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The Power of Three

All of us find ignoring feedback quite easy—all too often the source doesn’t really understand the situation, or your intentions, or how different your needs are from others, right? Ignoring results on many psychological assessments or instruments can be easy,…

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MBTI® Step III and Coaching

Ann Step III
View Ann Holm’s Video on Step III

MBTI® Step I is a tool for identifying your preferences for gaining energy, gathering information, making decisions, and approaching life. The result is a four-letter code such as my preferences for INFJ.

MBTI® Step II adds 20 facets–five “nuances” for each of the preference pairs that describe differences in people with each preference. For example, I am an Initiating Introvert, rather than a Receiving Introvert–I find it easier than many people with my preferences to introduce myself to new people and to interact at business and social gatherings. This is probably a learned behavior, the result of being the daughter of a community organizer who, probably before we could even talk, had my brothers and me involved in pancake breakfasts and volunteer assembly lines.

MBTI® Step III was introduced in 2009, although its development began over 50 years ago as Isabel Myers studied the importance of type development. While the other instruments help us identify preferences, Step III probes how effectively we perceive and judge, the heart of the framework of type. While we have a preferred way of perceiving, through Sensing or Intuition, and a preferred way of judging, through Thinking or Feeling, preference does not guarantee skill. Further, maturity requires using the appropriate balance of preferences for a given situation (See Psychological Type: The Essentials for more information).

I’m very new to using Step III, having completed CAPT’s certification program last summer, but I’m already finding it to be a key assessment for coaching for three reasons:

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Do You Really Know—and Use!—Your 4-Letter MBTI® Code?

Adam Grant’s recent post Goodbye to the MBTI® has gathered forces both for and against personality type theory. The comments are full of people who agree with him. Rich Thompson’s post nicely outlines the research behind this instrument. Hile Rutledge’s calm response The MBTI®–My Most Valid Tool highlights the benefits of the instrument and the framework. And Jennifer Selby Long adds info on the MBTI/Big 5 debate.

I’ll take a different direction here. As I read all the comments to these blogs, I wondered, “Did they really take the MBTI® and was it properly administered?”

For group adminstrations, I often first ask, “How many of you have taken the MBTI before?” As many as ¾ of the participants raise hands. “How many of you remember your four-letter code?” Perhaps 20 percent of the hands stay up. I remind them that ESPN is a network, not a type, and then ask, “How many of you had the chance to apply the framework of type to your team, or career, or marriage, or parenting, or personal development, or any of the other deep applications?” And only a few hands remain in the air. When asked, these people willingly share stories of the differences understanding these basic differences among people can make.

So how do you know if you really know your type? Most people who find the theory a waste of time haven’t been through an ethical interpretation. Here’s a quick guide to finding out:

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Fairy Tales, The MBTI and Other Truths

oatmealIt rained in Minnesota just about every day in June–after raining 28 out of 31 days in May. Granted we’re out of the severe drought that plagued our state the past 9 months, but I started wishing that I had control of a precipitation on/off switch. How hard could it be to keep it all in moderation?

Pondering this while out running in the local park-turned-rain-forest, the old fairy tale about the porridge pot came to mind. Grandpa had a magic porridge pot. He’d say “Cook, little pot, cook” and it’d bubble up perfect oatmeal. “Stop, little pot, stop” were the magic words that put a lid on it, so to speak. When the granddaughter was hungry one morning, she chanted, “Cook, little pot, cook,” and filled her bowl, but then couldn’t remember how to get it to stop. Soon the porridge overflowed, over the table, across the floor, out the door, down the streets…until Grandpa charged through the mess and cried, “Stop, little pot, stop!”

Sound familiar? Versions of this tale exist in folklore around the world. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, perhaps best remembered with all of the brooms chasing Mickey Mouse. In one country, rice overflows. In every case, humans think they know enough to take control of something–and learn quickly that they haven’t a clue. These may be folk and fairy tales, but they name a truth about human nature.

So does Jungian psychological type theory, or personality type, popularized by the MBTI (r). The theory describes a universal truth, recognized around the world for centuries: Yes, each person is unique, but there are certain patterns in how we approach life. The Greeks described these as temperaments. Isabel Myers and her mother Katherine Briggs recognized these patterns in the people around them, and then embraced how Jung described the same patterns in Psychological Types.

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