I would never say that learning more and increasing your range of skills is not important. On the contrary, it is a vital part of building your career and can help businesses in these challenging times. Equally important, though, is learning about YOU the individual, a subject that is crucial for effective self development. For example, it can help with how well you learn and assist in building good working relationships (with co-workers and clients), team building, handling conflict, networking and sales.
There are a huge number of theories, tests and tools on the subject. This brief article touches on just three of them – Honey & Mumford’s Learning Styles, Belbin’s Team Roles and Myers Briggs Type Indicators. To benefit from them, expert interpretation and explanation are a must and it is considered unprofessional and unethical to administer an MBTI without person-to-person follow-up verification by a qualified practitioner.
Honey and Mumford’s learning styles
Peter Honey, a chartered psychologist and Professor Alan Mumford, a management development specialist, developed a theory of preferred learning styles. They categorised these into four different styles: Activist, Theorist, Reflector and Pragmatist and devised questionnaires that identify individuals’ preferred activities and ways of learning. Knowing your learning preferences can help you choose methods and styles that will help you learn more easily and can help you become a better all round learner. The significance is not only for your own learning, it will also make it easier if you are in the position of teaching others. If you are a theorist and spend your time explaining the background theories to convince your trainee, you will not connect very successfully if your trainee is an activist and just wants to have a go! I am not saying you have to carry out an assessment each time but being aware of the differences and your own preferences can help.
Belbin’s Team Roles
Meredith Belbin, psychologist and management specialist, identified individuals “tendencies to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way” and identified nine different team roles and devised a self perception inventory to identify them.
Clearly knowing how the different roles work together to create an effective team and identifying areas that are not so well represented is a useful business tool. It can identify group or individual development needs and or recruitment requirements. In addition, realising where you fit into the team can have a positive effect on individual morale and team effectiveness.
Myers Briggs Types Indicator MBTI
This tool was developed in America and has at its origin Jung’s theories. It is very widely used both for self knowledge in team building situations. It is not a personality test that can be used to match a particular type of person to a particular job – what it investigates is how different types (there are 16 basic ones identified) prefer to process information. Once again it identifies differences and is not trying to suggest which is better or worse. Just because one has a natural, go-to preference does not mean you cannot or do not use other approaches. The developers’ drew a similarity to ‘hand preferences’ to illustrate this. Although we use both our hands, most of us have a preference for one over the other and ‘it’ takes the lead in many of activities. Again, in developing relationships both at work and outside, it can be hugely helpful to know more about yourself especially against the backdrop of the different preferences of others.
By making self awareness and knowledge of your preferences a part of your learning and development strategy you will benefit not only your own personal development but will add value to your teams and to organisations as a whole.