By Christine Christensen
As a documentation manager, it is important to me that I am always doing my best to help my team and empower them with the knowledge and resources they need to do their jobs. It is also very important to me that my employees are happy and that their work is meaningful and fulfilling. One of the challenges that comes with management is truly understanding employees on an individual level—how do they approach their work, what they like or dislike about the process, what motivates them to do their best work—so that they can find happiness and fulfillment at work. I have found that MBTI personality assessments and Keirsey temperament analysis help me as a manager to better understand how my employees think and feel, so that in turn I can manage our department in a way that contributes to their workplace happiness.
First, a bit about me. I work for an amazing company called Cityworks, headquartered near Salt Lake City, Utah. We offer GIS-centric asset management and permitting software solutions for local government agencies and utilities. I started here five years ago as a technical writer and for the last two years I have managed the Documentation Department, which consists of a team of six technical writers. We produce training manuals, online help, knowledge base articles, white papers, RFP responses, etc. I am passionate about great documentation and I love my job.
My passion for technical communication led me to attend my first STC Summit in May 2016. There, I attended Ben Woelk’s presentation, An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership. We tend to not think of introversion and leadership or management as being compatible, so I was interested in hearing what Ben had to say. It turns out that decision would take me down a path of research and discovery that I never expected.
Ben recommended reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I had already read that book and loved it. It is my introvert bible. But he also recommended taking the MBTI personality assessment to learn more about my personality type. That is how I came to discover that I am an ISFJ (with leanings toward INFJ and INTJ). Reading about my personality type was interesting, but what really led to a deeper understanding of it was Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey. This book takes an in-depth look at personality and temperament and how those shape who we fundamentally are.
This greater understanding of my ISFJ personality has given me an incredible insight into myself. Now, when I find myself thinking or feeling a certain way, I can identify where that is coming from. ISFJs are private individuals who are reluctant to speak up if there is potential for conflict. They are hardworking to a fault—their quiet nature can lead to them being underappreciated or overlooked—and they are fiercely loyal to those around them. 16Personalities.com calls the ISFJ personality “the defenders” because they desire to serve others and truly care about others’ feelings. I see these traits in myself as a manager because it doesn’t particularly bother me if I am the one being underappreciated or not acknowledged, but it does bother me when it happens to one of my employees and I will speak up then—despite my natural desire to avoid conflict.
I was curious to know the personality types of those who I work with, so I asked my team members to take the MBTI personality assessment using two websites, www.humanmetrics.com and www.16personalities.com. While I suspected that most were also introverts like myself, it was quite interesting to see where exactly they fall on the introversion/extraversion scale. One who I suspected to be slightly extroverted ended up being 92% introverted. Another unexpected result was that most of them got two different results from the two websites, which made it harder to pin down their personality types. Personality assessments are not straightforward—there can be more than one result and there is no way to guess which type others may be, no matter how well you think you know them. From my experience, it is best to have them take the two assessments and read the results to decide which personality type best suits them.
Usually our office is quiet—a group of introverted writers working on individual projects—but the day that I asked them to take the assessment was quite lively. They were sharing results, finding commonalities, and discussing the more surprising aspects of their own results. As a manager, it was great to see this level of interest and discussion. Knowing this information about themselves will only make them more aware of themselves and those who they work with.
After reading about each employee’s personality type, I was able to change how I approach communication with them. For example, knowing that an employee is a perfectionist allows me to not only see when a particular project is stressing them out, but also understand why they are stressed (the tight deadline isn’t allowing enough time to perfect the document). My communication is more effective and personal because I understand why they are stressed and I can reframe my words in a way that is understanding and empathetic. Or when going over a new project with an employee who I know has a personality type that prefers concrete, straightforward, and practical communication, I know it’s okay to skip the theoretical or abstract ideas and get straight to the logistics of the project.
I would recommend that anyone—manager or not—take an MBTI personality assessment and read about your personality type. It’s not only incredibly interesting, but I have found it to be quite empowering as well. This new knowledge about myself and those I work with has led me to be more mindful, to better understand my thoughts, and to be a better leader.
CHRISTINE CHRISTENSEN is the Documentation Manager at Cityworks, the leading provider of GIS-centric asset management and permitting software solutions for local government agencies and utilities. She lives in a suburb of Salt Lake City, UT, with her husband and two dogs.