The third letter in the Myers-Briggs (MBTI) type preference — T or F — is a critical one for teams. This is the preference pair that determines how you prefer to make decisions, and while you can exercise using the opposite preference up to a certain degree, your natural preference doesn’t change over your lifetime (much like a default setting). I love helping teams navigate this preference because it can cause so much conflict before we understand why we are so different in how we approach decisions in our work — and once we identify and appreciate the value of these differences, we can lean on the merit of both styles to come to a much better decision overall.

What are the two MBTI decision-making preferences?

A preference for Thinking has less to do with literally “thinking” as much as it does taking an impartial view of the situation and treating everyone the same. (I often use just the abbreviation letter when speaking about each of the preferences to avoid confusion about the meaning.) Those who prefer Feeling, on the other hand, will make decisions based on how they affect their relationships with those involved, taking more of an empathetic viewpoint.

How do these decision-making preferences affect teams?

Let’s say your team has to make a high-stakes decision – perhaps you are charged with creating a policy for your company that is likely to greatly upset a few people who will be more affected than others. The team members who prefer Thinking are more likely to want a policy that has no exceptions – they define “fair” as everyone being treated equally. It’s not that they don’t care about people; in fact, this is their way of caring by not showing preference to one group or individual over another. By contrast, those who prefer Feeling may be more inclined to make exceptions to the rule. What if someone can’t adhere to the policy because they had a death in the family? To them, “fair” means treating everyone as an individual and thus honoring their individual circumstances. You can imagine in this scenario when a team has to make a decision about the policy how there could be immense conflict in what is the “right” or “fair” thing to do, potentially causing crippling delays, arguments, or important perspectives going unheard. 

How can we make better decisions?

I recently conducted a MBTI workshop for a client whose entire team preferred Thinking with the exception of one member. They knew this one team member who had a Feeling preference was important to include for their empathetic perspective, often turning to them for advice before making a decision to avoid “group think” and to make sure they had considered what they called the “people perspective.” The distribution of this Thinking/Feeling preference pair is nearly half and half among the general population, so this team was definitely skewed and at great risk of a group think mentality; their awareness of this distribution provided much better results for them. On the flip side, we stand to lose so much value when those who prefer Thinking see the Feeling preference as “soft” or when those who prefer Feeling see the Thinking preference as “cold” (a fairly easy but unfortunate mindset to fall into if we don’t understand each other’s preferences) or worse, if we think one way of making decisions is “correct.” One research study I read found that the highest-quality solutions are found by teams of diverse personality type, though it may cause more (productive) conflict and take longer to make the decision. By seeing the situation from the perspective of both preferences, we see consider the value of both approaches and can come to a solution that incorporates the strengths of each.

Do you know your MBTI type? Want to take the assessment for yourself or your team? Let us know or let’s chat more about your situation. I’ve seen the value firsthand that this assessment provides in the workplace, and I can’t wait to help. Leave a comment below on your experience with MBTI or team decision making – I would love to hear from you!

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