Recently, I heard Queen Rania of Jordan talking about her experience as a child sharing lunch with another student at her school. Her sandwich was hummus inside of pita bread. The other child had peanut butter and jelly. Neither had ever tasted the other's type of food. They'd sit at the same table each day and Queen Rainia looked at the gooey, dark-colored stuff and imagined how awful it must taste. One day they decided to swap sandwiches and she discovered how much she enjoyed the other girl's lunch. This, to her, was a good lesson in understanding and embracing diversity. So often, we make decisions from our own limited experience and prevent ourselves from learning some of the unique contributions that others have to give. Different does not necessarily mean distasteful.
Our nation prides itself on being the "melting pot" of the world. People from every continent seek to live here expecting acceptance and opportunity. We have laws that protect us from discriminating against people because of differences of race, religion, sex, and physical disability. These differences are more likely to be noticed in individuals. In my work with personality assessments, I sometimes think that personality is sometimes "hidden diversity" because it is so engrained in us that we often overlook it. However, our unique personality has a powerful impact on how we are viewed by other people, how we communicate our differences, and how successful we are in our relationships.
Using the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator, we are able to identify basic preferences for each person. Even within groups where people are in the same profession, near the same age level, and may even be of the same sex, there will be some who tend to be introverts and others who tend to be extroverts. Some will need logical data for their decision-making and others will follow their intuition. The logical person may rely on thinking while the intuitive person may rely more on feelings – or vice versa. Some will want a more orderly approach to planning with set goals and deadlines. Others will want things to be more open and flexible and see what turns up. The challenge here is to embrace the talents, styles and preferences of each person to achieve the objectives of the group or organization.
When facilitating groups to help them learn the Personality Types of each person on their team, I can help them focus on the strengths that each person brings and understand and appreciate the differences of each team member. I am moved by the breakthroughs that occur when members of the team who may have a different personality type than many of the others don't have to hide anymore because they feel different. Learning about the differences makes it safe to create curiosity about how different Personality Types communicate, make decisions, and get things done.
I have discovered for myself that as an Introvert, I recharge my energy with quality "alone time." I write in silence alone in the wee hours of the morning much better than during regular working hours in an office within a group of people. I will then share the draft by e-mail and get feedback for editing. Sometimes, my Extrovert counterparts prefer to be on a conference call talking back and forth about the topic and generating their content on the spot. This could pose a potential conflict when we have both Personality Types trying to achieve the same result with different approaches; however, by understanding and appreciating our differences we can discuss how to best approach the task at hand and have empathy for each other. Acknowledgement of different Personality Types encourages transparency, creates a more comfortable and safe environment for sharing, and increases performance and results.
I propose that we get back to being a "melting pot" at work and in our personal lives. Instead of jumping to conclusions about how someone else thinks or feels, follow Queen Rania of Jordan’s lead and learn to swap our lunches. What are you doing to discover and embrace the hidden diversity of your team?
P.S. If you’re interested in understanding your Myers-Briggs Personality Type or that of your team’s, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.