REPOST: Four Functions, Three Rules

by Ron Potter
A Note From the Editor:
As we recently mentioned, we are reposting popular blog posts while Ron is recovering from some health issues. This series was interacted with well, so we hope you enjoy revisiting this introductory post.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) structure is made up of four pairs of functions. Together they combine for a possible 16 different preference types. Notice that I use the word “preference.” These functions have nothing to do with skill or ability, they are simply different preferences for dealing with the world around us.

Experience Preference

Let’s experience a preference in real time. Take a writing instrument and a piece of paper and sign your name to it. I know, I know, I never actually do this either when a book or blog site asks me to do it but I guarantee you will understand it better if you experience it instead of just imagining it. So pick up that pen and sign your name. Thanks.

Photo Credit: Lucas, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Lucas, Creative Commons

Now, put you pen in the opposite hand and sign your name again. When I do this in a team of people the room immediately fills with nervous laughter and chuckles. It can be embarrassing.
When I ask people to describe the experience of that first signature I’ll hear words like:

  • Easy
  • Comfortable
  • Natural
  • Without thinking

When I then ask them to describe the second experience (often after waiting quite a while for them to complete the task) they will use words like:

  • Difficult
  • Awkward
  • It took longer
  • I had to think through almost every letter

This is an example of your personal preference at work. Whether right handed or left, when you’re working from your preference it’s easy, comfortable, and natural and you do it without thinking. Let me suggest right here that if you’re trying to make a decision, maybe you shouldn’t do it “without thinking!” When we force ourselves (individually and collectively) to use our non-preference methods, we’re actually forcing ourselves to think more.

MBTI series headerThe best teams and leaders

Over my consulting career I have observed many teams and leaders improve their effectiveness by learning to balance their MBTI preferences. The most effective teams are the ones that, either naturally or through process balance their preference diversities and use that balance for better decision making and corporate impact. Also, the best leaders I have ever worked with seem to have no strong preferences when it comes to working with their people in spite of the fact that they and I know that they possess very strong personal preferences. Great teams and leaders have learned to balance their natural preferences.

Over the next several blogs we’ll first do an overview of each of the functions and then in subsequent blogs I’ll dig into each one in more depth with some practical applications for creating better dynamics and better decisions making.

So the Four Functions are:
1. Energizing
2. Perceiving
3. Deciding
4. Work Life

And the Three Rules are:
1. Balance
2. Balance
3. Balance

With the proper use of these four functions and three rules you’ll build better teams and become a better leader.

Many of you have shared this learning with me in numerous MBTI sessions. Share with us some of your “ah ha” moments or deeper understanding that have helped you become better leaders and team members.

This post was originally posted here on December 8, 2014.

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