The Personality Zoo: Meeting Zoology

Posted by Jeff Dwyer

Dec 1, 2013 5:17:00 PM

Extroverts make the world go round. They connect us, push us out of our comfort zones, keep us busy and save us from awkward pauses. But what happens when groups of introverts and extroverts get together to make decisions?

Hi, my name is Jeff and I'm a Meerkat.meerkat

Well, not exactly, but according to this brilliant look at the various Meyer-Briggs personality types I'm a bit of a Meerkat since I'm an INFP.

Full disclosure, at work I actually tend towards the Owl (INTP) & Wolf (INFJ) as well, but one way or another what I'm not is an extrovert. No Lion, Dog, Parrot or Dolphin here.

So what?

The important thing about understanding your personality type is using it to understand the interactions happening around you.

So let's play a little game. Imagine your next big meeting. Now imagine what it would be like if we replace your scintillating coworkers with their appropriate MBTI animal. That's right, put these animals around the table and imagine what would happen.

I'm going to guess you've probably got at least one Lion, pacing back and forth in front of the whiteboard and trying (sometimes unsuccessfully) not to roar. HR has no doubt informed them that roaring came up on their last 360 review.

Your group no doubt has a dog or two. Recognize them? Someone who's extremely excited to hear themselves talk. Interesting in yapping at each other. Perhaps interested in nipping at the heels of the Lion.

Perhaps you have a parrot as well, flying into the room 10 minutes after the start of the meeting and sitting on the top of a chair displaying his glorious plumage.

A dolphin doing tricks in the corner?

Does this sound familiar? Frankly this is starting to sound like a fairly accurate characterization of some of the meetings I've been to.

Then there's the introverts.

And then you have the introvert section, it's almost easy to forget them in all the the bustle of the other animals.

You've got a wolf sitting in the corner seat he always sits in. Not saying anything. Possibly considering eating one of the small dogs.

Your group has all most certainly forgotten your Owl, perched as she is in the corner. You probably won't hear what she thinks about your 2014 until she lets out a deafening screech and flies off.

And what about the Meerkats in your group. Quietly checking in on your process and trying to keep the meeting on track. And the octopus, happily avoiding everyone while hiding under a rock and making plans.

So what do you think the chances are that you're leveraging this zoo of team to their full capacity? Does it seem possible that your extroverts are taking up more than their fair share of airtime? Really, how can you hear anything above the din of those dogs!

The Zoo is not for everyone.

Perhaps there's a better way. If you want to hear what the owl thinks, you're going to have to approach her differently. That octopus? He'd probably prefer to write an email to the group then come out from under his rock.

Before your next meeting, think about how you'd deal with managing this menagerie of animals and see if that colors how you set your team up for success.

Here are a couple things you can try:

  1. Let your quieter individuals read a prepared statement before the meeting starts.

  2. Send around a poll of "what is the most important issue" before the meeting begins so you can be sure to get the group view.

  3. Just sit back and track how many words each of your coworker says in an hour. Present the group with a pie chart of "talk-time" (with no names attached) and suggest that they try the same excercise. 

The introverts will thank you and your meeting will be better.

Help my group make a decision


Topics: meetings, mbti, personalities


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