I was recently asked by a client for an MBTI® success story–the tale of a client system offered up on some website or brochure that would help support a company’s decision to use Type. This client wanted evidence that the MBTI assessment was a powerful tool that would bring about results and bring a return on their client’s investment of time and money. The client found my answer surprising. I told him that he was not likely to find specifically what he was looking for and that more importantly, he should read with great skepticism any such tool-focused ROI (return on investment) case study he may come across.
Validity studies–self-selection type tables, correlations, brain scan research, et cetera–abound supporting the accuracy of Type and the MBTI conceptually. Two books that lead the charge in supporting Type and the MBTI assessment in this way are the MBTI Manual (Myers, McCaulley, Quenk and Hammer, 1998) and Ideas and Evidence (Bayne, 2005). While I urge all certified MBTI users to know the basic research, where to find it and how to use its conclusions, I would like to offer a reframe that allows us to take our attention off the psychometrics of the MBTI assessment and place it onto the trainers, consultants, coaches and counselors who are using the tool, for it is we who are the most important factor in the success of a client engagement, not the tool we choose to use.
Sharp trainers, consultants and coaches facilitating good designs help bring individuals, leaders and teams to the next levels of performance. While I love both Type and the MBTI assessment, neither is the real point or the most valuable commodity–time with a good trainer and the process she or he takes a client through is. Wise clients–and it is in part our responsibility to help our clients make wise choices–are more concerned about the trainer/consultant and the approach he or she will take, not the tool he or she uses.
Not long ago when I wanted a porch built onto my house, I did not hire a hammer. I hired a good carpenter who knew how to use the tools at her disposal to build me what I wanted. It just so happened she used a hammer (among other tools) to reach the end result I had in mind. Similarly, organizational clients don’t care about (or shouldn’t) what tool you will use, but what outcome you help them to bring about. Too much energy is focused on the tool when it is the outcome that is important–and the process that unites us in getting us there. I feel you would be wise to view the MBTI assessment as a hammer–it is a wonderful tool that you can use to build and develop people, teams and human systems, but it is not the point. You and the work you fashion and deliver are the point.
To further the hammer analogy, you can use a hammer to build something useful and beautiful, or you can use a hammer to hurt someone–intentionally or by mistake–but either outcome is due to the one who wields the tool, not the tool itself. The MBTI assessment is a wonderful tool, but when an intervention succeeds, it does so because the trainer and the design effectively pull out the tool’s benefits. Similarly, when a training fails, it does not reflect badly on the Myers-Briggs assessment’s validity–only on the design and the consultant.
I am not suggesting that success case studies or the question of the MBTI assessment’s validity are not important. I am suggesting that any such case studies or marketing materials (testimonials and personal metrics) would and should support ROI for time spent with you, not any given tool.
Remember the cost differential — the MBTI assessment costs about $20 per administration, but a day with a good consultant/trainer costs between $1200 and $3000, often more. This disparity reflects the difference in value. The MBTI in the hands of an incompetent trainer/consultant is of little use-and can even do harm, but a great trainer/consultant can do wonders without any instrument at all. So of course, a sharp trainer with a great tool like Type in his or her hands is a combination hard to beat, but I would not give the credit in this case to the tool.
This reality brings me to two concluding points: if you are the big deal, it is vital you be the best consultant/trainer you can be–and as good as any tool is, it benefits you to diversify your approach to your professional and organizational development.
- Keep your tools varied: Continuing the tool analogy, if your only tool is a hammer, everything you see will look like a nail. Effectively focusing on outcomes and your clients’ needs will lead you to needing multiple tools so that you will have a number of ways to approach any given need that arises in a way that best fits the group or leader you are working with.
- Keep your skills sharp: To keep your type training designs fresh, experiential and client-focused, incorporate as many experiences as you can to have participants learn from and communicate with each other. In general, successful workshops are less about listening to a trainer and more about experiencing a new model and actually applying it to a real-time situation.
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