Are you an NT or an SJ? Are you a D personality or an S personality? Melancholic or Phlegmatic?
Knowing personality type in the business world is like knowing your astrological sign in dating. When someone asks, “What’s your sign?” they are both trying to open a conversation with you and learn something about you. If a man tells you he is a Pisces, you might expect him to be introspective and sensitive to the feelings of others. If a woman tells you she is a Leo, expect her to be outgoing and fun-loving, but watch out for her stubborn streak!
What if a man told you he had an SJ personality? Let him pick you up at your door and pick up the check. He values tradition. If a woman were to tell you she has an NT personality, expect she will come across as a bit aloof and will take more time to get to know.
This is the essence of type theory. It is used to understand and predict behavior. The oldest known type theory came from Hippocrates, who divided all individuals into four personality types based on bodily fluids, specifically the phlegmatic, choleric, sanguine and melancholic types. Carl Jung created a system of personality theory based on dichotomies of preferences, and his work became the basis of the system created by Isabel Myers and Katheryn Briggs, known as the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI). The MBTI divides individuals into 16 distinct personality types, and these are grouped into four different temperaments. Another popular instrument is the DISC personality assessment, which stand for Directing, Influencing, Steady and Conscientious. Four seems to be the magic number in type theory.
The idea here is that if you know a person’s personality type, you can begin to make predictions about that person’s preferences for communication, motivation, working environment, coping with stress and so on. The trick is knowing the other person’s type. Knowing your own type doesn’t hurt, either. The easiest of these systems to use if you do not have the luxury of administering a test to determine the personality type is DISC. Once you understand each of the four types, you can pick up clues early on as to a person’s type and begin making inferences about the person’s personality.
There are plenty of instruments and training applications available for the practical use of type theory in business. Common applications include team building, leadership development, hiring and communication styles. For instance, I sent two managers to a training course on communication skills and found the workbook they brought back had an entire section on DISC. Some resources include:
- Disc Profile at www.DiscProfile.com offers online and paper assessment tools, training, and applications for work expectations and team dimensions.
- DISC Insights at www.discinsights.com offers customized reports for specific applications.
- CPP, Inc. at www.ccp.com provides organizational development consulting using the MBTI as one of its instruments.
- Tracom Group at www.tracomcorp.com has developed its own Social Styles for performance consulting and team building. It’s similar to the DISC model.
You can also read The Art of Speed Reading People by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger for a thorough lesson on the use of MBTI in business settings. The same authors wrote Do What You Are, which is type theory’s answer to What Color Is Your Parachute?
Once you become adept at understanding and using type theory, the applications are endless. However, I still believe the best application of any such theory is self-awareness and understanding. That is, after all, where all emotional intelligence begins.
 Tieger, Paul D. and Barron-Tieger, Barbara. The Art of Speed Reading People. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1998.
 Tieger, Paul D, and Barron-Tieger, Barbara. Do What You Are. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1995.
 Bolles, Richard N. What Color Is Your Parachute? Berkley: Ten Speed Press, 2002.