Team Building Part 1: Learning about the Beauty of Personality Differences with the MBTI

Updated: Feb 12

Teamwork is a complicated thing, especially considering how different each person is. How do you prefer to gather information and make decisions? How do you prefer to relate to the outside world, and from where do you get your energy? Different working environments appeal to people differently, and knowing more about yourself and your team will help you build an environment that optimizes individual strengths.

Working together as a team is hard. Each role and each job that is required to put together a yearbook is hard all by itself, and working together and depending on each other is even more challenging.

Working together as a team is hard. Each role and each job that is required to put together a yearbook is hard all by itself, and working together and depending on each other is even more challenging. If your team is struggling and doesn’t have it all together, you’re not alone. Most teams face challenges, like unclear and unproductive communication, different approaches or attitudes leading to a lack of respect or trust, not being able to make consensus decisions when required, having unrealistic or unexamined expectations for each other, or having varying levels of understandings of the common goal. So, there are two key things to understand about teams and, as a team member, these are also two key things to understand about yourself.

First, not everybody is the same. And by that I mean not everybody thinks or feels or reacts or gets motivated or excited like you do. Second point: that doesn’t make them wrong.

First, not everybody is the same. And by that I mean not everybody thinks or feels or reacts or gets motivated or excited like you do. Second point: that doesn’t make them wrong. It’s a good thing that people are different. In fact, we deeply and desperately need each other. Truly successful teams take advantage of the unique strengths and weaknesses and perspectives of the individuals that make up the group. So the point of this series, and especially today’s post, is four-fold. First, to help you and your team understand your individual strengths and challenges. Second, to help you and your team understand how better to communicate with one another. Third, to help you set realistic expectations for each other. And fourth, to improve conflict management between you and your team by improving your appreciation for your individual differences.

By understanding personality types and the often profound differences between people, team members can begin to understand and discuss the dynamics of their team in ways they’ve never done before.

We’re going to do this today by talking about the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, or for short, the MBTI. It was developed by researchers Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers as a framework for understanding communication and working preferences. The Myers Briggs types have been widely used in educational and professional settings for decades now, and have been validated in over 8,000 different research studies. As a team building exercise, which is what we’re going to talk about, the MBTI can be used as a way to open up topics and get people talking about themselves and about their team. By understanding personality types and the often profound differences between people, team members can begin to understand and discuss the dynamics of their team in ways they’ve never done before.


So, what are the benefits of using the MBTI in a team environment? Well, there seem to be six that stand out. First, increasing self-awareness. Second, understanding how others perceive your actions. Third, identifying your assumptions when you interpret other people’s actions. Fourth, learning to change and adapt to others around you. Fifth, improving communication. And sixth, strengthening teamwork and increasing productivity.


Now, about the MBTI instrument – it’s an indicator. That is, it’s a questionnaire. It’s not a test, because there are no right or wrong answers. In the most common version, there are 93 of what they call “forced choice questions,” meaning that you typically only have two options for answers – either answer A or answer B. It usually only takes 40-45 minutes to complete, and your results are confidential. You only share them if you want to.

There are four scales, or four main questions that the MBTI seeks to answer. And all four have to do with your preferences.

Now, about the results. There are four scales, or four main questions that the MBTI seeks to answer. And all four have to do with your preferences. First, “How do you prefer to get your energy?” There are extroverts, or what we call E Types, or introverts, known as I Types. Second, “How do you prefer to gather information?” There are sensors, or S Types, or intuitives, known as N Types. Third, “How do you prefer to make decisions?” There are thinkers, or T’s, or feelers, known as F’s. And fourth, “How do you prefer to relate to the outside world?” There are J’s, or judgers, or P’s, known as perceivers. And of course we’re going to be talking about what each of these letters are in some detail.

Your grade generally does not change over time, but the percentage numbers may change as you have life experiences and adapt to different situations.

Now, the four preferences together make up your whole type. And since there are four variables, you’ll have already figured out that there are sixteen possible personality types. Before we begin, a couple of disclaimers: these are indicators of your preferences, that is, they’re an indication of how you will respond most of the time, or how you feel comfortable in responding. However, that doesn’t mean that you’ll respond this way all the time. Also, you might show a particular preference, which means you have a high percentage, say an 80% T score, or you may land much more towards the middle, meaning your preferences are neutral and you could go either way. Your grade generally does not change over time, but the percentage numbers may change as you have life experiences and adapt to different situations. For example, say you’re a strong T, up to 60 or 70%. That percentage can change over time, sliding closer to an F scale – you would still be a T, but could be down to 10%.

Each of us has many other variables, strengths, and differences that make us unique.

Also, MBTI isn’t the only factor and not the only answer when it comes to personality. Each of us has many other variables, strengths, and differences that make us unique. This is only one (hopefully) useful part of that puzzle. So, it’s important to state that your MBTI is not your identity. Another note: each type is equally valid. There are no wrong answers. So, the MBTI does not assess your intelligence or your aptitude or your skill or your normalcy, okay? So, let’s talk about each of those letters and maybe help you understand how you all are likely very different from each other.

Extroverts typically are energized by being with other people. Introverts are often energized by spending time alone.

First, E’s and I’s, extroverts and introverts. Now, for some people this is the easiest one to understand. The questions are, “How do you deal with people?” “How do you get energy?” Or maybe another way to say it is, “Which world do you prefer to live in? The external world or the world inside your own head?” Extroverts typically are energized by being with other people. Introverts are often energized by spending time alone. Extroverts may enjoy being the center of attention. Introverts usually avoid being the center of attention. Extroverts tend to think out loud. Introverts often think things through before they communicate anything. Extroverts communicate with enthusiasm, while introverts are usually more low key. And extroverts are often more sociable, while introverts might be called “reserved.”

Now, how do extroverts work? Again, on average, extroverts often need lots of interaction with people. So if you have open-door group-oriented spaces, that’s great for them. They prefer a variety of tasks and a faster paced environment.

Now, how do extroverts work? Again, on average, extroverts often need lots of interaction with people. So if you have open-door group-oriented spaces, that’s great for them. They prefer a variety of tasks and a faster paced environment. An extrovert often thinks and talks simultaneously – they may not know what they’re thinking until they say it out loud. An extrovert is great in meetings, so long as they get a chance to talk. Where do extroverts struggle? Desk work or research-heavy positions may feel oppressive to them. Singular, isolated experiences or activities without in-person contact (e.g., getting an email or skype call) is not enough for them. They need in-person interaction, and they struggle without it. Extroverts often won’t enjoy work groups where thinking out loud to solve problems is unacceptable. Extroverts like environments where they can talk about what just popped into their head, and extroverts struggle because they may not be very aware of what’s going on inside themselves emotionally.

How do introverts work? They need space and time to focus on what they’re doing. They prefer environments where they’re able to act autonomously and solve problems on their own, and they often prefer to work independently and without interruptions.

The other side of the coin is introverts. How do introverts work? They need space and time to focus on what they’re doing. They prefer environments where they’re able to act autonomously and solve problems on their own, and they often prefer to work independently and without interruptions. Where do introverts struggle? Well, lots of chatting and large group interaction can get kind of draining. When there’s too many concurrent tasks and demands, when there’s too much verbal feedback, it’s an overload. And brainstorming meetings where they’re supposed to generate instant ideas? That’s doom for an introvert.

Extroverts provide the outwardly directed energy that’s needed to move into action. They offer a responsiveness to what’s going on in the environment, and they’re much more plugged into what’s going on externally than introverts are.

So those are things to keep in mind as you’re setting up the environment for your team – this is how extroverts and introverts are different. Now, what can they offer each other? Extroverts provide the outwardly directed energy that’s needed to move into action. They offer a responsiveness to what’s going on in the environment, and they’re much more plugged into what’s going on externally than introverts are. They often have an innate inclination to converse, to connect to other people. Introverts, on the other hand, have an inwardly directed energy that’s needed for reflection. They offer stability by considering enduring ideas – it’s not always the newest and the shiniest, but rather the most enduring ones that introverts focus on. And, God bless them, introverts have a tendency to relish the solitary jobs that an extrovert would hate.

An intuitive, on the other hand, presents and absorbs information through leaps and bounds and through a very roundabout manner. Sensors work well with details, being very literal.

Now, the second letter. Are you an S or an N, a sensor or an intuitive? Sensors tend to focus on the tangible, the here and the now. Intuitives, on the other hand, are future focused. Sensors often trust the certain and the concrete. Intuitives trust inspiration and inference. Sensors value realism and common sense, while intuitives value imagination and innovation. A sensor likes to use and hone established skills. On the other hand, an intuitive is bored very easily after mastering a task. They don’t want to get better at it, they want to move on to something else. A sensor presents and absorbs information in a step-by-step linear fashion. An intuitive, on the other hand, presents and absorbs information through leaps and bounds and through a very roundabout manner. Sensors work well with details, being very literal. Intuitives tend to be general and big-picture oriented – they’re more figurative than literal.

When a sensor is forced to be a generalist instead of a specialist, they can get frustrated. And being told to come up with new ways of doing things when the old way worked just fine can really drive a sensor crazy.

Now, how do sensors work on average? Sensors are often drawn to realistic or practical work activities, where they get to diagnose and solve immediate problems. They often prefer to develop expertise in a single given area, and they like addressing straightforward issues – nuts and bolts, rubber meets the road kind of situations. And they want to be able to see an end result. Now, on the other hand, how do sensors struggle? For a sensor, abstraction or complexity may be frustrating. They often get dissatisfied when no tangible progress is being made. When a sensor is forced to be a generalist instead of a specialist, they can get frustrated. And being told to come up with new ways of doing things when the old way worked just fine can really drive a sensor crazy.

A job that needs high attention to detail may be very draining for an intuitive. Continued long-term projects may become very boring, and having to do things “the way we’ve always done it” can drive an intuitive crazy.

Now, on the other side of the coin, how do intuitives work? Intuitives often like jobs that require you to read between the lines or discern the meaning. They are often drawn to work that requires insight or imagination, and prefer to remain a generalist rather than becoming a specialist. They enjoy learning a skill, but then move on to something new. Now, where do intuitives struggle? A job that needs high attention to detail may be very draining for an intuitive. Continued long-term projects may become very boring, and having to do things “the way we’ve always done it” can drive an intuitive crazy. They struggle with keeping their focus on the present instead of jumping to the future or to other possibilities.

The sensing types have a mastery of facts and attention to detail – that’s very important! They bring a knowledge of what materials and resources are available.

Now, what can these two types of people, who seem very opposite, offer each other on a team? The sensing types have a mastery of facts and attention to detail – that’s very important! They bring a knowledge of what materials and resources are available. They’re fact people – they appreciate knowing and doing what works. So, process and procedure and facts and data are the realm of the sensing types. Intuitive types on the other hand know by way of insight, and they pay attention to the meanings of things. They bring a grasp of what’s possible, and they pay attention to what the trends are, even if it’s a potential future trend. Intuitives think that way, and sensors tend not to. Intuitives appreciate trying what hasn’t been done before instead of doing the same old same old.


Our time is up, but we have lots more to say, so we’ve created a part 2 for this post about teamwork and the MBTI. We hope you’ll read that one as well, as we talk about the remaining two parts of your type, along with some important things to remember about the Myers Briggs in general.


What have you learned about yourself and your teammates during this time? Knowing how you and your team members work, is there anything you can do to optimize individual strengths? Tune in for part 2, where we’ll be talking about thinkers, feelers, judgers, and perceivers!

Dr. John Tuttle, Curriculum specialist & lecturer


Dr. John Tuttle holds an M.A. in Philosophy of Religion and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from Biola University, where for ten years he was Director of Student Communications, and where he has also been adjunct faculty for several years in the “great books” program.