Many smaller businesses have struggled to keep their teams connected during the last few months, and for some, the lockdown has revealed hidden tensions and dynamics that can sometimes hinder performance. Consultant Annelise Cruickshank works with businesses of all sizes to help them use the Myers Briggs questionnaire to improve team dynamics and boost performance.

Q: How do you describe the Myers Briggs process?

It’s a psychometric questionnaire based on the theory that we all have natural preferences and that these preferences affect our behaviours. Understanding our behaviours and the impact they have can help us make better decisions and understand and value people who do not work in the same way as we do.

Q: Is it principally aimed at the individual people who have completed the questionnaire or at managers?

It can work both ways, so if you’ve got a group of people who are working together it can give them more individual awareness. It also gives an appreciation of how they need to be with people who work differently from themselves.

It also gives managers an overview of their team, where the differences lie and where they might need to manage differently so that all members of the team can be most effective.

Q: What’s the process like?

it’s mainly done online and it takes about 30 minutes. You have to answer questions like, ‘Would you rather work for someone who’s always kind or always fair?’; or questions where you choose words that appeal to you most. For example, you might choose between imaginative or matter of fact. You’re encouraged to use your instinct and avoid over-thinking answers.

Once that’s done you get a report based on the answers you’ve given, which gives you a ‘TYPE ’profile. There are 16 different ’TYPES’ based on four aspects:

  • where you focus your attention (what energises you),
  • how you like to organise your life,
  • how you like to make decisions,
  • and how you like to take in information.

Q: Has the process changed?

The process has evolved in the 70+ years it has been in use and it is now used all around the world. The current questionnaire has around 80 questions. It was originally done on paper and now it’s all online. You have to have feedback from a qualified consultant like myself; it’s not a process you can do on your own.

Whether doing it as part of a team or individual development using the MBTI can be a one-off activity or part of an ongoing process with coaching support. It really depends on what the purpose of doing it in the first place was.

Q: Can smaller businesses benefit from this?

Absolutely. And in some ways, it can have a bigger impact at a smaller company, because differences and misunderstandings often affect performance and that’s harder to hide in a smaller organisation. Poor communication, misunderstanding, and disharmony are magnified: people may leave the company more often whereas at a larger firm they may just move jobs or departments.

It can help to make work more enjoyable for people and improve the social relationships within the team; benefits that SMEs value.

Q: What are the most common misconceptions around MB?

The most common one is that there is a ‘right’ style or type – that’s not the case at all; then there’s the idea that it’s a test to select people – again that’s not right. The questionnaire is not about competence or ability; it’s about preferences. We can all work outside our preferences but that may have an impact on our energy levels and consequently on performance in a particular situation.

Some people have criticised it for being too kind, or excessively positive. But my retort to that is nothing is negative or positive on its own – it entirely depends on the context. It depends on how you use your skills and abilities. And some believe you all have to be the same type to get on but that’s not true either.

Q: Where should a small business start on this journey?

First, decide what you want to get out of an activity like this. What are you trying to achieve: is there a problem with the team? Are you trying to develop individuals? Can you sense people aren’t working well together? Once you’ve done that you can either contact a consultant like me or go to the Myers Briggs website directly.