I have given the Myers Briggs Type Indicator to over 7,000 law firm professionals since 1991 and have found it to be an extremely valuable assessment tool. Recently, the ABA Journal had a cover story on the Myers-Briggs and lawyers that I was quoted in. Did you know that most attorneys are introverts? This is significant because the majority of non-lawyers working in law firms are not. For those of us who work closely with attorneys, this affects how we need to adapt our styles in order to have the best working relationships and achieve desired results. To summarize, introverts do most of their processing internally – which often means that they think things thoroughly in their heads, but sometimes forget to communicate them to others. They also get energy from inside, as opposed to extroverts, who get energy from being around others and often-times get clarity about their thoughts by talking them out.
Why are personality assessments, like the Myers-Briggs, valuable? There are three top benefits:
Knowing how we score on the MBTI makes us even more aware of our preferences. It provides us with insight into how we communicate and work with others. Personally, I am a big-picture person; I love the strategy piece of my business and tend to get weighed down when there are too many details. Knowing that about myself, I like to be surrounded by detail-oriented professionals to complement my big-picture thinking. I believe that one of our biggest challenges as human beings is that we often assume that everyone processes the way we do. Being keenly aware of your natural preferences and how they are different from others’ can make for much better working relations!
Different often feels difficult
Have you ever felt that people you work with are driving you crazy? The reason is that ‘different’ often feels like ‘difficult.’ The MBTI gives us a vocabulary to understand how others process, make decisions and operate – often times in a way that is very different than what we prefer. Unfortunately, there will always be people you find difficult to work with, but if you understand why they operate the way they do (because they see the world differently than you do), your tolerance for their behavior will increase.
Bridging the communication gap
The MBTI gives us the tools to control how our communication is received by speaking in the language that the person we are dealing with understands. Have you ever said A, B, C to someone and they heard X, Y, Z? For example, have you ever worked on a project for a Partner, found the correct answer and when you shared the perfect solution with them, their response was, “Can you show me some other possibilities?” This could be a case where you like closure and are comfortable making a decision, while the Partner needs to see more options before committing. In order to bridge that communication gap, it would be useful for you to present this person with several options before asking them to commit. You have the power to control the process by acknowledging and working with their style!