Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Knowing Thyself

This past week I took the Keirsey Temperament Sorter II (, which is an evolved and more behavioral application of the classic MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) inventory that places individuals in a combination of 16 potential personality types.

I learned that my personal growth, professional development and experiences across the past decade now places me as an ENFJ, compared with an ENTJ classification of about a decade ago and the INTJ result that emerged when I first took the inventory in the mid-1990s. Apparently my capacity for extraverted behavior—with aspects such as sociability, interaction, and multiplicity of relationships—has expanded quite a bit across the past 15 years, although internal focus and depth are still of great value to me. This makes sense to me, since this is the time period during which I have become an executive/life coach and a public speaker/trainer in addition to enhancing my lifelong writing vocation. And the F has now edged out the T, meaning that qualities such as values, appreciation and intimacy are more behavioral in me as compared with policies, laws and categories.

My N (intuition) and J (judging) components have remained dominant and consistent across the years whenever I have taken this particular assessment. I’ve always been a person who is drawn toward abstract, creative approaches, while also preferring to be organized, have a plan and be on time!

ENFJs are rare among the 16 types, the research shows—only about 2 percent of all respondents, although I seem to keep “running into them” and happen to be married to one. One label for this particular combination that makes me laugh is “Smooth Talking Persuader.” Hopefully I’ll live up to this one day.

Furthermore, ENFJs fall into one of four specific “temperament categories” identified by Keirsey, with mine being the “Idealists.” (The other three temperaments are “Artisan,” “Guardian” and “Rational.”) Idealists trust their intuition, yearn for romance, seek their true self, and prize meaningful relationships while seeking to attain wisdom. We tend to be very trusting, quite spiritual, and rather focused on personal journeys and human potential. Among our ranks have been Gandhi, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Moyers and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Idealists as a whole make up about 15-20 percent of the population, according to Keirsey. Drilling down further within the Idealist temperament, ENTFs in particular are specifically identified as “Teachers,” whose greatest strength often lies in their belief in their students.

I find these sorts of assessments very interesting and often affirming, and enjoy how they synergize with other key instruments I have taken such as The Gallup Organization’s StrengthsFinder (, the DiSC tool and the various spiritual gifts inventories produced by Christian organizations. Each fills in a key dimension that helps to foster self-awareness and application, and the confluence of all of them has made me more intentional in my career choices and subject matters of study.

I encourage everyone to take one or more of these assessments; not to “completely figure out” who you are—because no assessment can ever fully capture the complexity of a human being—but to embrace helpful frameworks for unleashing epiphanies, affirmations and deeper measures of confidence as you move forward. They also help us to more fully understand another person’s behavior, and develop strategies for stronger relationships and leadership. I have found it particularly effective when an entire work group takes one of these assessments together, and follows through with meaningful discussion that leads to changes in how its members operate.

Taking the same assessment again after a number of years also provides an interesting perspective for how one grows and evolves—a healthy dynamic of intellectual, spiritual and emotional living. When I study my personal and career journey side-by-side with the results of these assessments at key benchmark moments, things make a lot of sense to me.


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