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The average UK citizen now spends almost 10 full years of their life at work. That means we have a whole lot-ta time to get to know the inner workings of people we work alongside, even if they aren’t the characters who we would normally mix with by choice.
This led me to wonder, amongst all our psychological differences, what combination of traits makes my organisation a successful team? I would go on to dub these differences in personality, psychology and behaviours ‘neurodiversity’. Also, I wondered: which traits lead to scaling the heights of wealth and success in business?
Back when I was about 15 and finishing my GCSEs, my school made everyone in Year 11 take a short personality test to see which career paths they would naturally be most suited to. The personality test we took was an extremely simplified version of what I learned was the ‘Myers-Briggs Type Indicator’, or ‘MBTI’.
For the uninitiated, the 16 Personalities Test can be taken online for free here. The MBTI is a series of questions designed to tap into whether someone “prefers”:
· Introversion or Extroversion (I/E)
· Intuition or Sensing (N/S)
· Thinking or Feeling (T/F)
· Prospecting or Judging (P/J)
This generates a 4-letter acronym, such as ‘ESTP’, which categorises people into one of 16 personality types depending on their preferences. There’s so much more to MBTI than that but I don’t want to focus just on abstract concepts of personality theorem for this piece; MBTI is also based off Carl Jung’s cognitive function theory. For those who are interested, I would encourage you to research into this further.
For the purposes of my investigation into neurodiversity, I looked to quantify something so complex as the human mind into meaningful, real-life data. This is so that I could track trends or anomalies across my company or my peers to start to get a glimpse into the behaviour that sets apart, or unites, the bosses from the apprentices.
I reached out in a company-wide email to my colleagues at Action Sustainability and to the apprentice community at WhiteHat, asking them to spare 12 minutes to take the online 16 Personalities Test. I gathered these responses into a spreadsheet as they came in and received feedback from 15 Action Sustainability employees at all levels of seniority as well as 19 WhiteHat apprentices all studying a variety of vocations.
I have summarised my findings into some basic Excel graphs,but you get the idea.
The 19 apprentices I surveyed represented 10 of the 16 personality types the test has to offer. The most common result ‘INFJ’ is said to be the rarest out of the 16, with just 1.5% of women and 0.5% men being present in the population. INFJs are the Gandhi’s and Mother Teresa’s of the world who strive for change in with their own small but powerful influence.
Intuitive people are also supposedly only 25% of the population,again taking dominance on the graphs above. They are said to be the ones with their ‘head in the clouds’, they’re the forward thinkers that always consider the “bigger picture”.
The balance between introversion and extroversion within the WhiteHat community I found to be unsurprising. Extroverted people get energy from being around other people and social environments, whereas introverted people tend to feel drained by social interaction. Of course, in reality, this presents itself as much more of a spectrum between the two preferences.
I knew all along that during my investigation, there would be a particularly large bias between thinking and feeling when it came to voluntarily ask for submissions to the 16 Personalities Test.This was simply because they are more emotional and willing to help someone, like me, in need!
Overall, the results from the apprentices were much more spread across the 16 personalities. I found it difficult to come to a full conclusion about what traits are unique to a WhiteHat apprentice, except for a general feeling that we are united in our forward-thinking perspectives and bravery. Each apprentice is part of the war against University being labelled the “best” option for School leavers. We are all have a story to tell, and we challenge expectations daily, and encourage others to do the same.
Interestingly, I concluded that my company,Action Sustainability, seemed to be much more uniform in terms of their personality preferences. 13 out of 15 employees were classed as ‘Feeling’, and the only 2 ‘Thinking’ results came from our Directors. I felt that this made sense; We are a sustainability consultancy firm that provides training for the Built Environment sectors. Every person in AS is passionate about promoting sustainable practice through reducing waste, emissions and carbon on building projects. We are also dedicated to training others about social value and fairness, inclusion and respect (FIR) within supply chains.
The two anomalies from my bosses in the ‘Thinking’ didn’t seem unusual to me. They are the ones that are task-driven and must utilise their leadership and make strong business decisions. In fact, they both had the same personality type! When it comes business, having a united view on the world as well as a similar approach, I thought, must be part of the reason we are a stable consultancy company.
However, the preferences varied very much depending on the seniority within the organisation. Five out of six of the highest figures within the company were typed as ‘Extroverted’. At mid-level, this was a balanced result. But 75% of the lowest level employees tested as ‘Introverted’. This led me to wonder if success in business dependent on strength of verbal communication. But I also considered that age may have a part to play, and that perhaps this develops as one matures. Nonetheless, it was an interesting result to observe.
I thought that this piece would be completely different to anything I’d written before; it would be fact-based and logical: ‘An investigation into neurodiversity of the modern workplace’. I was collecting data and using pie charts, for god’s sake! But when I opened my Word document to start typing, I realised I’d been feeling uninspired to report back on my findings if they didn’t result in anything meaningful.
I was meant to be learning about other apprentices, my colleagues, my managers but what I really learnt about is what could be holding me back from success. What I discovered impacts success, despite our neurological differences, is having the courage to pursue greatness.
The 16 personalities test measures against a metric which I’d always brushed over in my quest for self-discovery: ‘Assertiveness’ versus ‘Turbulence’. After learning that I was 92% turbulent, I also learned that this is basically a measure of confidence and self-esteem.
But don’t get me wrong, I am confident about my skills and my beliefs. It is hard to admit, especially in the public domain, how I truly feel about myself deep down. But even if this article helps one person going through the same thing, it will be all worth it.
Have courage and be kind
After studying Animation at university for a year, I never thought I would be able to say that I loved a live-action Disney remake, but Cinderella (2015, Kenneth Branagh, USA) honestly had me sobbing by the time the credits rolled. Throughout the film, Cinderella (wonderfully acted by Lily James) repeats the mantra that her father tells her from the very beginning:“Have courage and be kind”. I know it’s incredibly sweet and sentimental, but I beg that you hear me out on this one!
WhiteHat have a very similar philosophy that “Good people win”. I try my hardest to have faith in the world, throughout all the devastation and evil that we see on the news every day. I think that if karma really does exist, this must be the true key to success. Values are extremely important, as well are all aware. My theory is that if you have good intentions, bring positivity to a role, are open minded, you are employable by any organisation you desire.