Why are Business Owners & Entrepreneurs So Obsessed with Personality Tests?
Do you ever wonder why we all keep banging on about ‘Myers Briggs Types’ and ‘Enneagrams’ and all that stuff?
As a collective of people, I’d say we’re pretty obsessed with these types of personality tests and psychometric studies; you see it in business books, blog posts, at conferences and for many larger organisations, it’s a built-in part of their internal community.
But why are we all so interested in these tests and how are they beneficial for business?
Myers Briggs Type Indicators
What is it?
Created in the early 1900s, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) uses a combination of 4 dichotomies to create 16 different personality types. The dichotomies are as below, and depending on how strongly people relate to the ends of the spectrum of each, will provide initials that make up a 4-letter type:
Extraversion vs. Introversion (E and I)
An extraverted person thrives off social situations; it gives them life and fulfils them. Meanwhile an introverted person finds social situations and lots of input from the outside world more mentally exhausting.
Sensing vs. Intuition (S and N)
This is a question of how you process new information; a ‘Sensing’ person would use their 5 senses in quite a logical way, whereas an ‘Intuition’ person would interpret information by adding meaning from their own ‘sixth sense’, gut feeling, or imagination.
Thinking vs. Feeling (T and F)
This is about how you make decisions. A ‘Thinking’ person would use more of a logical approach and looking at facts and objective principals to make decisions, whereas a ‘Feeling’ person would focus more on emotional and personal factors when making decisions.
Judging vs. Perceiving (J and P)
When it comes to approaching life and dealing with the outside world, a ‘Judging’ person prefers structure and order, whereas a ‘Perceiving’ person has a more flexible, open approach, and find it easier to be spontaneous.
Therefore the 16 types you would end up with are: ESTJ, ENTJ, ESFP, INTJ, ISFP, etc etc.
Please note that the descriptions above are incredibly basic and surface level - there are whole books written about what each of these means and many in-depth articles online that you can find, but this is the most basic way I could write them in a sentence or two! If you’re interested in finding out more, I’d highly recommend the book Type Talk*.
You can also consider each of these opposing preferences as a spectrum too; no one is going to be 100% one or the other of any of these, which is why in reality we don’t just have 16 types of people; we have a broad range of personalities but the MBTI suggests that there are 16 core similarities.
Interested in doing a basic test? Check out the 16Personalities website.
My myers briggs type:
I am straight down the middle of an INFJ and an INFP; my Judging and Perceiving is split 50%, which I like to think gives me the perfect balance of being both structured and flexible when it comes to my approach to life! It’s widely known as the ‘Mediator’ personality due to its empathetic focus.
Introversion is an interesting one, because many people think that if you are introverted, it means you are socially awkward or dislike being with other people. I mean yes, I can be awkward but that’s not really related to introversion (you can get awkward extroverts too!). I personally enjoy the company of other people, including large groups, but mainly if they are people I know and are friends with, and I also enjoy going out to festivals and places with large crowds. However, I find meeting new people and ‘networking’ stressful and very draining, and need time to recharge after being with lots of people for a long time - that is the real definition of an introvert.
I am very strongly ‘Intuitive’ and ‘Feeling’, which basically means I focus a lot on emotions, gut feelings, imagination and empathy, rather than using logic and reason when processing information and making decisions.
What is it?
The Enneagram is a model that dates back to the 14th century, and stems from the Greek word ‘ennea’, which means ‘nine’. In this test, there are 9 different interconnected personality types. At their basic level, the Enneagram types are based on what motivates you and what you really seek out of your life. Below are the 9 types:
Type 1: Reformer/Perfectionist
Seeking integrity and balance.
Type 2: Helper & Giver
Seeking connection and love.
Type 3: Achiever
Seeking the feeling of being valued and recognition.
Type 4: Individualist
Seeking identity and to be uniquely themselves.
Type 5: Investigator
Seeking clarity, mastery and understanding.
Type 6: Loyalist & Skeptic
Seeking support and guidance.
Type 7: Enthusiast
Seeking freedom and adventure.
Type 8: Challenger & Protector
Seeking power and control.
Type 9: Mediator
Seeking harmony and peace of mind.
A fantastic book for learning more about each type, their strengths, weaknesses and more, is The Modern Enneagram*. If you’d like to take a free test to find out your Enneagram, you can head to the Similar Minds website.
Funnily enough, my Enneagram type matches up pretty perfectly with my Myers Briggs type - I am Type 9 (aka, the ‘Mediator’).
At first I rejected this type; I’m confident in my own desires in life and I first read it as meaning that I will go to any means to make others happy and will forgo my own wants in favour of what other people want. I USED to be like that but over the last few years I have definitely learned to prioritise myself more and I won’t try to appease people for the sake of it.
However, after reading more into it, I discovered that it actually means my greatest desire in life is to have inner peace and harmony within myself. Which is absolutely true and is my main motivator in life! I’ve always said my personal view of what success looks like is for me to be happy (rather than rich or famous, for example), and I live a pretty stress-free life that I have designed through having a ‘lifestyle business’ (rather than an ambitious, high growth empire!) because my priority is to be happy and relaxed.
Why are they useful for business owners & entrepreneurs?
Personal strengths & weaknesses
When you discover what your personality type is, you can get a better idea of your natural strengths and weaknesses, and how your personality affects the way you work. Once you realise that actually you’re someone who naturally prefers a flexible, less-structured routine, for example, then you can change the way you were to better suit your strengths. Or if you’re finding that you’re more introverted than you thought and you’re ending up exhausted at the end of the day, perhaps you could try working from home rather than being in an open plan shared space?
Meanwhile with your Enneagram, it’s very much about what you’re motivated by, which can help you understand how to be more productive and what’s going to be the driver behind what you do. For me, I know I’m not motivated by power, or perfectionism, for example - what motivates me is maintaining my inner calm and leading a joyful life - which means I always analyse any opportunities to make sure that this will fit with my goals.
Understanding your clients
A fantastic exercise that can seriously up-level your marketing is to work out what personality type your target customers might be. Because once you know this, you can better understand their strengths and weaknesses (where do they need you to help them? How can you serve them better?) and know what motivates them and drives them through life and in making decisions.
Understanding your team
Whether you’re a freelancer outsourcing help from a VA or collaborating with another contractor, or a small business hiring employees, understanding the personality types of your teams is so important for building valuable relationships AND an effective business where everyone is working at their best.
If someone on your team is an Enneagram Type 3 (an achiever who seeks recognition and feeling valued), they’re going to work so much better if you consistently reward them with outward recognition for their hard work. Meanwhile with a Type 1, giving them plenty of time before a deadline rather than rushing them means they can have the space to get it perfect, which will be fulfilling for them.
With the Myers Briggs types, perhaps you have a strongly ‘Perceiving’ personality (someone who prefers flexibility vs structure) and they’re going to be happier and get more done if you give them more flexible hours than a strict daily routine.
Knowing more about the people you work with means that you can do little things that can potentially improve their overall happiness, motivation and therefore productivity at work.
My thoughts on tests like these…
Don’t get me wrong, I love personality tests and think it’s a fantastic way to find out more about yourself and other people - with all the benefits listed above! However, I would caution that once you’ve discovered your type it can be very easy to put yourself and others into boxes.
When you do that, you can restrict yourself from opportunities, you can use your type as an excuse for negative behaviours, and you can be quick to judge others and make assumptions about them.
I would recommend taking these types with a pinch of salt; you are (and everybody else is) a unique individual who can’t realistically be labelled so confidently from a 3 minute test taken online. With deeper research they can be extremely valuable, but at the same time I personally think it’s also important to treat people as individuals, and recognise that we are all unique!
Have you tried either of these tests? If so share below what you are and how the knowledge has helped you!
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