How Australia Post used MBTI personality type to build trust and increase productivity
5 min. read
By now, most managers understand that treating employees like productivity machines is . . . well, counterproductive. To be truly effective at work, people need autonomy, assistance, recognition, and direction – all in varying degrees depending on their personality type. It’s a lot to manage. And it still doesn’t remove the very practical need to meet sales goals and exceed customer expectations.
What can managers do to create a productive, collaborative work environment where everyone feels like their contributions matter? Thanks to research on work teams, we know that effective employee development begins with trust. Without it, collaboration is nearly impossible.
Even if sales goals or KPIs are met, a lack of trust in the workplace will eventually burn out one or more employees. This could result in increased turnover and force managers to start from square one with new employees over and over again. On the other hand, this same research also tells us that teams with high levels of trust are more communicative, resilient, and productive.
To improve efficiency and communication, learn the personality types of the people on your team
If you manage people at work, it will benefit your company to build trust between you and your employees – and among employees themselves. One way to do this is to learn about the personality types on your team. That’s exactly what Australia Post did. The leadership team at the postal service/courier company used the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) assessment to gauge similarities and differences among employees so they could learn to work together more efficiently.
Rod Barnes, General Manager of Network Processing at Australia Post, explained one way that MBTI insights positively impacted both employees and customers: “We just tried something new [after learning about MBTI personality types]. We have one individual that's managing the control room. His job is to make that throughput happen, so we're talking 35,000 parcels an hour. What he’s able to do is tailor his instructions and his conversations to [employee personality preferences]. We’ve seen a lift. And funnily enough, he's had the highest throughput in the last day shift in our major parcel facility . . . [The MBTI] really elevated the level of trust amongst the teams. And once you have trust that's really the foundation of a great team”
Michael Oates, General Manager of Business Sales at Australia Post, specified that to go above and beyond for customers, employees occasionally need to “flex” their personality preferences. In the context of personality type, flexing refers to doing the opposite of what comes naturally to you. We all have innate personality preferences that influence our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. To become a more well-rounded person (or simply to get things done) we sometimes need to go against the grain of those preferences.
For example, a manager with a preference for Intuition might use a lot of metaphors and big-picture concepts when giving instructions. But employees with a preference for Sensing probably want more concrete details. If the manager understands this, they can flex in the opposite direction of their own preferences when addressing employees who prefer Sensing. This could look like offering clearer, more matter-of-fact instructions.
Without understanding how personality preferences work, differences among employees (like the Sensing and Intuition example above) are often discouraged or ignored entirely. This can have a ripple effect that lowers morale and increases frustration. Fortunately, MBTI insights offer a framework to help managers and employees understand and work around these differences. The framework also helps people understand that no personality type is better or worse than another. If people are willing to listen and adapt, everyone wins.
Interestingly, Chris Bresnahan, Operations Director at Australia Post, was surprised by his own personality type. It was only after taking the MBTI assessment that he realized how much he needed to flex at work: “Unless everybody understands what we're trying to achieve and what the important milestones are, we won't be able to deliver for our customers. [I’m an] INFP. I thought I'd be an ISTJ because in operations you tend to have STJs. My team members are mainly ESTJs who prefer exactly the opposite. I've had to flex a lot, but it's really gelled us together and we really perform much better these days.”
Oates added his own experience with flexing: “As an ENFJ, the most critical [preference] for me is Feeling. In terms of the people I manage, the ‘N’ [Intuition] gets me in trouble sometimes, so [knowing my type] truly helped me understand how I can better engage with the team.”
Overall, teams need leaders and managers who are willing to step up and prioritize people over productivity. While job performance will always be important, the most forward-thinking leaders opt for a more well-rounded approach – one that pays off in employee engagement and customer satisfaction. When leaders encourage mutual understanding and awareness, people are more likely to show up as the best versions of themselves at work and in life.
More resources about personality type, leadership, trust, and effective team collaboration: