Take the Second Step by Erin Heeney


Lean in. Look inward. Take the lead. Take the second step. We hear these adages frequently in our lives but how often do we have a tool that can help us do so? Yes, we have coaches, mentors, friends, counsellors, leaders, and the list goes on of people who will encourage us to take the leap and go beyond the first step. But tools to help us with that? Tools that will give us actual insight to our decision making, thought process, attitudes, and behaviours? Tools that help us understand ourselves so we can improve our communication, decision making, change and conflict management?

Enter MBTI - the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

Throughout my career, I've done numerous "personality tests". The problem was, I never remembered "what" I was. I've always fallen somewhere in the middle on most of those types of tests, whether it's learning styles or personality. So, when I joined Praxis under the guidance of two MBTI certified professionals, I was intrigued. I knew there had to be something more than what I had previously been exposed to.

So. Much. More.

The missing key to my previous experiences was the Second Step. This is where we really dig in to all the facets that shape our personalities.

When I sat down to take the simple 20-minute online test, I sometimes found it hard to choose between only two options. I also felt like I was contradicting myself with some of my answers.  A couple examples:
I like flexibility and adapting to each day, but I also like setting a plan and having some routine activities.
Sometimes I dive right in to tasks, other times I make lists and set timelines.

So how was this system of forced choice going to dig in to that grey area of my life? What little did I know. Oh, what little did I know!

MBTI Step I is the big picture, it's the either or of the 4 main dichotomies and preferences that shape our personalities. Yes, there's a scale, but at the end of it, we're left with 4 letters to define our personalities. We prefer either:

Introversion or Extroversion (I or E)
·         How we give our attention and energy to the world
·         Es focus outward and get energy through interacting with people and/or doing things
·         Is focus inward and get energy through reflecting and time alone

Sensing or Intuition (S or N)
·         How we bring in information and the type of information that we trust
·         Ss notice and trust facts, details, and present realities
·         Ns attend to and trust interrelationships, theories, and future possibilities

Thinking or Feeling (T or F)
·         The way we make decisions
·         Ts make decisions using logical analysis to achieve objectivity
·         Fs make decisions using person-centred values to achieve harmony

Judging or Perceiving (J or P)
·         Our attitude to the external world and how we orient ourselves to it
·         Js are organized, orderly, and tend to make decisions quickly
·         Ps are flexible, adaptable, and keep options open as long as possible

The key word here is prefer. Neither is better than the other, one isn't right and the other wrong, they're just different ways of perceiving and doing. We can do both, but not with equal comfort. We can do both, but not at the same time. Like writing, we have a dominant and non-dominant hand. We default to use one, but we can use the other. And the more we practice using the other, the more comfortable it becomes.

So what am I? Well, I'm an INFP. I am most definitely an INFP. I know this because not only did a fancy and fascinating 17-page report say so, but because after taking that simple online test, I sat in a room with other business leaders facilitated by Christina and Drew, to dig in and truly understand the differences between the dichotomies and do a self-assessment before seeing the results of the report. In both cases, it was pretty clear that I'm an INP, but the F was a little more challenging to determine.


And this is where we loop back to Step II. The Facets. Within those 8 letters, each has 5 facets and each facet is a theme. For example, ways to connect with others has two poles: initiating a receiving. This is where it gets complex, but not complicated. Because this is also where light is shed on the fact that I am indeed, smack dab in the middle of methodical (plan specific tasks, subtasks, and organized) and emergent (plunge in, let strategies emerge, and adaptable). The system of forced choice did it! It dug in to the grey areas of my life and highlighted that I can be both and that I am somewhere in between and that it's ok!

If you've ever questioned or criticized personality tests, I challenge you to dig deeper and take the second step lead by a trained facilitator. And while the interpretive report may take a bit of naval gazing, it will give you insight to yourself and your team that will improve communication and enhance understanding.

It also helps you embrace and understand things like the pressure prompted buzz us Ps love. Because yes, while I've been contemplating and writing this post in my mind for almost two weeks now, it wasn't until the (self-imposed) timeline of publishing it today, that I actually sat down to put fingers to keyboard.