Identify Your Strengths Using the Myers-Briggs Test Instrument

Myers-Briggs Test Instrument (MBTI) is probably the best known personality assessment on the market. It was originally developed by a couple of American women: Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. It's based on Swiss psychologist Carl Jung's model of psychological types and theory of personality. If you've ever worked in the corporate world you are probably familiar with this tool as it's one of the favorites, especially in Fortune 500 companies.

MBTI has been around since the 1940's and has been improved and refined over the years. Katharine and Isabel determined that there are four personality preference scales and sixteen different personality types. Every person fits into one of these sixteen types. Over the years data has been collected to analyze and provide scientific validation for the test and it's results.

It's based on a belief that all personality types are equally valuable, each having inherent strengths and also some blind spots. Knowing your type can help you to discover what elements motivate and energize us as individuals and using that knowledge to look for those elements in the work we do.

How Does It Work?

The most common way to find out your personality type, or your strengths, is to take the MBTI and have the results interpreted by an expert. I did it the old-fashioned way on paper many years ago. Today you can take the test online. Depending upon which website you choose, I saw prices ranging from $99 ( to $150 for the official version that includes a 1-hour consultation with a certified MBTI expert ( There was a website that had a "free introductory assessment" but I wasn't much impressed by it.

If $150 is out of your price range, a more economical approach is to purchase a book. Do What You Are by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger gives you a way to self-assess your personality type by reading some substantial information and then making your own assessment. There are plenty of guidelines provided and probably most people could do a fairly accurate self-assessment based on the information in the book. They also give you a lot of potential career options in the book, based on your type. It's a good resource even if you've already done the assessment and know your type, but can't remember what it means. It's available on Amazon for around $11 new, or the earlier version for around $9 new.

There are 16 different combinations of letters and you will fit one of those combinations. An example of a result is a 4-letter score, such as ENTP. An ENTP type has these strengths: extroverted (E), intuitive (N), a thinker (T) and perceptive (P).

The letters by themselves don't tell you much -- it's the combination that's important. The Myers-Briggs Foundation website describes an ENTP as follows: "ENTP - Quick, ingenious, stimulating, alert, and outspoken. Resourceful in solving new and challenging problems. Adept at generating conceptual possibilities and then analyzing them strategically. Good at reading other people. Bored by routine, will seldom do the same thing the same way, apt to turn to one new interest after another."

Again, all 16 types have their value and their strengths, so even though you'll have a different type there will be equally good things to say about that type. There isn't one type that is better than others.

I've taken the long form of the survey a couple of times have also taken a shortened form. My results came out basically the same every time (ENTP). How I rated within each category was slightly different from test to test, but that makes sense to me as I also change over time.

I like Myers-Briggs for a high level picture, for example, if I'm really unclear about things. For example, if I was really unclear about what I want to do, this type of survey might help me understand my underlying personality type and point out some careers that would fit well.


Although I find MBTI a very interesting tool, I didn't find it practical to use in the work environment. For example, if someone told me they were an ISTJ I would have to consult a book to figure out what that meant and how I could use this information to work with someone. That's not likely to happen in a rapidly changing workplace where everyone already has too much to do. Even for myself, although I know my type, I need to consult a book occasionally to remind me what that means from a career standpoint. Maybe someone who uses this tool all the time gets better at it, but I never felt like it was easy enough to use in a practical work setting.

So I'd say it's a great tool to help point you in the right direction if you're lost, and to give you some career ideas. But I think there are better tools if you're looking for something to improve your team-building and help your productivity. Management By Strengths (MBS) is particularly useful in this way - you can learn more here.

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