Pushback, Agreement & Motivation

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Three Tips for Running a MBTI ® Team Building Workshop

Written by Patrick L. Kerwin

It seems simple enough, doesn’t it? Put together an MBTI ® team building workshop that is fun, engaging, and makes a difference in how the team operates. But oh, the things that can go wrong!

From conducting many successful – and a few disastrous – MBTI workshops over the years, I’ve come up with three tips for running effective MBTI team building workshops:

TIP #1 Be ready for pushback

Not everyone agrees with Jung’s theory of personality, and that doesn’t have to derail a workshop. In two recent workshops – one with the senior leadership team of a top-ranked university, and the other with a senior leadership team of a major pharmaceutical company – there was one individual in each group who adamantly disagreed with the notion that “type does not change.” Even with an explanation of type development and the idea of growing from where one is planted, nothing could change their minds.

In my early years of using type, such a scenario would have made me anxious, or I would have kept at it until they saw “the light.” But it reminds me of that saying, “Don’t try and teach a pig to sing. It’s a waste of time, and annoys the pig.” So be prepared to respond – after a bit of singing lessons, perhaps – with something like, “Disagreeing with part of Jung’s theory doesn’t need to diminish the utility of the MBTI instrument – so let’s see if we can find something of value in using type to understand the differences among individuals.” Works like a charm.

TIP #2  Set the stage

This tip is the result of a very, shall we say, “challenging” MBTI workshop I conducted several years ago. I had done my due diligence prior to the workshop, emailing the team for input in order to detect any major issues or dysfunction in the team, and all seemed fine. During the workshop, however, things went amiss. The conversation turned to “all those other people who should be using type to understand what we need.” And it finally dawned on me: No one here wants to change

And who can blame them? Change is hard! But the flexing of one’s style is a key factor – and probably the factor – in having type make a difference on a team, or in any application for that matter.

So now I always include a slide that spells out some simple tenets that need to be agreed upon by the team in order for the MBTI instrument to work:

  • Everyone has natural ways of doing things, and those natural ways often differ among individuals. [Note: This one is usually a slam-dunk in getting agreement from the group.]
  • Everyone has the innate urge to grow and develop. [Note: This is starting to sound suspiciously like change… but it’s vague enough that everyone usually agrees.]
  • You’ll be more effective if you reach someone in their style vs. your own. [Note: Aha, there’s the catch! This one might elicit some grumbling, but it is a hard one to argue with – so again, there’s usually agreement.]

The beauty of laying out these tenets from the beginning of the workshop is that you can refer back to them as needed during the workshop. So if, when trying to apply type to a communication challenge on a team, one of your workshop participants blurts out (as happened to me one time), “I do it that way because THAT’S THE WAY I LIKE IT!”, you can gently remind them of the stage you all set together at the beginning of the workshop. So it’s useful, but not the magic bullet. Keep reading…

TIP #3 What’s the motivation?

Speaking of change, people usually need a pretty good reason to do it. And reminding them that they agreed to change is a start, but will only go so far. This is where type once again comes in handy. For instance, I once worked with a team of auditors, and there was one auditor (ISTJ) who was having performance issues on the job. [This is a good reminder that type and skill can be two separate animals.]

The presenting issue was that the auditor’s primary internal customer (INFJ) felt that he was not receiving useful audit reviews from the auditor. We reviewed some common characteristics and needs of INFJs, and discussed strategies the auditor could use to better reach his INFJ client. At which point, the auditor replied, “Well if you want me to be all touchy feely, fine, I can do that.” Hmmm… not quite what I had in mind.

Clearly I had missed the mark somehow. And then I remembered, “He has preferences for ISTJ!” Those two middle letters are the core of personality, and speaking to them will help motivate change. What I needed to do was bait the hook with something that appealed to his ST preferences.

So I asked him, “How accurate are your audit reports?” And he replied, “They’re always accurate.” And then I asked, “OK. How efficient and effective are your audit review meetings?” Long pause. “Not very,” he admitted. We then had a discussion about how altering his style could actually make his audit finding meetings run much more efficiently and effectively – and that was the perfect ST worm on the hook. Gulp.

So remember the motivations:


Making a change will increase efficiency and the utility of your role


Making a change will increase cutomer service and the usefulness of service you provide


Making a change will improve the personal growth & development of others and yourself


Making a change will increase organization competence and your personal competence

Remembering these tips can make a marked difference in the effectiveness of the MBTI team building workshops you conduct.

Patrick L. Kerwin specializes in the areas of organizational development and training, workshop design and delivery, and career development. He has an MBA and a Career Counseling Specialist Graduate Certificate from California State University, Long Beach; and he is a National Certified Counselor.


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