Reprinted with permission from the American Bar Association GPSolo eReport.
This article is the last of four installments designed to provide insight into how understanding the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® enables attorneys to become more effective in managing their career, relating to clients, and overseeing their office.
- What is group type?
- How can group type be used to assign tasks?
- How can an understanding of group type improve office relationships?
In my first article, I provided an overview of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) and explored how being an introvert or an extrovert can influence an attorney’s approach to career choices and time management. In my second article, I discussed the three lesser-known personality indicators, and explained how an attorney’s preference for one over another can significantly impact that attorney’s legal practice. In the third article, I examined my own personality type as an example of how attorneys can become better lawyers and make more informed career choices by gaining a more thorough understanding of their type. In this final article, I will explore the idea of group type, using my office’s group type as an example of how this information can help a law firm function better as an effective and cohesive team.
What Is Group Type?
Group type is the MBTI® score for a group, such as a law firm. Group type is calculated by adding up the sum of the letters for each group member.1 For example, my office team consists of six individuals with these titles and accompanying personality type indicators:
Totaling the number of office personnel represented by each indicator letter shows the following characteristics as being predominant: Introversion (5), Sensing (4), Thinking (4), and Judging (6). Therefore the group type for my six-member office team is ISTJ. After you calculate your office’s group type, you should take note of the key similarities and differences. In the case of my law firm:
- Although the group type is ISTJ, only two of the six team members match all four of the personality indicators in this type.
- All team members, except for one administrative assistant, are Introvert types.
- All team members performing legal work are Thinking types. To the contrary, the two team members performing administrative functions are Feeling types.
- Two attorneys are Intuitive types, and one is a Sensing type.
- All six team members are Judging types.
How Can Group Type Be Used to Assign Tasks?
A law firm’s daily operations involve a tremendous variety of tasks. With an understanding of group type, I can use that information to make knowledgeable choices about the tasks to be performed by any particular member of my team. Each team member should be working on tasks that they enjoy and can consistently perform with a high degree of competency. Using my office as an example:
- The two attorneys who are Intuitive types conduct all the initial consultations with potential clients. Intuitive types possess a “sixth sense” as to whether a potential client would be a good fit for the law firm, or might cause problems down the road.2
- The attorney who is the Sensing type both enjoys and excels at detail-oriented tasks such as revising templates for limited liability operating agreements and checking all section cross references within the template. As quoted in my second article, “Sensors are very literal, concrete and factual.”3
- The two administrators who are Feeling types communicate successfully with both existing and potential clients on a variety of issues including scheduling and billing questions. Clients tend to reach out to them because they possess a natural ability to, for example, commiserate with a recently widowed client needing to open a probate for her husband’s estate. To the contrary, the Thinking types within the law firm are more inclined to gather details needed to file the probate, rather than take time to understand what the client may be feeling emotionally.
- The paralegal who is an ISTJ personality type is perfectly suited for that role. An ISTJ is “big on details and data.”4
How Can an Understanding of Group Type Improve Office Relationships?
By determining group type, you can manage your office team in a more holistic way. Having a sense of group type leads to “more awareness and understanding,” decreasing frustration because “you can better understand the dynamic of the group and where you land in it.” Again using my office as an example:
- Since my law firm operates virtually, all team members work from their homes. The five introverts naturally fit into this model. Introverts “get energy and recharge from being alone.”6 But what about the lone extrovert? Extroverts “get their energy from being with people,” and this difference needs to be taken into account.7
- My office consists of two Feeling types and four Thinking types. Thinking types tend to find Feeling types to be “too emotional” and “overly sensitive.”8 To the contrary, Feeling types perceive Thinking types as “harsh,” “impersonal,” and “uncaring.”9 With an understanding of these tendencies, the Feeling types and Thinking types can work together in greater harmony.
- No one on my office team is a Perceiving type. As stated in my second article, Perceiving types “go with the flow and let life happen.”10 As a result, if unexpected deadlines pop up requiring last minute adjustments, my office tends to be more thrown off our game than if we had a Perceiving type in the mix to provide perspective.
- I work frequently with the administrators, who are both Sensing types, to develop new techniques and adopt new technologies in addressing the needs of our virtual office. As an Intuitive type, I tend to toss up idea after idea, becoming excited about one idea and then abandoning it hours later in favor of another approach. By understanding type differences, I can better understand how my brainstorming can frustrate the administrators. Sensing types need details and specificity, and do not thrive on bouncing around futuristic ideas in the same way that an Intuitive type does.
Studying the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® has enabled me to make better professional choices in managing my career, relating to clients, and overseeing my office. I now understand that, as an INTJ, I am a natural entrepreneur. Running my own law firm is a perfect fit. As an introvert, I feel comfortable working alone in a home office. I also enjoy public speaking, but I now recognize the need to manage my energy by spending some quiet time gathering my thoughts prior to an event. As a Thinking type, I need to be mindful that “dealing with other people’s feelings” is not my strong suit, and remember to show appropriate empathy and compassion.11 And perhaps most significantly, by increasing my awareness of innate personality types and how they differ from person to person, I now relate more effectively with clients and members of my office team. As I stated in my third article, as an INTJ, only 1% of the general population shares my characteristics.12 Rather than expecting others to be more like me, I now know that my internal temperament differs from most others. I acknowledge these differences by approaching relationships with knowledge, patience, and humor. I hope that, as you study the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® as a whole as well as for your particular personality type, you enjoy similar insights that will enhance your legal practice.
1. Jessica Butts, Living Your Life from the Front Seat (Legacy One Authors 2015), at 74–75.
2. Id. at 29.
4. Id. at 105.
5. Id. at 76.
6. Id. at 16.
7. Id. at 18. Recently, the Administrator who is an Extrovert type experienced a change in her work environment because her husband began working from home on a regular basis. Now that this extrovert has an “office mate,” she feels more comfortable in her work environment than when she worked alone.
8. Id. at 48.
10. Id. at 55.
11. Id. at 112.
12. David Keirsey & Marilyn Bates, Please Understand Me (Prometheus Nemesis Book Co. 1984), at 180.