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A quick note before we start: all the case studies we use in our training etc are real studies, anonymised, cleaned and checked and used with permissions. This example, however, is a stylization and shouldn’t be taken as being indicative of any given client or organization. In other words, I’ve made this one up! 🙂

The MBTI step two is a remarkably powerful psychometric tool.  It takes the MBTI approach to an even more powerful and sophisticated level. In this article I’d like to briefly unpack one example of how the different elements of the MBTI-2 profile build together and interact. I’m going to assume you know quite a bit about MBTI in general, a lot about MBTI step one and even a bit about MBTI step 2.  (You may want to skip back to this article to check up on the step two stuff if you’re not sure.)

Let’s call my stylized MBTI client ‘Peter’.

Peter’s overall preference for Extraversion vs Introversion was to be an Introvert. All his five subscales were on the Introvert side of the scale – although one of them, the last – was only marginally so, suggesting that the way Peter recharged his batteries was fairly conditional on what he’d been doing that made him need of recharging his batteries! 🙂 )    (The scale of Enthusiastic to Quiet measures how people typically tend to prefer to recharge.)

Peter works in a research team, with some administrative and leadership responsibilities which mean interacting not only with the people he works with on a day to day basis, but also with his peers (in terms of seniority) from other departments.

So far so good. Introverts can, after all, be just as good at leadership as Extraverts and can handle meetings just as well.

This is where the power of the step 2 for MBTI comes into its own. Peter’s overall preference for Thinking vs Feeling as clearly as a Feeler. He did, however, have one strong OOPS (something that is a-typical of the overall preference). In Peter’s case this was a high Questioning score. Questioning is typically a Thinking preference score (with the opposite end of the scale, Accommodating, being more typical of ‘Feelers’).

The result of this particular combination was that Peter didn’t say much in meetings – particularly at the start of them, until he had ‘found his feet’. However, later on in a meeting Peter was inclined to allow his Questioning score show itself.

A high Questioning score is associated with such features as:

  • being an independent and critical thinker
  • using questions to sort out clarify what you think you understand
  • using questions to sort out what other people are thinking
  • asking questions even if you agree with what other people are proposing and saying
  • being quite stubborn about getting answers sometimes.

Because Peter is intelligent, his questions often cut right to the heart of the matter, incisively.  People often found them challenging, even when Peter intended them to be simply for clarification or to be helpful.

The issues were that

  • the questions came later on in a meeting – because of Peter’s Introversion. If Peter had asked the question earlier in the meeting, a lot of time could have been saved as his questions often uncovered an assumption, problem or mistake. People felt he was just being spiteful by allowing them to make fools of themselves before ‘pulling the rug out from under them’.
  • the questions were precisely targeted. What I mean by this is that they weren’t vague but instead were well thought out, incisive and perceptive. Again this is because of Peter’s MBTI Introversion, which means he didn’t speak until he’d thought out what he wanted to ask. The effect, however, is that the question often looked malicious, pre-meditated and carefully crafted for maximum embarrassment – especially to the other people in the room who were Extraverts and who tended to think out loud!
  • Peter was known to be, generally, someone with a clear, strong preference towards Feeling. Challenging questions from people who routinely ask challenging questions is one thing: challenging questions from people who are perceived as being much mores supportive, warm, people-orientated people is quite another!

Another way of looking at this is that Peter’s OOPS (Out Of Preference Score) for being Questioning was taking people by surprise and making his questions seem more negative than he intended them to be. His Introversion was acting as a kind of multiplier of this effect, making it more dramatic; his questions are targeted and more noticeable because of the fact that there weren’t many of them!

By looking at Peter’s MBTI-2 subscales as a whole (looking at their pattern) it was possible to explore with Peter where the issue arose. Peter himself, up until this point, was aware that there was a problem – but had been unable to put his finger on what was causing it: his questions, after all, were intended to be supportive and helpful… and besides, he commented, there weren’t many of them!

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