Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Typological Shortcuts – A Cautionary Tale

On line tests, emailed results and other MBTI fails

In my workshop travels, I’ve encountered a lot of people who tell me they’ve “done the MBTI” before.

80% of the time that means:
• they’ve taken a free online test that gave instant results with no explanation or application (other than to tell them that Harry Potter is their Type too!)
• they took the test in college in the placement office and the administrator just handed them the results with no explanation (other than to tell them what major they should choose)
• they took it with their employer who just handed them their results with no explanation (other than to tell them what career track they should be on)

Most of the time these experiences were unmemorable … or memorably bad because they felt pigeonholed into something or someone that they didn’t feel fit quite right.

For the other 20%, they had a decent experience with an appropriate delivery method (meaning a coach, counselor or trainer actually walked them through a self-discovery/self-assessment processes) and they actually remembered their 4-letter type, knew what it meant and how it related to them and felt the explanations were right on.

I wish more people had that kind of experience … I believe the people who experience one of my sessions or workshops would tell you it’s the only way for the MBTI to have meaning and impact. Otherwise, what’s the point of doing it at all? What’s the value of knowing you’re an ENFP or ISFJ or WXYZ if you don’t know what that means, why it matters, how it impacts those around you and how you can use it to grow… grow professionally, grow spiritually, grow academically?

So what’s wrong with the free online test?
From the time the MBTI went public in 1942 after Katharine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, spent more than a decade vetting and perfecting the precise language used in the questions to indentify preferences in an unbiased way, professional psychometricians have continued to revise and perfect it to improve the accuracy and validity of the tool. Today the Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT) owns the proprietary rights to the questions.

That means that the questions you see on the free online “MBTI” tests are not the actual MBTI questions. They can’t be. That means whoever wrote the questions had to come up with their own questions which don’t have a professional team of psychometricians and nearly 70 years of refining to ensure unbiased results. Even if a seasoned and trained type practitioner like myself took the original MBTI questions and changed them just enough not to get sued by CPP or CAPT, I would destroy the integrity of what makes the questions work as a whole and in combination with each other.

Additionally, my own preferences as an INTJ would certainly influence how I go about changing those questions and could bias them either toward or (in over compensation) away from INTJ answers and end up with an unusual number of INTJ or ESFP results. Of course only I would notice that. The unsuspecting taker of the test only knows they tested as an INTJ and will probably blow off the validity of the “whole MBTI thing” because the description doesn’t seem to fit them.

Okay, so give me the real MBTI and just email me the results.
I get this request at least once for every workshop I run. I understand that not everyone has time to sit through a 4-hour workshop or a 1-hour personal session with me, but the MBTI preference inventory (or “test”) isn’t really the determinant of what someone’s Type is. The self-identification process that an MBTI practitioner walks someone through is what determines the most accurate assessment of preferences and 4-letter type. The test is just a validation tool to affirm what a person has already decided without it.

And here’s the bigger secret… the tests aren’t always accurate. Okay, that’s not really a secret. CPP reports that their most current version of the MBTI inventory has a 90% reliability. That’s actually 10 – 20 points higher than any other personality inventory out there, but it does leave room for error. There are additional factors that could influence an even greater disconnect between the self-determined results and the test results but in my experience at least half of the participants in any given workshop or session I conduct have at least one letter different if not two. If a person doesn’t have the context and information from the workshop, how will they recognize if or which letters might be wrong and identify which one(s) make more sense?

For someone looking for a quicker yet reliable way to explore their Type without actually interacting with another human being, there is a self-driven on-line “test”/workshop combo that is an authentic MBTI (endorsed by CPP and the Myers & Briggs Foundation) but it is $60.00 per test and it still takes an hour to go through the whole module.

Whenever possible, I personally try to offer the MBTI at no cost to the participant. A company might hire me to come in and do a workshop for their employees so the company will pay the fee but the participants get the experience at no cost. If I use it in a counseling situation, I’m usually already compensated for my time so the MBTI is just an added tool I can “throw in” without charging extra for it. If you ever have the chance to do the MBTI with a Certified Practitioner and it’s FREE…? DO IT! It’s going to cost a minimum of $60 to do the MBTI with a legitimate online tool and a company who hires me to come out and do a half-day workshop is going to pay anywhere from $800 - $2000 (depending on the size) so free is always better than that.

One last note… when I went through my certification process, it was drilled into us that we could not just hand someone their results (because that’s not the true determination of their type) we have to walk them through the discovery process for self-determination to reach their conclusion about their 4-letter Type. It’s actually written into our agreement with CPP that authorizes us to purchase and administer the test. If anyone does administer an MBTI and does just hand over the results, they do so in violation of their covenant with CPP which would make me question their ethics. Do you really want someone with questionable ethics analyzing and determining YOUR personality preferences?

Do the workshop!


Friday, March 18, 2011

A Journey’s Intermission

Two and a half years, 60 credit hours, a 32 page petition, 3 character references and a 4 week review/ waiting period and it’s finally official! I’m adding a few new letters after my name: MCLC – Master Christian Life Coach!

When I finally put the postage on that 32 page packet, the last step in my process after completing the course work, and put it in the mail box, there was a great sense of accomplishment. In a way, it felt like a journey’s end, a finished work. But the whole purpose of the accomplishment was to pave the way for a new journey, a future journey.

Certainly, I do a lot of coaching in my current occupation – the skills these classes have given me will (and have) come in handy – but having formal credentials are for a calling of another sort. God has blessed me with many gifts in this area and he seems to keep putting people in my path who need someone with these particular gifts. I believe He’s been trying nudge me in this direction for quite a while.

So I do a lot of coaching (much of it pro bono) on the side. I do have a really good “day job” that I love – good people I work with, a non-profit with a mission I believe in – but in my spare time, I take a client or two as God leads me. This fulfills my purpose in a way a job just can’t.

About six years ago when I began my journey to earn my BCBC credintial (Board Certified Biblical Counselor) I seriously entertained the idea of going into Christian counseling full time, but that wasn’t God’s plan for me at the time. Working in the “real” world in a secular environment gives me so much more opportunity to witness that I might not have otherwise and I have seen God’s hand in my placement there.

But at some point, when I retire from the business world, I’ll be well equipped to pursue my passion of helping people. In the meantime I know I can count on God to keep putting people in my path who need my help and it brings me great joy to oblige.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

You’re Going To Touch Me Where?

Okay, lesson learned. I’ll not be wearing my hair up to travel by air ever again. Flying out of Dulles to Atlanta, standing in line for security, I get pulled for the new-fangled full-body scan. No big deal. Stand sideways between two 7-foot x-ray panels, put your hands over your head and hold your breath for 10 seconds. Then, step out and wait for screening personnel in a remote location to give the all-clear so you can put your shoes, belt, watch, jacket and other assorted apparel back on.

BUT WAIT! No “all-clear” for me. The EZ Hair Comb ® that’s holding my hair into a twist is apparently a terrorist threat. I had to wait while someone put on gloves to come inspect my hair to ensure I was not hiding any weapons in there. “Excuse me, Ma’am, but is that a gun in your bun?”

This did not bother me. Frankly, I wondered as I put my hair up this morning if it would it would set off the metal detectors … and I still didn’t know that because I went straight to the full body scan.

Lucky for me, on the way back from Atlanta this evening, my concerns were affirmed – YES the EZ Hair Comb ® does set off the airport security metal detectors! (Oh, did I mention the part where my boss is standing on the other side waiting for me to come out and we had been trying to rush through the airport to see if we could get on an earlier flight since our meeting ended early.) So I’m thinking they are going to just wave one of those wands over my head to confirm that’s where the beeping is coming from and let me move on. (Oh please don’t make me take the combs out. I’ll never get them back in without a mirror.)

Again, lucky me. I won the full body security molestation – I mean, pat-down. Now, as soon as I fail the metal detector, the lock me in a clear “stand-by” box and call for a female security officer. And she did ask me if I wanted to do it right there or if I wanted to go to a private area. I look over at my boss who is just shaking her head and looking at her watch and say, “let’s just do it.” I mean seriously – there may be two thousand people watching this woman touch EVERY part of my body, but I don’t know any of them and I’m never going to see them again – what the heck. By the way, did you know they put their hands in and under your shirt and into the waistband of your pants and feel between your toes? My mammogram was less invasive. Then they take the gloves they were wearing when they fondled you and run them through a scanner to ensure they didn’t pick up any toxins or explosives you were trying to sneak on the plane sprinkled across your clothing.

Remarkably, the earlier flight that my boss and I were trying to catch was delayed so we just made it. All of that excitement and I still got home earlier than I expected. God is good – he’s got a serious sense of humor, but He’s good!