MBTI Step II: why I found it to be a perfect fit
Being an INFJ, I am normally the most empowering and non-autocratic of leaders. But there is one thing on which I am very firm – getting off the fence. I know that we sometimes behave in an extraverted way, and sometimes in a more introverted way, but to sit on the fence as an E/INFJ is to learn very little. Much better, in my view, to put on the ENFJ shoes and walk around for a while, and if they start to pinch and rub then we can see if the INFJ shoes fit any better. I know I am an INFJ because the Extraverted Sensing function stress response fits me perfectly.
Further confirmation comes from the fact that, despite my expressive, active and enthusiastic contributions to the MBTI Step II training programme I attended, I slept most of the following day, and only after several days of reflection was I ready to tell my wife what happened on the training.
So, what did I learn on the MBTI Step II training course? First, here’s the reason why I did it.
Over the past 18 months in my role as Alumni Careers Programme Manager at the University of Oxford, I have helped more than 240 clients through the MBTI Step I process, and I’d say that over half of them end up with a best-fit type that fits them very well – they can make decisions in their life and career consistent with this important piece of self-awareness. However, there is a minority who struggle to reach a best-fit type they’re comfortable with, and it is for these people that I wanted to attend the Step II training: to help people find their best-fit type and understand the flexibility of how it is put into action.
The training itself was a very positive experience. The group type was ENFJ and we were almost all coaches, HR or L&D practitioners of one sort or another, so the group felt comfortable from the first moment. Looking forward, I already have in mind a number of my clients who could benefit from going deeper into MBTI via the Step II process.
The most important thing about Step II is that it gives us a language with which to discuss our MBTI profile in much more detail. With Step II, each of the four dimensions of type is explored in terms of five facets – Expressive–Contained (from the E–I dimension), for example. Each facet score can be in line with its dimension of type – an in-preference score (IPS) – or significantly opposite to its dimension of type, which is an out-of-preference score (OOPS), or it can be in the mid-zone. Mid-zone indicates the potential to flex between in-preference and out-of-preference responses, depending on the circumstances.
Being consistent with the language in the previous paragraph, I have four OOPS, and as a consequence I am described in my report as an ‘Expressive, active, enthusiastic, questioning INFJ’. This description fits me perfectly. When a new job comes in, I have the language that enables me to decide whether I tackle that new job consistent with my natural preferences, or whether I might need to put in a bit of extra energy to be uncharacteristically more analytical or more flexible to get the best results.
So, for those unfamiliar with Step II, what does ‘Expressive, active, enthusiastic, questioning INFJ’ really mean? Let’s start with where the type is clearest.
I am a clear N and a clear J. I have no out-of-preference scores on these two dimensions. In the S–N dimension, I have four in-preference scores for iNtuition: Abstract (versus Concrete), Conceptual (versus Practical), Theoretical (versus Experiential) and Original (versus Traditional). As a consequence, I tend to drive change rather than resist it, I tend to think unconventionally and solve problems creatively and apply numerous models to each problem to see which one helps. In just one facet – Realistic–Imaginative – I am in the mid-zone, and can flex between the two. We can perhaps see this from my career. I am both an academic scientist with 12 publications in six years in the lab, and an inventor with 54 patents in 22 years of Research & Development. I love to use my imagination, but in the end I want my ideas to be applied efficiently in the real world.
In the J–P dimension, I have three in-preference scores consistent with my Judging preference: Planful (versus Open-Ended), Early Starting (versus Pressure-Prompted) and Methodical (versus Emergent). In two facets I am in the mid-zone, so I can flex between being Systematic and Casual, and can flex between being Scheduled and Spontaneous. I think this helps with the creative process, with stress management and with getting the best out of others. I have found that being too controlling can limit the empowerment of others to express themselves. It can also prevent us from being open to new and emerging ideas and trends. From the stress management point of view, in Procter & Gamble we would say ‘it’s only soap’ to keep our fabric-care problems in perspective (albeit $100-billion worth of soap globally).
Looking at the third Step II dimension, T–F, I have four in-preference scores and one out-of-preference score. The four IPS facets consistent with my F preference are: Empathetic (versus Logical), Compassionate (versus Reasonable), Accepting (versus Critical) and Tender (versus Tough). On average, INFJs have a mid-zone on the Questioning versus Accommodating facet, so my OOPS towards Questioning is still in the normal range for INFJs and is consistent with being a coach and a scientist who wants to understand what is really going on.
After 22 years as an executive in American multinational corporations, and four years as a coach giving more than 20 one-to-one coaching sessions and a workshop every week, my behaviour can appear quite Extravert. So while my best-fit type is Introvert, my Step II scores show that from the five E–I facets, I have three OOPS and two mid-zones. The three OOPS that are inconsistent with my introverted preference are: Expressive (versus Contained), Active (versus Reflective) and Enthusiastic (versus Quiet). So, in most of my daily life I look like an Extravert, though in new situations with unfamiliar people I may revert to being Contained, Reflective and Quiet. In my two mid-zone facets I am even more likely to exhibit my introversion preference: in familiar surroundings I may be Initiating, introducing myself to others, and Gregarious, enjoying being part of a large group. But in strange situations, I may be Receiving – allowing others to do the introductions – and Intimate, seeking to share only with smaller groups.
What Step II has really given me is language – the language to be precise when talking about self-awareness.