Forget about your degree that you spent thousands of dollars to earn. Forget about the twelve years of professional experience. Forget about your intelligence, flexibility, discernment. When it comes to enjoying success in the business world, there is one indicator that is more predictable than others. And, it comes down to four letters – ENTJ.
ENTJ is one of sixteen four –letter personality types identified by the Myers -Briggs Type Indicator- a psychometric test widely used throughout corporate America for team building and leadership training. Ideally, it’s designed to help people get a better understanding of how and why people approach the world in such different ways. Officially, one personality type is not better than another. Yeah, right.
Walking to a meeting on virtual team building, Pixie, a certified Myers -Briggs consultant, was giving me some background on Meyers Briggs and corporate America. She told me that 80% of business executives are ENTJ's
“Where does that leave the 15 other personality types?” I asked, as we stepped on the escalator to take us down to the lobby.
“On the lower rungs of the corporate ladder.” said Pixie.
“So, does this mean if I’m not an ENTJ, I should forget about a career in corporate America?”
At this point Pixie, pressing the elevator button for the 14th floor hesitated, and then chose her words carefully, “I think the way to look at it is to recognize that as an INFP you might not be comfortable in an environment that tends to reward ENTJ’s.” With that, the elevator door closed.
INFP’s, like me, account for only 1% of the population. Depending on the source, INFP’s ‘have a profound sense of idealism derived from a strong personal morality. They conceive the world as an ethical, honorable place.’ Famous INFP’s include: Mary, mother of Jesus, Tom Brokaw, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Homer, Virgil, and William Shakespeare —not a shabby list but not exactly a list of business tycoons.
Just how seriously do business people take their ratings on the Myers-Briggs? So seriously, that they’ll try to beat the test. Stephen, like Pixie, is a Myers Briggs consultant. “A few years ago, an executive who had just come into the organization after a major re-org hired me to give his entire team the Myers -Briggs.
"When I started reviewing the results, I saw they were very skewed.” said Stephen.
“In what way?” I asked.
“Let’s just say, that quite a few of the team members ended up with the exact same Myers -Briggs as their new boss,” said Stephen. “When I asked them about it, they said they answered the test the way they thought their new boss would answer it.”
Kinda brings new meaning to the phrase ‘imitation is the highest form of flattery.’ But you gotta love their ingenuity, which is why, across town, Cheryl is using every possible strategy to avoid taking the Myers -Briggs. Her company loves the Myers -Briggs so much that it requires employees to include their personality type on their name plates.
“Isn’t that an invasion of privacy?” I asked incredulously.
“You would think so,” said Cheryl.
“I take it that there is a preferred personality type at your company.”
“Of course, “said Cheryl, “why do you think I’m avoiding taking the test! I could sabotage my own career –I have no idea whether my personality matches the preferred one in this organization. I prefer to keep them guessing.”
Ask any Myers -Briggs consultant and they’ll tell you that it’s not supposed to be used that way. But how many corporations have fairness as a core corporate value? Is it random that so many executives are ENTJ’s? That’s anybody’s guess.
So who is this enviable ENTJ that gets the top jobs? ENTJ’s are natural-born leaders: strategic, decisive, problem-solvers. So much for their strong points. ENTJ’s are also an impatient bunch, and as a rule, are not, naturally in tune with other people’s feelings. Typically, ENTJs have difficulty seeing things from outside their own perspective. So much for being a team leader. Oh, and did I mention they are mostly male?
Historically, women taking the Myers-Briggs were not very likely to see a “T” in the third spot of their personality type. Instead, that third letter was more likely to be an “F”. “F’’s are people who are concerned with whether their decisions and actions are worthwhile. “F”s believe they can make the best decisions by weighing what people care about and the points-of-view of persons involved in a situation.
But that kind of thinking can quickly get you overlooked for the next promotion. And so, an interesting thing has happened on the way up the corporate ladder: women are now turning out ENTJ scores at a phenomenal rate—a rate now equal to their male counterparts.
Have women’s basic personalities really changed that dramatically during the past generation? Or, is there a simpler explanation – are women faking it?
My guess is that women are still flaming “F”s just disguising themselves as flaming “T”s. My guess is that women have simply decided to stuff their true personalities into the corporate closet because it’s not safe to come out and show their true personality preferences. My guess is that this masquerade will continue, until someone figures out that corporate America could truly benefit from a little more “F” and a little less “T”.
NOTE: Stephen and Cheryl are not their real names. They asked to have their identity protected in order to share their stories without repercussions from clients or employees. Pixie is my friend's real name. She is currently living in Switzerland.
Do you have a corporate story you'd like to share? I'd love to hear it. Your identity will always be protected. I don't want to see anyone get fired for talking to me.