So I’ve been quiet on the blog recently for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, much as I’m enjoying this series of The Apprentice, it hasn’t engaged me to the same degree as its predecessors. Maybe I’ve seen these same tasks too many times before. Or maybe I’ve seen this cast of candidate characters too many times before. With my HDS hat on (the Hogan Development Survey psychometric) I’m on the look out for dysfunctional leadership behaviours. But every time I spot a ‘dark side’ with the potential to de-rail a particular candidate, it looks like a carbon copy of that exhibited by last year’s identikit candidate.

Instead of Charming-Manipulative Jedi Jim, for example, simply insert smooth-talking sinister-eyed salesman Stephen Brady.

We’ve also lost (along with lots of dead wood) two of the most interesting candidates too early in the process. Bilyana Apostolova, had she not talked her way to the sack in week one, promised to be painfully brilliant television. And Katie Wright, who was nearly caught out in that opening week when she ‘went missing’, was shaping up to be an interesting contender as she demonstrated both amused detachment and a penchant for persuading project managers to take perilous risks.

After her near-sacking experience, Katie started to come across as the first candidate in years who actually seemed to be doing this for fun.

But then she got fired.

However, the other reason for my blogging silence is that I’ve been devoting some time to supporting the development of leadership potential among a different demographic from the ‘day job’. For the last couple of months I’ve been volunteering one day a week at a local Primary School – helping out for half a term each first in Year 1, then Year 3 and now Year 6 (I would be there today but for their SATS).

As a fan and frequent user of the MBTI, I’ve found it fascinating to see how facets of this personality model manifest themselves in those so young. The theory behind MBTI says that our personality type is set from birth and, if you subscribe to that, it should come as no surprise that spotting the ‘preference’ of a child is in some ways simpler than determining that of many adults. Most children have experienced fewer of those facets of life which, whilst having nothing to do with personality type per se, do have a huge bearing on who and how we are. And children also tend to just ‘be themselves’ to a greater degree than most adults can.

The Year 6 teacher set her class a debating topic recently which provided immediate insight into the Extraversion or Introversion preference of many of her pupils. As soon as the debate started, a number of the children charged in with their initial opinion – often to revise these before the end of the same sentence. Others could be seen sitting back, listening and reflecting before articulating their considered view. Neither approach had anything to do with the intelligence or academic ability of the different children, but plenty to do with their ‘E or I’ preference.

The Year 6 children also hugely enjoy an activity designed to develop their ‘mental maths’ capability – and again it readily reveals the Extravert or Introvert preference of many of the children. The activity starts with one pupil standing behind the chair of a seated classmate. The teacher calls out a ‘mental maths’ question (e.g. ‘what is the square root of 81?‘) and whichever child first shouts the correct answer then takes up position behind the next pupil’s chair.

There are a couple of clearly Extravert children in the class who are very good at mental maths and often ‘remain standing’ for some considerable time. There are others who blurt out the first answer which pops into their head, quickly followed by another if the initial response was wrong. Contrastingly, last week one of the more capable girls in terms of her numeracy was celebrating an unprecedented (for her) five ‘first correct answers’ in succession despite her obvious Introvert preference for thinking through the question before speaking.

I’m finding my time in the classroom fascinating in many respects. I also recognise (as I believe the education system now does to a much greater degree than when I was at school) that our personality type has a huge bearing on how each of us likes to learn (at the risk of sounding like ‘I’m 93 you know’, there was a very strong STJ bias in the way we were taught). So I may well return to this theme – and perhaps rather sooner than posting another Apprentice piece.

Although that might all change after tonight’s task; to ‘create a brand and identity’ for an English sparkling wine. What odds on a ‘Jubi-lympic’ tie-in?

After something of a blogging hiatus (which has had no impact on traffic to the website) the return of Lord Sugar’s dysfunctional Apprentice candidates has forced me out of hibernation. As regular visitors will be aware, the Apprentice provides the perfect vehicle for studying the dysfunctional side of aspiring leaders under pressure – in my case using the eleven behavioural scales within the Hogan Development Survey (HDS) psychometric tool.

The HDS identifies how the day-to-day strengths of leaders can become dysfunctional, and potentially de-rail them, when under unusual stress and pressure. Since stress and pressure are pretty much a constant for Apprentice candidates, the ‘dark side’ is often as much in evidence from the ‘sixteen hopefuls’ as the flip-side strengths.

This was very much the case for at least one candidate in the opening week.

Risk Analyst Bilyana Apostolova proudly proclaimed that ‘I got myself from a Communist block of flats in Bulgaria to the top of a skyscraper in the heart of the City of London’. She was undoubtedly intelligent, ambitious and shrewd. She steamrollered her way through the first task, which required the teams to buy blank goods, print designs on their products and sell them at a profit.

Heaven help anyone who stood in Bilyana’s way.

Katie Wright, by contrast, opted for the often fatal ‘flying under the radar‘ strategy. She called her calm, quiet demeanor ‘being professional’. Nick Hewer preferred the phrse ‘she went missing‘.  

Since the girls’ team appeared to have by far the best design, and were shown selling plenty of product, it came as no surprise to hear they had been comprehensively beaten by the seemingly shambolic boys. And so it was that Bilyana and Katie sat either side of their project manager, Architect Gabrielle Omar, awaiting the judgement of Lord Sugar’s fickle firing-finger.

Bilyana appeared to be by far the strongest of the three – and promised to make for ‘good television’ as the series progressed. Since we all know Lord Sugar’s opinion of ‘cautious Caroles and steady Eddies’, Katie looked like cannon fodder. But Bilyana was so convinced she was for the chop that she simply would not shut up.

In HDS terms her boardroom behaviour looked like a dark-side combination of the ‘Sceptical’ (formerly known as ‘Shrewd-Mistrustful’) and ‘Bold’ (formerly ‘Confident-Arrogant’) scales (the latter being pretty much a prerequisite for appearing on the Apprentice).

Those with a high HDS score on what was the ‘Confident-Arrogant’ scale (‘Bold‘ doesn’t, to my mind, do justice to the ‘dark side’ facet) have a tendency under pressure to over-estimate their talents, become too strident in their opinions and fail to listen to advice. Lord Sugar’s advice, to stop talking over him while he got on with the business of firing Katie, clearly went unheeded.

As the old scale name suggests, high scorers on the ‘Sceptical‘ scale tend to become suspicious and mistrustful when stressed. Under the pressure of the boardroom, Bilyana became plain paranoid.

I think the series will be poorer for her loss.

Then I watched episode two and Katie was the stand-out candidate – the only credible winner on the girls’ team.

As an R&D manager Katie had the relevant experience to lead Team Stirling as they were tasked with designing and pitching a new product for kitchen or bathroom. However, Katie lost the leadership election to loud-mouthed, listening-free zone Jane McEvoy.

At this stage it appeared that Katie’s conniving colleagues saw her as an easy sacrifice to Lord Sugar. However, Katie proceeded to offer astute ideas and analysis (assertively but never aggressively) and Jane’s decision to disregard these cost them the task. Jane was not, however, foolish enough to summon Katie back into the boardroom – instead offering up out-of-her-depth Maria O’Connor (probably the first Apprentice candidate in eight seasons to fall asleep part way through a task). For this crime alone, Maria was a shoo-in to be sacked.

On the boys’ team, Fruit ‘n’ Veg trader Adam Corbally looks like the weakest link. Although the boys had settled on a kitchen waste compresser as their product, Adam continued vociferously pushing his frankly idiotic idea of rubber gloves with scouring pads on the fingers (why would anyone wear those rather than simply wear rubber gloves and hold the scourer?).

This year’s Jedi Jim character, smooth-talking Stephen Brady, pitched the boys’ product to the two retailers – and had the gall to ban it’s inventor (Duane Bryan) from chipping in. At least watching Duane dutifully try (and ultimately fail) to respect this gagging order proved entertaining.  

Jaw-dropping moment of the series so far, though, must surely be Jane’s decision to ask Amazon to place an order for ‘a million units’ of their baby-bath splash-screen (a product which, as one focus group member had pointed out, actually made it more difficult to reach your baby in the bath-tub). ‘If you don’t ask….’ was Jane’s justification (although in this case she asked and didn’t get).

It’s good to have them back. I just hope you feel the same about me.

In my last post I promised a psychometric analysis of Sherlock Holmes (as reimagined for TV by Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss). I now rather wish I hadn’t – but I know at least two regular readers who are avidly awaiting my assessment of his MBTI type, so I suppose I should attempt to solve this Sherlock mystery.

Part of the problem is that the MBTI only looks at certain ‘normal’ aspects of personality. Myers Briggs also assumes that we are normal people. Not only would I imagine Holmes sits some distance along the autistic scale but might tentatively suggest we’re dealing with a borderline schizophrenic here. John Watson identified Aspergers as another possible affliction during last week’s episode (and he is, after all, a Doctor) so I think it is safe to say that Sherlock’s personality is not ‘normal’.

Sherlock portrait stolen from Wikipedia - mystery solved

Nonetheless, I’m committed to an MBTI analysis and Sherlock’s preference for solitude certainly suggests Introversion. Whilst he does his best thinking playing the violin, my belief is that he needs to block out distractions rather than requiring the stimulus of music to energise the mind. Admittedly, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Holmes has a tendency to ‘think out loud’ (a typically Extravert trait) but that probably has more to do with the demands of television (with the exception of George Smiley, very few great screen characters keep their thoughts mostly to themselves).

In terms of Sensing or Intuition, I strongly believe Sherlock favours the latter. He is undoubtedly very good at assimilating information – instantly noticing and processing the most minute clues – but it appears to cause him actual pain to focus for too long on the detail of the here and now. His natural preference is surely Intuition – identifying patterns, themes, connections, possibilities.

In this second series of Sherlock, Holmes has called Watson his ‘one friend’ and found his ‘not interested’ default setting fleetingly challenged – but he doesn’t really do feelings and emotions (nor interpersonal skills, for that matter). Logical analysis and objective decision-making are his forte. Indeed, so adept is he at reasoned deduction that it often appears quite elementary. Not that it is always easy to follow Sherlock’s logic – great leaps of faith are sometimes required (or at least great restraint from the temptation to pick holes in the plot) – but we can put that down to the N influence on his T preference.

Judging or Perceiving presented me with the most difficulty. I even Googled ‘Sherlock Holmes MBTI’ to see what others thought – and found the jury to be evenly split (with one vote for INTX). The clutter and chaos within 221B Baker Street (when Mrs Hudson isn’t around to restore order) suggests a Perceiving preference. Sherlock also seems more energised by deadlines than engaged by plans. So I’m coming down in the P camp – but I’m open to persuasion should others identify evidence to the contrary.

Dr Watson is driven by his values and his loyalty to Holmes – which marks him down as a classic SF. As portrayed by Martin Freeman we also have a deep thinker and man of few words – suggesting he shares Sherlock’s Introvert preference. And I’m inclining towards Judging – perhaps as a counterpoint to Holmes’ P. But maybe that is just because ISFJ types are twice as prevalent in the UK population as ISFP. I guess my homework for Sunday is to watch more closely for the Judging or Perceiving clues for both characters.

I might also seek to validate my first attempt at Sherlock’s FIRO-B profile – in some ways easier to establish than his MBTI type.

FIRO-B looks at our differing needs for interpersonal interaction across the three areas of Inclusion, Control and Affection – in terms of the behaviours we express towards, and want from, others. The scale scores range from 0-9 – where 0 reflects a very low need and 9 very high.

A FIRO-B score of 0 does not represent a total absence of a particular interpersonal need but typically indicates very low frequency and very high selectivity (i.e. in terms of whom the behaviours are expressed towards or wanted from).  With that in mind, my initial assessment of Sherlock was scores of 0 for Expressed Inclusion, Wanted Inclusion, Wanted Control, Expressed Affection and Wanted Affection – and a 9 for Expressed Control. However, if a crime is sufficiently intriguing Holmes hates to be excluded – so perhaps he’s pushing towards a 1 for Wanted Inclusion.

Admitting that John Watson is his friend – even telling him as much – doesn’t elevate Holmes’ Expressed Affection above a zero. And his ‘feelings’ about Irene Adler (‘A Scandal in Belgravia’) were sufficiently unprecedented that the same score for Wanted Affection still fits. But perhaps the femme fatale’s intriguing challenge to Sherlock’s ‘not interested’ mindset hints at a suppressed higher need in the area of Wanted Control? That his hitherto dormant interest in the opposite sex should be aroused by a dominatrix might just be a clue.

So my seasonal ‘Father Christmas and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator’ post narrowly outperformed Doctor Who & the MBTI for hits in December – but it was a close contest and Santa did have ‘home page advantage’.

Coincidentally, I have just this morning received an e-mail from the WordPress ‘Stats Monkey’ reporting on my blog’s performance over the past 12 months – which is all the excuse I need to dash off a quick review of these and buy myself a bit more time before I MBTI-analyse Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ reinterpretation of Holmes and Watson (which I guess I’m committed to now).

The biggest surprise in the 2011 stats was that my analysis of the good Doctor’s Myers Briggs type, posted in May 2010, was only the second most popular in terms of views. It was followed (at some distance) by two more MBTI posts – ‘MBTI Types of the World’s Greatest Novelists – Condensed into 140 Characters or Fewer’ (March 2011) and ‘How Do You Motivate an ENFP to Actually Do Something?‘ (September 2011). The former was inspired by a statement on Twitter suggesting that great writers typically share the same four preferences. And the latter was in response to a very specific Google search (which brought the frustrated manager of an ENFP to my website). It was the post which generated most Twitter activity – although I suspect this was mostly from people who only read the title.

Apart from being a great writer, what else might this man have in common with me? Why, his MBTI type of course.

Santa’s MBTI type, originally exposed in January 2011, only reached number 5 in the ‘hits’ parade – but did reach a wider audience via ‘TYPEtype‘ – the journal of the New Zealand Association for Psychological Type. I’m not sure how many subscribers it has but I’m hoping for Worldwide acclaim and riches beyond imagination on the back of this.

So, if not the Jolly Bearded Fat Fellow or the Tardis-dwelling TimeLord, what did prove to be my most popular post of 2011 (I pretend to hear you ask)?

Somewhat against my better judgement – but in keeping with Franklin Whybrow tradition – I devoted a few idle evenings in October to Celebrity MasterChef. Amazingly (given the viewing figures and scheduling of the show) my subsequent HDS analysis of the Champion-in-waiting – entitled ‘The Dark Side of Phil Vickery’ – was an instant internet phenomenon. I think it would be fair to say it went viral.

OK, it wouldn’t be remotely fair to say that – but judicious use of the #celebritymasterchef hash-tag on Twitter did result in a staggering number of views. For all I know, every one of them may have been Phil Vickery – but that’s WordPress stats for you.

Here are some links:

1. the-dark-side-of-phil-vickery-celebrity-masterchef-champion/

2. doctor-who-and-the-myers-briggs-type-indicator-colin-baker-was-number-six/

3. mbti-types-of-the-worlds-greatest-novelists-condensed-into-140-characters-or-fewer/

4. how-do-you-motivate-an-enfp-to-actually-do-something/

5. santa-claus-and-the-myers-briggs-type-indicator/

For what it’s worth, my most commented upon post was none of the above. Another piece penned in response to a specific Google search – ‘Is FIRO-B Rubbish?’ – achieved that accolade. The answer is ‘no’ but here, for good measure, is that link:


Happy New Year – and Keeeeeeep Blogging!

If you are an avid reader of TYPEtype magazine (an MBTI-focused publication edited by Jenna Shaw of the New Zealand Association for Psychological Type) you may well come across my ‘2010’ Christmas blog post in your festive issue. However, most of my regular visitors are UK-based so you’re probably not subscribers. And disappointingly, Jenna was one of the precious few people who viewed that particular post (even if it is gratifying that she found it worthy of a wider audience). Nonetheless, there was a sudden surge in views last Saturday, coinciding with my own first Father Christmas sighting of the season, so maybe Santa’s MBTI type is of some interest after all.

But why so few views previously? Well, it could be that the piece wasn’t that great (surely not). However I’m hoping that timing was the main issue.  

Owing to the late airing of last year’s BBC Apprentice, and my obsession with analysing the HDS ‘dark side’ of each candidate, I didn’t post my Santa MBTI profile piece until 5th January 2011. It was topical (barely) for precisely 24 hours before our baubles were boxed up and fairy de-frocked (i.e. returned to her regular Barbie day-job) for another year.

So, encouraged by Jenna’s request to re-produce the post, I’m shamelessly re-hashing it for December 2011. Come Christmas Day, and a cracking Doctor Who special, I’ll be interested to see whose MBTI type is most searched for….

With Christmas approaching, and Santa soon to emerge from his Lapland hideaway, I was wondering how much we really understand about the man we call ‘Father Christmas’. Of course, Myers Briggs isn’t the whole story when it comes to who we are and how we are but perhaps reflecting on his MBTI type might shed a little more light on this most enigmatic character.

Ho Ho Ho - and have I got a surprising MBTI analysis for you

Extravert or Introvert, that is the first question.  We all use extravert and introvert behaviours (MBTI is about preference not capability) and for one month of the year Santa spends an inordinate amount of time ‘extraverting’ as he interacts with (mostly little) people.  However, there is very little that is spontaneous about these interactions – just a brief ‘Ho Ho Ho’ and ‘Have you been a good little boy/girl?‘ before he hands over some tat and sends you packing.  And these interactions clearly drain his energy to such a degree that he refuses to perform the most important part of his job unless his ‘clients‘ are all fast asleep.  Not only that, but he then needs eleven months of ‘down time’ to recharge the batteries. Santa is one serious Introvert.

So what about Sensing or Intuition?  How we like to communicate often provides clues to this one – and Santa is no exception.  This is a man who is very much grounded in practical reality rather than possibility and imagination. He only does small talk (‘Have you been bad or good? What would you like for Christmas? Will you put out a carrot for my reindeer?‘) and he definitely asks ‘What?‘ not ‘Why?‘ questions. In terms of how he likes to be communicated with, this is a man who wants a bullet-point list of your requirements not some rambling, anecdotal flight of fancy.

Clearly he’s Introvert and Sensing but what of Thinking or Feeling?  One might be tempted towards the latter given that he’s chosen to go into a seemingly people-focused and ‘caring‘ profession.  But essentially Thinking or Feeling is about our preferred basis for making decisions and I believe Santa’s is reasoned, objective analysis (practical and fact-based given his accompanying Sensing preference). Why do I say this with such conviction? Example 1: ‘Do you deserve any presents?’ Well, have you been bad or good? Are you awake or asleep?  Have you been shouting, crying or pouting (if so, he might not even come to your town)?  Example 2: ‘Who did he ask to pull his sleigh and why?’  For years he was perfectly happy to use Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blixen.  And he didn’t seem remotely bothered that they wouldn’t let poor Rudolph join in all their Reindeer games. No, Rudolph’s call up to the first team wasn’t a values-driven act of compassion. It was a practical solution to the problem of poor visibility on a foggy Christmas Eve.  ‘Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?’

Which brings me to Judging or Perceiving.  Firstly let me dispel the popular misconception that Judging types are necessarily ’judgemental’.  The J/P dichotomy isn’t about that, it is about how you prefer to live your life (planned, ordered, under control or flexibly, spontaneously, keeping options open) so Santa’s clearly judgemental nature (e.g. ‘Have you been bad or good?‘) is a red herring. Similarly, one might think that it takes a lot of meticulous planning to deliver the right presents to the right houses for all the (well-behaved, sleeping) children of the world in just one night. But he has eleven months and countless elves to get the plan right. And just look at his December schedule? I know for a fact that he will be my daughter’s Primary School in Teddington on Saturday 10th, the Trafford Centre, Manchester on 11th, my son’s nursery in Hampton, Middlesex on 12th, the Arndale, Huddersfield on 13th and the Bentall’s Centre in Kingston, Surrey, on 14th.  What sort of a plan is that?

Moreover, Judging types like to avoid last minute stresses whereas Perceiving types are typically energised by last minute pressure.  Santa doesn’t need to leave all his deliveries until Christmas Eve.  He likes it that way. He could choose to spread the load across a few months (not even such a strong Introvert as Santa Claus really needs eleven months to recharge the batteries). No, Santa doesn’t spend the whole of January to November recovering from the previous Christmas any more than he spends it planning for the next one.  He just whiles away the months wibbling around Lapland until his big deadline approaches and he feels sufficiently under pressure to become energised again.

Of course, now that I’ve identified Santa Claus as an ISTP we all have to hope he never reads this blog. Should he do so, there’s every possibility he’ll decide the role of Father Christmas wasn’t the ideal career choice for one with his MBTI preferences. And where would that leave us? Before you know it we’d have every parent in the land conspiring once a year in a massive cover-up involving red gowns, false white beards, forced joviality and a carrot, mince pie and whisky supper beside the chimney….

Communicating with others in a style which fits their MBTI type can be a powerful tool in influencing, engaging and building relationships.

Those with the Sensing preference typically like to receive information in a structured, sequential manner, prefer to focus on practical reality and tend to want detailed information which builds up the bigger picture and leads to the conclusion.

Intuitive types are more likely to want to start with a high level overview and perhaps dig down into the detail in areas which interest them. Intuitive types are usually happier to go off at tangents, more comfortable with gaps or ambiguity and more inclined to piece together information for themselves.

Recognising these differences, and tailoring your approach to appeal to the preferences of your audience, can really help you get them on board.

But why am I talking about this?

In a former life I worked at NATS Ltd – the UK’s leading purveyor of Air Traffic Management. In 2004 the NATS Executive set the organisation off in pursuit of 21 extremely challenging targets known as the 21 Destinations. The ‘Destinations’ programme was launched through a series of roadshows at which members of the Executive projected into the future and announced that in March 2007 NATS had achieved all of these targets. They then added ‘….and by the way, we don’t know how we’re going to do any of this’.

Within the UK population, approximately 75% of us have the Sensing preference and 25% the Intuitive preference. As the company’s MBTI expert I was well aware that the NATS ‘population’ reflected a similar disparity. Like most commercial businesses, the culture of NATS was very STJ – perhaps even more than most given the safety critical nature of Air Traffic Control. Yet here was the NATS Executive launching the 21 Destinations in an extremely Intuitive style.

The HR Director at that time, Philip James, would have been well aware of the MBTI ‘mix’ across the business and as it happens has just posted a blog piece on his own website referring to the launch of ‘Destinations’. So I took the opportunity to ask him – Did the NATS Executive consciously decide to launch Destinations in a style likely to cause discomfort, and hence invite resistance, among the predominantly Sensing audience?

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Former England Rugby Captain Phil Vickery has made it to the final of Celebrity MasterChef – and I believe will pip Kirsty Wark to the crown. He is clearly focused, driven, committed – all qualities which no doubt contributed much to his on-field achievements. ‘Leisurely‘, however, is not a word I would apply to his cooking style nor sporting persona.

But ‘Leisurely‘ is the new ‘global scale name’ for the HDS (Hogan Development Survey) scale formerly known as Focused-Passive Aggressive. And I’ve been collecting evidence to suggest that this would feature prominently in Vickery’s HDS profile.

Whilst Kirsty Wark talks about ‘letting the passion take over’, Phil Vickery’s mantra is all about ‘being single-minded‘ and ‘staying focused’. In a soundbite to camera he describes himself as ‘probably the most stubborn person you’ll ever meet’. In the kitchen his concentration is absolute. Vickery looks like a man determined not just to win Celebrity MasterChef but to become a celebrated chef.

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