Why knowing your personality type is critical to a growth mindset
5 min. read
Fostering a ‘growth mindset’ is fundamental to success, both for individuals and organizations.
If you believe your abilities are innate and can't be significantly improved, your mindset may be described as ‘fixed.’
You tend to explain failure by lack of talent or poor fit, etc. (which is stifling and leaves little room for growth). While acknowledging that there is such a thing as aptitude, a healthier outlook involves acknowledging that improving one's life almost always requires adapting, learning new skills, and generally remaining flexible.
In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, psychologist Carol Dweck builds on this idea with her concept of the ‘growth mindset.’ A growth mindset is when you believe you can acquire almost any ability with enough work. With a growth mindset, you're more likely to roll up your sleeves and push forward in the face of challenges and setbacks and achieve success.
Self-awareness offers a benchmark for a growth mindset
You can't grow without a benchmark understanding of your current state. This is, after all, why companies establish key performance indicators.
At an individual level, it entails self-awareness. Personality type, as explored through the framework of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) assessment, is one of the quickest and most powerful ways to gain self-awareness and helps you gain a better view of who you are at your most natural self. It does this by exploring personality preferences along four key dimensions:
- Introversion/Extraversion: Do we tend to focus attention on the outside world of people and activity (Extraversion) or the inner world of thoughts and feelings (Introversion)?
- Sensing/Intuition: Is our first instinct to trust information gathered through the five senses (Sensing) or on more abstract focus on patterns and possibilities (Intuition)?
- Thinking/Feeling: Is our natural inclination to base our decisions on objective logic (Thinking) or on our values and priorities (Feeling)?
- Judging/Perceiving: Do we prefer to remain decisive and in control (Judging) or do we like to keep our options open and remain spontaneous and flexible (Perceiving)?
It's important to recognize that the natural preferences identified by personality type influence our behaviors but don't dictate them.
In fact, quite the opposite is true. The more aware we are of what our natural inclinations might be in a given situation, the more empowered we are to alter our behavior in ways that best serve the circumstances.
A case for growth: Introversion/Extraversion and the company brainstorm
Let's consider an example of something that most employees are required to participate in at some point (and is complicated by today's reliance on virtual communication): the team brainstorm.
The way a person is inclined to participate in a brainstorm is highly influenced by their preference for either Extraversion or Introversion. Likewise, their chart for growth in this area should also be guided by their understanding of their own personality preferences.
Those who prefer Introversion like to think things through in order to understand them. They guard their thoughts until they are (almost) perfect and, more often than not, like to stay in the background. In a line of work that requires regular brainstorming, it's easy to imagine that they might feel at a serious disadvantage, especially if colleagues are offering up creative ideas and impressing their boss while they're stuck trying to formulate shareable thoughts.
If you prefer Introversion, you may not realize why you don't like to brainstorm with others. You may only know that the process is excruciating, and this lack of awareness may be stifling. But if you understand that this discomfort is a function of personality preference, you can develop techniques for working around the more difficult parts.
Eventually, you can even turn what you might perceive as a weakness into a strength.
For example, you can make sure to get more detailed background on the topic of the discussion so that you can come with more well-formulated notes/thoughts. Additionally, regularly remind yourself that in brainstorming, an idea does not have to be perfect before it is aired. It's OK to put your ideas out there, and in fact, the process of letting others poke holes in a suggestion may allow you to improve it far beyond what you could have done on your own.
On the other hand, those who prefer Extraversion tend to like talking things over in order to understand them. They prefer spoken communication over written communication, share their thoughts freely, and find it easy to put themselves in the foreground.
At first glance, it seems like these would all be advantageous in a brainstorm. However, consider the ill-will that might be generated if your colleagues view you as perpetually ‘talking over’ them. This might even come back to bite you in the future.
Imagine that you are a new manager of a team and you need to get the feedback of everyone in a group. You might be tempted to (incorrectly) interpret the silence of some team members to mean that they don't have any ideas. After all, that's what you do when you don't have input, right?
But if some of the other folks in the room (or on the Zoom call) prefer Introversion, you're probably missing out on valuable input from your team. If you are aware of your own tendencies, you can change your behavior to grow in new directions.
Where you might be naturally inclined to express your thoughts, you can train yourself to pause, listen, and ask questions. You can probe more deeply into the insights of other team members, build better relationships with colleagues, and gain valuable insights.
Personality type helps us chart a course for growth
In both cases, the self-awareness of one's personality preferences facilitates a growth mindset. If we can pinpoint where we need to grow, understanding where our natural personality preferences may be holding us back, we can chart a more effective course for progress and more quickly arrive at where we want to be.
This article was written by Sherrie Haynie, Sr. Director of US Professional Services at The Myers-Briggs Company, and first published by Forbes Coaches Council, November 2020.