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Five Tips to Improve Your Understanding of Personality Types

Build relationships, solve problems, and reduce conflict through the perspectives of natural preferences

Scott D. Hanton, PhD

Scott Hanton is the editorial director of Lab Manager. He spent 30 years as a research chemist, lab manager, and business leader at Air Products and Intertek. He earned...

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People have natural preferences that are displayed through their personalities. Understanding the basics of personality types can help lab managers interact more positively with staff. By sharing information about personality, labs can learn more about each other, explore aspects of diversity, and reduce interpersonal conflict around the lab. Here are five tips to help you improve your ability to understand personality types and use that information to enable your lab to thrive:

Understand natural personality preferences

Lab staff bring a consistent set of natural preferences to work every day. Learning about personality types will help lab managers develop improved people skills. These natural preferences play significant roles in how people interact, how their personal energy flows, how they perceive the world, how they make decisions, and how they approach getting work done. It is important to note that natural preferences can make some things easy, but anyone can learn specific skills outside of their preferences. Personality should never be used to limit people’s opportunities.

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Pick a system to frame personality types

There are several well-recognized personality type systems, including Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), DISC, 16PF, CPI, and Caliper. Each system provides a paradigm for describing the basics of human personality. The MBTI system contains four sets of pairs to describe broad aspects of personality. Extrovert/Introvert explores energy flow. Intuitive/Sensing explores how we make sense of the world around us. Thinking/Feeling provides insight into personal decision-making. Perceiving/Judging indicates how we like to get our work done.  

Understand your own preferences

Each system will assign preferences through a survey. Answering scenario-specific questions helps to gauge natural preferences. For the MBTI system, a good way to get started is to understand your own preferences with a free test at This will enable you to learn the details of the MBTI system and gauge its usefulness for your lab.

Help to resolve conflicts

Basic personality differences contribute to conflict in labs. Some of this conflict can be resolved or prevented through educating lab staff around natural preferences and personality styles. Once individuals realize the perspective of their teammates, they have a new way to view their actions and decisions. Using a consistent system to describe personality traits provides a common vocabulary to improve communication, reduce assumptions, and deliver an optimal outcome for the lab.

Contribute to problem-solving

The Z model for problem-solving is a good example of a leadership tool that makes use of natural preferences in the lab. It provides a model to examine different perspectives during the course of solving a problem. The key steps of the Z model are to identify the facts, explore possibilities, evaluate options, and understand the effect on people. From an MBTI perspective, this is engaging people with very different personality types to collaborate using their preferences to help the lab improve.

Leading people can be difficult. Staff bring their personality into the lab every day. Lab managers can help them better understand their teammates, improve communication, and reduce conflict by exploring and teaching about basic personality types.

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