Improving Business Results Using the MBTI

How can leveraging your type's gifts help you become a more effective leader?

Improving Business Results Using the MBTI

Improving Business Results Using the MBTI

How can leveraging your type's gifts help you become a more effective leader?

Being a long-time consultant to senior leaders in companies of all sizes, and being a ‘textbook’ ENTP, you won’t be surprised to learn that I’m a data junkie for information on how leaders can guide their organizations to success. I pay particular attention to studies released by global consultancies, as they invest ample resources to conduct large, statistically significant studies. I leverage the knowledge produced by such studies to help prospective clients see how the ‘developmental’ work they’ve requested can produce the tangible business outcomes they need.

Just this month, I came across a study that I found particularly relevant to those of us who leverage the MBTI® (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®) instrument into our work with leaders. In this blog post, I’ll first share some noteworthy findings, then describe how I construct MBTI-based solutions to help these leaders improve their organizations’ successes.

The "Leadership Accountability Gap"

Lee Hecht Harrison recently released results of a global study on the "leadership accountability gap". Among their findings, they report that, despite more than 70% of business leaders and HR professionals affirming that leadership accountability is critical to business effectiveness, fewer than one-third of respondents are satisfied by what they see in their organizations.

Satisfaction among European leaders is even lower – it's only 23%. Overall, fewer than half of the participants say their leaders demonstrate satisfactory accountability.

Weak leadership cultures, such as those described in this study, are quite costly to organizations. Such organizations struggle to attract top talent, can’t drive change effectively, and consequently fail to achieve sustainable success. According to Peter Alcide, President and Chief Operating Officer of Lee Hecht Harrison: “By not proactively dealing with weak leadership, organizations breed further mediocrity, exacerbating the core issue[s] over the longer term.”

Call to Action: What to Improve

This study is a call to action for each of us -- the MBTI professionals. These organizations certainly need help to deal proactively with their leadership gaps, and our expertise gives us unique qualifications to contribute to this and make it work successfully.

When proposing work to clients, how often do you directly discuss the economic value that could be generated for the organization?

Citing data from this LHH study provides a great way to show clients the business results they might expect from improving their leadership capabilities. Rather than ‘having a training’, for example, they can see they are actually ‘investing in the organization’s future success’.

The core weaknesses identified in this study are similar to the applications that are often requested by my clients. They are topics that are very responsive to leveraging type knowledge:

  • Managing people
  • Inspiring teams
  • Building healthy cultures

Digging a bit deeper, this study reveals a few specific, and more unique, findings:

  • Organizations with higher leadership accountability are among the top performers in their industries
  • Organizations at the lower performance levels struggle most with 'holding others accountable for high standards of performance' and 'tackling tough issues'
  • Only 20% of companies report that their leaders 'have the courage to address mediocre and unaccountable leaders'

Being type practitioners, we have a vast toolkit at our fingertips, from which we can construct solutions to help clients tackle these and other challenges. And with four out of five organizations seeing their leaders as not having the courage to address mediocre leadership, we know the need is real.

Constructing an MBTI-based Solution

After three decades of introducing personality type to businesses and their leaders, I’ve developed a magic question for solution design:

“What should be better after our engagement, and – if we’re successful – how would that improve your business?”

Clients, after some surprise, may start vaguely with something like ‘we’ll have better team work’. Through dialogue, though, they’ll get more specific. ‘Better teamwork’ becomes 'teams that work better together will generate more and better ideas, evaluate them more thoroughly, and choose actions more quickly, helping us get better products to market more quickly than our competition'. This leads to a solution where understanding and valuing [MBTI-based] differences forms the core to improve all three aspects of their teamwork process. Reframing client needs in terms of the contributing behaviors helps build enthusiasm for the solution we are co-creating.

To approach the leadership accountability challenges described above, let’s follow a similar approach with an imaginary client. We can summarize the need as ‘reducing our leadership accountability gap, or improving our leaders’ skills’. The value to the organization, courtesy of LHH, we can define as better business results. A quick diagnosis, based on the study, suggests that underlying the leadership accountability gap is an underdeveloped ability to have difficult conversations and address hard topics.

Knowing little more than this, we can construct a draft solution that is built on understanding and leveraging MBTI differences, which might resemble the following design for a leadership team session:

To read the specific suggestions for this hypothetical solution, please view it on my OPP blog post.

Being a seasoned MBTI practitioner, I’m comfortable with regularly developing new applications for meeting my clients’ needs. I hope this example encourages you on the same path, and gives you some ideas you can try.

If you are willing to bring new data to clients from published research, you will continue to find new solutions to their organizational challenges, solutions that leverage a tool they already trust, and in which they have already invested.