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Molding high-performance teams with the MBTI®Tool

By: Sean Townsend

“We’ve got greater than 75% market share in the PET systems market worldwide,” says Peter Neufeld, director of organizational development and talent management with Husky. “If you’re drinking from a plastic bottle, there’s about a seven in 10 chance it started out on a Husky system.”

To keep those odds in its favour, the company uses the MBTI Step I tool to kick off its two-day workshops aimed at building high-performing leadership teams. The workshops are based on Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Neufeld says the MBTI component sets the stage for teams to overcome the first and foremost dysfunction: absence of trust.

“These are some very smart people,” he says, “but they’re not always the best at communicating. The goal is helping leadership teams communicate effectively and collaborate to make the best decisions in the shortest time. We want diversity of thought, not just the loudest voice in the room. We want to support the conversations that lead to the best decisions.”

The MBTI tool was a way to keep those conversations flowing in a globe-spanning company with over 40 offices in more than 100 countries. “We have cross-functional teams worldwide,” Neufeld says. “The MBTI instrument crosses cultures and provides a common language. An extrovert in Shanghai might not look exactly like one in the U.S., but they have similar ways of communicating.”

The MBTI tool also had to fit into a meaningful, practical workshop geared to problem-solvers like engineers and service technicians. “They want to get to solving things and improving things quickly,” says Neufeld. “The MBTI assessment is simple to administer and easy to understand. It takes half an hour to learn about your type, and you can start using [that knowledge] within the next two hours.”

Another advantage of the MBTI tool, says Neufeld, is its a good fit with the company’s relatively flat leadership structure. “We don’t have tons of hierarchy; it helps us recognize that influence is an important competency. If the MBTI tool helps build people’s influencing skills, we won’t need as much hierarchy.”

Neufeld brought the MBTI tool for use in teams to Husky nearly three years ago and progressively used it with various teams throughout the organization. Eventually he got the chance to use the tool with the CEO executive team, and their endorsement paved the way for the tool to be used more broadly with other leadership teams across the globe. “They were really good as catalysts,” he says, noting that the sessions broke down stereotypes, both job-related and geographical, by showing people how diverse they actually were.

Neufeld says the MBTI sessions have been effective at both the individual and team levels. “It’s helped them to understand each other better because it normalizes people’s preferences— when you can attribute differences to a type, rather than to a person, it helps people accept difference.”

“From a team perspective, our teams say it’s improving their overall collaboration. And people are asking for more. Getting repeat requests is a good sign that it’s working; now we’re trying to keep up with the demand.”

About 600 of the company’s more than 4,000 employees worldwide have had the MBTI assessment. In May, 20 people from the company’s HR departments in Canada, the United States, Luxembourg and China were trained by Psychometrics Canada to facilitate MBTI assessments at an on-site MBTI Certification workshop.

Neufeld says that with the program gaining steam, he wants to expand it to bring together people from different functional areas, such as sales, and people from technical teams. “If you can show them something that can improve how they achieve their goals, they will latch on to it,” he says. “The idea is to dissect real challenges using type as a lens.”