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The Every Day Use of Multiple Models

I use many different models in my work to help people learn.  With a business focus on leadership, management and teamwork, I use the Situational Leadership model, the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode model, the Johari Window, and of course, many more.  My experience is that a model can sometimes clarify a concept for a person in a way that just words don't.

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In the early '90s I became qualified for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® instrument (MBTI®) and gained yet another model to help me work with people.  Trying to understand the nuances of all 16 types was a bit overwhelming for me -- I couldn't get a clear picture of all the types in my head.  So, like many others I found breaking down the parts could explain some of what I was seeing in people. 

What's Really Going On Here?
In fact, I used the MBTI parts to explain the synergy of a high-performance team of which I was a member.  Dick (ENTP), David (INFP) and I (ESTJ) were a three member team with a 6 month project.  We talked about our team’s diversity as having 2 E’s and 1 I, 2 N’s and 1 S, 2 T’s and 1 F, and 2 P’s and 1 J, and felt that those differences explained much of what we experienced together.

Many years after that team experience, I had an experience that felt very similar to my work with Dick and David, but this time with a team of just two, Linda (INTP) and me (ESTJ).  This time, however, I had more models to understand our synergy.  Temperament certainly is different for us both (Linda - Theoristä and me - Stabilizerä).  Our Interaction Stylesä are different too (Linda - Behind the Scenesä and me - In Chargeä).  It turns out, though that our differences weren't what created the sense of synergy -- it was our similarity.  At first glance and with only one model, one might think that was the "T" in our code.  But, of course, we all know now that Linda's "T" is Intraverted Thinking and my "T" is Extraverted Thinking  -- different, yet again.  However, what Linda and I do have in common is Extraverted Intuiting - Linda as her auxiliary and me as my tertiary.  Beebe's work tells us that the tertiary is the relief role where we tend to "have fun."  So, no wonder Linda and I felt synergy when we were collaborating and creating something new -- we brainstormed, made inferences and created hypotheses and it was fun!


When I went back and looked at my experience with Dick and David, I found the same commonality.  For Dick N(e) is first, for David it is second and for me third. We too were doing work where we needed to use that function extensively together.  In this case, understanding the 8 functions was the key to my understanding.

Sometimes It's A Different Model
The 8 functions are not always the best model to understand what's happening.  This past year, my sister, Carol (ISFJ) had major surgery.  My mother (ESTJ) was her primary care taker for the 4 months Carol was bedridden.  Carol and Mom are both Stabilizersä, yet were having trouble communicating with each other.  It didn't take long to see that Interaction Stylesä were at play.  Carol (Behind the Scenesä) and Mom (In Chargeä) are different on all three dimensions of the model -- Language (Directing vs. Informing), Roles (Initiating vs. Responding) and Focus (Control vs. Movement).

As I observed them, however, I noticed that the language was interfering most.  In order to turn over, Carol needed the sheet that was underneath her to be pulled.  Using her informing language, when Mom had pulled the sheet the right amount, Carol would say "OK."  Mom kept pulling since she felt what she was currently doing (pulling) was going OK.  Carol got upset because Mom kept pulling and pulled the sheet (and Carol) too far. 

I privately suggested Carol try saying "stop" when Mom had pulled far enough.  She felt that was rude, so I suggested "stop, please."  At the next "sheet pulling" opportunity, when the sheet was right, Carol said "stop, please" and Mom stopped immediately.  Carol was amazed and Mom was pleased to not have been reprimanded.  I can think of no other model that would have highlighted this situation or provided a solution so easily.

Helping People With Their Type
As I'm sure happens to many other type practitioners, I find myself in situations trying to help others learn a bit about themselves and their type.  I sometimes am not planning on the conversation so have no tools immediately available, but I find a good discussion followed by reading can help people clarify and understand their type.

Recently I was at a celebration dinner for my nephew, Chris.  He had graduated from high school that day so family and friends were together.  My sister, Carol (ISFJ), my husband, Dave (ISFP) and my sister, Diane (ENFJ) were all at the table, along with Chris (ISFP) and his sister, Teri and a friend, Scot.  Somehow the conversation got onto type, and Teri and Scot were very interested in learning more. 

I started with the Interaction Stylesä model since it's more visible than Temperament, and I thought Teri and Scot might be able to get feedback from others at the table.  Scot immediately identified with Chart the Courseä and was able to describe how he approaches his goals, and his life.  Chris, who has been friends with Scot for 14 years verified how he experiences Scot.  Chris (Behind the Scenesä) often waits for Scot to have the plan.  Teri, on the other hand, felt quite sure that she is all four styles and couldn't sort even after hearing a description of Directing/Informing and Initiating/Responding.

I then shared the Temperament information.  Teri was instantly certain that she is a Stabilizer and could point to several examples including the type of work she has chosen and loves that verified the Stabilizer Temperament for her.  Scot, however, struggled to identify a Temperament.  He felt fairly sure that Stabilizer isn't a fit, but couldn't be certain about the other three.

As a follow up to this fun conversation, I provided both Scot and Teri with Temperament, Interaction Stylesä and Whole Type descriptions and made suggestions on where to start reading.  I'm working with them both to clarify their core type.  If needed, I'll use the 8 functions to help them.  What fascinated m, however, is that different models may be more helpful to different people.

Team Building
Sometimes, as in the above example with Carol and Mom, a model stands out as being most useful.  I was speaking to a new client one day on the phone and learned that he and his three partners were having difficulty getting things accomplished and it was starting to cause real friction.  As I listened to Rick (INTP), I discovered that he and the three others were located in different locations, so did all of their work on conference calls and web conferences.  They were quite pleased with their use of technology to bridge the distance.

I agreed to participate in a web conference and share some basics about teams.  As I participated with them, I noticed a difference in Interaction Stylesä, so we agreed to do a second session just on styles.  In that two hour web conference, we learned that the 4 people represent the 4 Interaction Stylesä.  They gave feedback to each other about how the styles work and what is frustrating about the styles and began to incorporate the language into their regular communication. 

As I continued to coach Rick and the team over time, I found we regularly could refer to styles as being both a continuing challenge and a source of synergy for the team.  They still use the language and try very hard to accommodate the needs of each other as appropriate.

The Backwards Approach
Sometimes I find that using multiple models helps me back into knowing someone's type.  I'm currently working with an organization and its CEO.  The OD specialist, Jerry, recently "typed" everyone in the organization.  He used the MBTIâ and then in one-on-ones he verified type.  Natalie (the CEO) scored as ISTJ on the indicator, but told Jerry that she felt sure she is an Improviserä (she'd been exposed to Temperament at another time.)  So, Jerry thought Natalie might be an ISTP.  Before asking her to read a whole type description, Jerry thought about Interaction Stylesä.  He had experience Natalie's directing language (could be Chart the Courseä or In Chargeä) and in fact also felt the In Chargeä style seemed to be most commonly seen in Natalie.  So, with either ESTP or ISTP as hypotheses, Jerry asked Natalie to read both ISTP and ESTP.  It was immediately clear to her that ESTP is a great fit.

So, again the multiple models help us.  ISTJ didn't point to Improviserä or to In Chargeä.  But, breaking it down to Temperament and Interaction Styleä provided clues about which of the 16 types might be a best fit.  If ISTP or ESTP didn't fit, then more exploration would have been needed.  But for me, the key point is that her clarity around Improviserä sent Jerry looking at different types for Natalie to read and saved this very busy CEO from reading several types that aren't a good fit.

As I've been working with Jerry on this, I have found that I now am much clearer about both ISTP and ESTP.  That isn't something I've been able to learn just by reading the descriptions.  The multiple models have helped me really see how they are different.

My Conclusions
What I've learned, and I hope demonstrated here are several things.  1) Having multiple models to explain people's type provides great flexibility and keeps us from having to "force fit" a type.  2) Sometimes a little conversation can be helpful and we don't have to make type a big deal, (not everyone wants to spend hours understanding their type.) 3) The more I understand the different models the better I find I understand all 16 types.

© Susan K. Gerke. All Rights Reserved. Susan K. Gerke is the president of Gerke Consulting & Development.  You can visit her web site at

 Susan Gerke
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