The Importance of Understanding Communication and Personality Style Preferences

Published: Feb 21, 2022

When I was a young man growing up, I did not understand my personality strengths, and focused on being angry about my weaknesses. 

I could not frankly understand why I was so weak in certain areas, like being hot tempered.  It was very confusing to me. But I was very persistent, and a quick learner, which were definite strengths. 

No-one explained to me that there are different personality types, and that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. And while (yes) I have weaknesses, it is my strengths that would prevail to make me successful in business and in developing important relationships with others.

It was only after working for many years as a banker, that the bank asked me to undergo a *Myers-Briggs personality assessment. The Myers-Briggs personality assessment was an “aha” moment for me! After answering a long and detailed checkbox questionnaire, the Myers-Briggs assessment confirmed that I was an ENTJ: E (extroverted), N (intuition), T (thinking), J (judging). The Myers-Briggs personality test was created by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers in the early 1900s, based on a theory by Carl Jung.  They determined that there are indeed 16 different personality types, identified by a dominant personality preference for 1) extroversion v introversion, 2) sensing v intuition, 3) thinking v feeling, and 4) judging v perceiving.  By asking some pointed questions about a person’s personality style, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) provides a ranking to enable the individual to know their dominant personality style. The aha moment for me was realizing that by understanding my dominant style, I could appreciate that I had strengths and weaknesses, and that others did too.  But the real aha moment came when realizing that by observing the dominant personality style of others, that I could adapt my approach to their relationship to help me be effective in my communication style. For example, if dealing with an engineer who is scientific-minded and perhaps somewhat introverted, one may need to provide more concrete facts in trying to position an idea to sell and allow more time for the concepts and relationship to form.

After undergoing the MBTI, I was then put through a 360-personality assessment. The 360 assessment is an online questionnaire where the same questions are posed to several colleagues to provide an employee with feedback as to how they are perceived.  This was also an “aha” moment for me. In a 360 assessment, an employee typically nominates persons above them (who they report to, or have a seniority relationship with), peers at the same level (who they work with and rely on for support) and juniors (who report to you). Sometimes, it can be extended to clients. All feedback is anonymous. One example question may deal with “collaboration” and how well an employee collaborates. The employee is able to compare how well they feel they collaborate, with the perceptions of overs at different levels. And by knowing how they are perceived; they can try to adapt their style to improve the category outcome.

When taking the Family Enterprise Advisor (FEA) course, we were all put through a similar personality assessment, called Insights Discovery test. Like the MBTI, the insights test is intended to provide individuals with an understanding of their communication preferences and personality styles. The discovery test is more detailed than the MBTI and has a wider scale of ranking using color coding – cool blue (precise, formal—let’s do it right), fiery red (bold, aggressive – let’s do it now), earthy green (calm, tranquil – let’s do it in a caring way), and sunshine yellow (outgoing, cheerful – let’s do it together). The insights test goes on to rank the intensity of the colors based on preferences so that individuals can understand the slight and strongest preferences.

When you understand yourself better and are also able to size up the personality type of the person you are engaging with, you are no doubt able to be a more effective communicator and stronger negotiator.   

I have found these tests to be one of my most important life changing experiences and wish it had been taught in school when I was young to have saved me the years of torment asking myself so many questions.

These personality assessment tests have a very meaningful role in the context of Family Enterprise Planning and are available online from many vendors. 

It is critical for family members to acknowledge their personality differences (and not just feel they are right and everyone else is wrong), and that everyone has dominant personality traits. By understanding those traits and adapting their approach to the personality type at play, family members can be more effective in their communication style. And that is critical in the context of family continuity planning were staying together for the welfare of the enterprise plays such a pivotal role. 

Decision Tree Question: Think it through and go back to the start and ask, “Are you a family enterprise”?

*There has been some controversy over the Myers-Briggs personality test assessment, and readers are encouraged to make their own evaluation of the merits of using any personality test.

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