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How to use personality tests to create balanced teams

By Eric Seiberling

Every year, church nominations committees fill vacancies on various teams. Successful committees try to discern the various gifts of individuals and connect them to a corresponding ministry. Spiritual-gifts inventories can help place people in the right areas of ministry. However, there can be another element crucial to creating a successful team.

Teams can fail when they include people with the right skills – but the wrong personalities. Having the wrong mix of people on the team can be disastrous. Committees may fail when they consist of people all with the same personality type. The group may be able to dream a big idea, but it lacks the right person to successfully execute it. The team may be great at getting things done, but steamroll other groups in the church.

It is rare that a single individual can do it all. So, create a balance of personalities to think big, analyze options, keep everyone motivated and execute the project.

Personality tests help create balanced teams

While many personality tests are available, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment has been popular with congregations since the 1960s. It is used to “identify the specific preferences of individuals in how they construe their experiences, and these preferences underlie their interests, needs, values and motivations.” In short, by understanding the way individuals see the world, you can understand their interests and the way they think.

Take the test. Start by having volunteers take the MBTI along with some spiritual-gift inventories. You will find many free tests and books online.

Understand your type. While the Myers Briggs test includes 16 types, there are four major groups to consider when making teams based on two-letter pairs of your type:

  • Visionaries (Intuiting Thinking Types of ENTJ, ENTP, INTJ, INTP). Motivating visionaries is the need to understand and synthesize complex information, anticipate future trends and focus on long-range goals. They enjoy new ways of doing things: developing, designing and building models, theories and systems. They can look at the big picture and help define new ideas or design new ways of doing things.
  • Idealists (Intuiting Feeling Types of ENFJ, ENFP, INFJ, INFP). Idealists tend to envision an ideal world and want to work toward creating that vision. Sometimes seen as overly optimistic, they genuinely strive for an ideal they believe is real. They often are sensitive to others' emotional needs and skillful at bringing out the best in people. They have a strong desire for harmony and are good at conflict resolution.
  • Conductors (Sensing Judging Types of ESTJ, ESFJ, ISTJ, ISFJ). Conductors are outstanding at gathering the right information, analyzing the options and developing a realistic plan to get things done. They keenly value traditions and customs and believe these traditions provide a sense of safety, stability and belonging. They can orchestrate all the details of an event or project and have a gift for anticipating problems that might disrupt stability.
  • Troubleshooters (Sensing Perceiving Types of ESTP, ESFP, ISTP, ISFP). Troubleshooters are spontaneous and optimistic and trust their impulses to lead them in the right direction. They keenly observe the environment and can assess a crisis and immediately improvise to create a solution. They are bored with routine or with over-thinking “what could happen,” preferring to adapt to the situation as it happens.

Build a diverse team. Try to have one of each type on a team or committee. Each team member will provide a different perspective during the idea generation, planning and execution of the event. Visionaries can help see new ideas and possibilities while the Idealists and Conductors can ensure it will be in harmony with the people and traditions of the church.

Take time to listen to all perspectives and allow people to lead. Diversity of thought only works if you listen to everyone. Allow everyone to help mold and shape the efforts of the team. Consider switching team leadership based on the phase of the work to take advantage of each type’s strengths.

Let’s take the example of planning a "back to school" event for the community. Start by having the Visionary lead the group in identifying the goal of the event and what potential events that could be held. Visionaries (NT) are very good at asking the right questions to define the big picture need and brainstorm different events that would meet the needs of the community. Next, the Idealist (NF) can lead a reflection on how the community would feel about these different options as well as how strongly the congregation might support the different types of events. After the team has narrowed the list to the top two or three options, ask the Conductor (SJ) to lead the team in building the plan, setting the budget and anticipating the top challenges for the event. Finally, define potential scenarios where the challenges arise and ask the Troubleshooter (SP) to take the lead in defining ways to solve them. This type of multi-disciplined brainstorming can dramatically enhance the proposed event and allow for much smoother execution.

Having people that think alike may lead to more harmonious meetings, but it may not improve the team’s results. Take the time to build diverse teams that God can use to bless your ministry.