hand, may find themselves thinking, ‘Finally, the world is operating to my preferences!’

Even if you don’t know your Myers-Briggs personality profile, paying attention to and listening to your natural preferences in response to positive and negative happenings in your world, will give you insight into how you can use your responses to proactively navigate change.

Your unique combination of your skills and capabilities is your currency. If you are a senior manager or executive seeking clarity and assistance as you navigate your leadership career in this new world of work, contact Steam Capital, specialists in executive career coaching and executive recruitment.

Libby Marshall

Author Libby Marshall

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