Motivation is tricky. Many great blogs like Doris Tirone’s post talk about the dangers of believing a supervisor alone can motivate someone to be more efficient. External (extrinsic) motivators like money or praise are helpful, but internal (intrinsic) motivators are stronger and salient. One of the tools I have found most useful to understanding intrinsic motivators is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
Each type is assigned a four letter code that explains four functions of human personality. These are:
1. how energy is directed (Extrovert/Introvert) – are you recharged by socializing or by alone time
2. data gathering (Sensing/iNtuition) – to understand the world do you record all the facts or get a feel everything by watching everyone’s behavior
3. decision making (Thinking/Feeling) – are your decisions based on logical deductions or “gut feel” from personal experiences
4. attitude towards the external world (Judging/Perceiving) – do you seem to make decisions quickly based on data or do you just keep observing things without judging them
Dominant mental functions do not insinuate that you cannot perform the opposite. Extroverts typically recharge by socializing, but can use alone time to reflect. In fact, part of personal growth is building up skills in your weaker traits.
Why Understanding Matters
Understanding your type will help you communicate with others more successfully. For example, Perceivers observe the world and store all the details in their mental filing cabinets. Judgers write facts in their notebook. Ps want to gather more data, while Js want make a decision quickly based on a key facts. No one way is better, but these different styles can lead to conflict. J type supervisors can erroneously mark P employees down as “being unfocused”.
Types and Motivation
What does this mean for motivation? Understanding what makes your personality click helps you find the career and work that naturally get you excited. If work is drudgery, then maybe it’s a mismatch of personality and career or a mismatch of personality and office culture.
Full disclosure – I have been going through a tough stretch at work. My duties focused on finding innovative solutions to business problems until I was detailed into a more traditional project management role. I took it hard. I began to question everything.
I reviewed my personality profile from attending National Defense University’s Advanced Management Program (41). I realized the dissatisfaction I felt was not from the re-shuffling of my team or the daily frustrations with management. Those were common issues that I dealt with before. The issue was that my new assignment was the exact opposite of my ENFP personality type.
ENFPs are people focused and malleable to many job situations and careers. ENFPs need to be creative and innovative to feel excited. We are bored by routine. ENFPs do not react well to feeling controlled and dislike controlling others. My new duties are the exact opposite of what my personality type needs to thrive. Simple changes can make a toxic environment positive again. The key is understanding what the personality types in the environment need to thrive.
Learning about your inferior (least preferred) function is very important. In an odd twist of human psychology, the inferior function is the one that takes over when stressed. Developing a level of comfort with your inferior function helps you cope and regain your dominant one during times of stress.
7 Tips for using personality type to increase motivation
1. Learn the strengths and weaknesses of your personality type and others in your life.
2. Realize that you must relate to others’ dominant traits to have any influence on their thinking. iNtuitives want to understand the big picture, while Sensors want all the facts. Include detailed facts in your presentations and relate them to the big picture to appeal to everyone.
3. Partner with people whose traits compliment yours. ENFPs are great at starting projects while ISFJs are great at finishing efforts. This complementary arrangement plays well to each types strengths and motivations.
4. Understand what each type needs from supervisors and vice versa. Some need more encouragement while others feel stifled by frequent checks. Knowing is key to feeling valued and motivated.
5. Understand your stress reaction – when you “don’t feel like yourself” stress is activating your inferior function. Work to improve your inferior function to move your reaction towards the dominant one.
6. Part of your life’s journey is to strengthen your opposite traits – the phrase “opposite attract” is because people intrinsically see opposite personality types as a way to learn how to strengthen their inferior functions.
7. As you age, your inferior function becomes stronger making it seem like you “flip” as you get older. Be aware of this and balance your level of comfort and self-awareness.
- NOTE: All views and opinions are those of the author only and not official statements or endorsements of any public or private sector employer, organization or related entity.
Chaeny Emanavin is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.