Every day is a challenge when you run your own business. Whether it’s getting out and making sales, losing a key customer, a technical meltdown or just finding the motivation to get started: It is all down to you. The better you know yourself the easier it will be.
The ancient Greeks had the maxim ‘Know Yourself’ engraved over the temple door. They knew that self-knowledge is the foundation for building a successful life: as true now as it was then.
So, if you want to improve your self-awareness where do you start? There are a few things you could try to incorporate in your daily routine for starters: try to listen more than you talk; keep a reflective journal; meditate. And you can also use personality and role inventories to improve your understanding of your own preferences and those of people you have to work with.
Tools for getting to know yourself better
Inventories, like Myers-Briggs (MBTI), Learning Styles and Belbin can give you a clearer picture of your own strengths and weaknesses. They also help you to appreciate the range of roles needed for an effective team and to respect that annoying person who doesn’t do things exactly the way you like, but does do the things you hate to do really well!
MBTI is very commonly used by big business. A consultant I know asks for MBTI profiles when they take on new corporate clients – they’ve yet to come across a company that doesn’t have them on file. One company notoriously has MBTI profiles on office doors: that’s definitely taking things too far. Those tools usually provide useful insights, but occasionally they miss the mark.
MBTI draws on Jung’s theory of personality types and was developed by mother and daughter team Isabella Briggs Myers and Katharine Briggs. MBTI tests four bipolar preferences which combine to describe 16 personality types. Each type has positive and negative elements, which different people express to different degrees.
You can do a very simple self-assessment by asking yourself the questions in the infographic at the end of the article. Take one letter from each binary and you will get your result: eg. ISFJ, ENFP etc. There are 16 types, also summarised in the infographic. For more detailed information about each of the types click here.
You need to go through a licensed provider to access the full MBTI process. It’s pretty expensive, but there are similar tests available online for free. Here’s a good one: http://similarminds.com/jung.html
The test has nothing to do with your skills or abilities: just your psychological preferences. I think of my MBTI preference as my ‘comfort zone.’ You could also think of it as like being right or left handed – you can write with the other hand, but it takes a bit of getting used to. The stronger the preference the more difficult or stressful the alternative binary option can be if you need to work in that way.
A successful business needs a strong balance of all of those preferences. If you have strong ‘Intuition’ (N), then you’ll be great at creating visions for the future. But you’ll probably be less good at all the routine tasks that need to be completed every day. Similarly a relaxed ‘Perceiver’ (P), may be great at grabbing opportunities that come along, but hate the detailed planning needed to put those plans into action.
Getting the best out of others
A good balance of strong preferences is important for a successful team. If you work on your own or you’re a very small team, MBTI could help you to assess what’s holding you back. My own profile – ENTP – is one of the most entrepreneurial types, but a recent survey found, to my surprise, that we are the lowest earners. Ouch. Switch the ‘P’ to a ‘J’ and I’d be a top earner. It’s made me focus on how to close the gap. My options are to find a colleague or partner who has those complementary skills, or to perhaps shift from working at home for a while into a more structured environment.
And of course MBTI and other personality profiles are also great tools for helping you to understand and communicate better with colleagues and customers. Motivation, management, relationships and communications are critical for your business: they are all so much easier if you know yourself and take the time to understand and respect the people you work with. Personality inventories like MBTI aren’t perfect, but they can help to build up a better picture and close that knowledge and understanding gap.
About Erika Watson
Hi, I am the founder and editor of Prowess, so the person to get in touch with if you have any ideas, queries or feedback: erika [a] prowess.org.uk. I run my own business too: Greenwell Consulting a communications company focusing on Enterprise, Environment & Equality. See here for details of our Start-up and Business Development workshops.