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IMPORTANT NOTE - We do not encourage or support the use of personality testing for the purposes of employee selection or control. 

classification schemes

personality and competence

group culture and style

reinforcement and replacement

from crisis to management

care of the self


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Personality Balance

veryard projects > personality > balance

The various personality models and schemes discussed on this page allow us to think about the balance of personality, at various levels.
Person A person may have a "balanced" personality. This may be related to Character.
Small Group The balance within a couple, family, working team  People may have complementary or sympathetic personalities, which can enhance the effectiveness and happiness of the group.
Large Group The balance within large organizations, societies or nations, where the "personality" of different subgroups and subcultures becomes relevant.

Balance is usually regarded as a good thing.
more Notes on Balance
Notes on Character

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Personality Classification Schemes

veryard projects > personality > classification schemes

Personal Archetypes (Jung) King, Warrior, Magician, Lover
Preferences (Myers-Briggs) I/E, N/S, T/F, P/J
Management Competences (Kolb) Affective, Perceptual, Symbolic, Behavioural
Team Roles (Belbin) Chairman, Plant, Team Player, …
Perception Preferences (NLP) Visual, Aural, Kinaesthetic
Learning Styles (Rudolph Steiner) Phlegmatic, Melancholic, Choleric, Sanguine

Classification Types

There are various ways of classifying people into personality or behaviour types.  A type is a shorthand way of indicating a commonly occurring set of preferences, patterns, strengths and weaknesses.

We have only listed a few of the better-known classification schemes here.  You may be familiar with others, or you may prefer to invent your own variants.

These ways are often interrelated.  Thus the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is derived from Jung.  Kolb maps onto Jung fairly neatly.  There are other divisions into four, such as Lacan’s four discourses, which can also be cross-mapped.

One of the oldest divisions into four is the mediaeval theory of the elements (fire, water, air and earth), which underlies various theories from Steiner’s learning styles to astrology.  You don’t have to believe these theories to use them: they remain a valuable source of metaphor.

How to use classification

Classification can be used either to prevent or promote change.

If classification is taken to be final - This is how it is, This is who I am - then it may reinforce the patterns.

But on the other hand, classification may be understood developmentally, allowing patterns to be altered where appropriate.
more Classification: Abstraction
Classification: Identification

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Personality and Competence

veryard projects > personality > competence

Kolb developed a four-part model of experiential learning, in which he identifies four competences relevant to four modes of experience (learning styles). Kolb’s work is widely referenced in the field of management development and training. Kolb's model of competences maps roughly onto the Jungian archetypes, and therefore to Myers-Briggs.
Competence Skills Jungian archetype
Affective Being personally involved
Dealing with people
Being sensitive to people’s feelings
Being sensitive to values
Perceptual Gathering information
Organizing information
King / Judge
Symbolic Experimenting with new ideas
Creating new ways of thinking and doing
Generating alternative ways of thinking and doing
Analysing quantitative data
Designing experiments
Testing theories and ideas
Building conceptual models
Behavioural Seeking and exploiting opportunities
Committing yourself to objectives
Making decisions
Setting goals
more Kolb's model of management competences links to his work on Creativity and Integrity
To see a further mapping onto Lacan's Four Discourses, please see Zones of Competence

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Personality Classification for Personal Development

veryard projects > personality > personal development

Understand my own strengths and weaknesses Can make better use of strengths
Can develop personal strategies for weaknesses (avoid exposure, reduce weakness, acquire protection)
Awareness of my own patterns / valencies Which roles do I automatically adopt, without thinking?
What temptations am I subject to?
Develop personal flexibility Can I develop alternateive strategies?

I am normally of type A.   This describes me pretty well, for most situations.

In certain situations, I feel more like type B.  Perhaps some of my friends and acquaintances see me as a B rather than an A.
This means I have a choice between being A or being B, depending on the situation.  This means there is a greater range of situations in which I can be effective.

However, there are some situations I never feel comfortable in.  I imagine that these situations suit people of type C, and I don't feel I have any of the attributes of C.  I cannot seem to act confidently or effectively in these situations.

Does my private life reflect my working life?  Do I find it as hard to make decisions, as hard to communicate or persuade, as hard to organize things, as hard to learn from my mistakes?  Or do I display different personality strengths in different contexts?

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Personality Classification for Effective Communication

veryard projects > personality > effective communication

Select people I want to work with same type / complementary type
Develop rapport
Communicate effectively

The person I am talking to is of type A.  Therefore s/he will understand me better, and will be more sympathetic to what I am saying,  if I present the material in this way, use this type of language, this type of example.  This sensitivity makes me more persuasive.

Furthermore, if I am sensitive to the way s/he uses language, I will understand better (more thoroughly, more deeply) what is being said, and what is not being said.  This sensitivity probably makes me a better listener.

Communication depends on rapport.  Rapport is two-sided, it cannot be faked. In pretending to listen more deeply to your customer or employee, you may find that you really are listening more deeply to your customer or employee. (Many people are disappointed by NLP when they discover this.)

Rapport is often thought to demand like styles.  This is not always true.  Sometimes complementary styles communicate better.

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Personality Classification for Building Effective Teams

veryard projects > personality > effective teams

Develop effective teams Understand my contribution to team
Understand the contribution of each team member
Recruit team members to fill missing roles
Understand team strengths and weaknesses Can make better use of strengths
Can develop group strategies for weaknesses (avoid exposure, reduce weakness, acquire protection)
Awareness of group patterns

Do we have different roles with regard to the primary task?

Do we have different psychological roles (scapegoat fantasy, leader fantasy, pairing fantasy)?

What kinds of primary task are we good at, suitable for?

What types / levels of anxiety can we handle without undue stress?

Where are we vulnerable?  How do we act strategically to cope with this vulnerability?  How do we act unconsciously?

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Collective Personality - Group Culture and Style

veryard projects > personality > collective personality

Understand and improve inter-group relations Group rapport
Effective communications
Understand team contribution to whole enterprise

Group differentiation

If Marketing has a different group style to IT, then this difference will dominate the relationship between the two groups. However, this difference will be perceived differently by the two groups and by ‘independent’ observers.

Fantasy of the other group

Sometimes a group has so much psychological investment in identifying itself in contrast to other groups, that it overplays the differences between itself and other groups, and underplays the similarities. This polarizes relations between groups into Them and Us, and makes inter-group rapport very difficult.

Division of competence

Different departments or job titles within a company will have different competence profiles.  Thus the HR department might be expected to have greater affective competence, while the IT department might be expected to have greater symbolic competence.

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Personality Change - Patterns of Reinforcement and Replacement

veryard projects > personality > change

Space to change

So where do I want to start trying out different patterns?  With intimates, with whom I can share my intentions to change?  Or with strangers, who will not reinforce my bad habits with their bad habits?  Sometimes the family is the last place that you can make the change.

Some people change jobs or relationships, as the only way they know of to leave behind their bad habits.

There are institutions that offer space to escape from everyday life, where change should be possible.  At the extreme, these include psychiatric hospitals, rest cures, monastic retreats and Leicester conferences.  Less extreme opportunities to ‘recharge the batteries’ include residential training workshops and ordinary package holidays.  But how to make the change stick, when the person returns to the system.

As is well known with mental illness, a person can often be cured away from the family, but resumes the illness when returned to the ‘bosom’ of the family.  Anorexia, it is said, can only be cured by separation, either of the girl from her parents or of the parents from one another.


Can we expect Lord Archer to leave prison a changed man, a reformed character?

Forces  for change

We can draw a Lewin-style force-field diagram showing how new patterns are battling against old patterns.  Stakeholders may be on the side of old or new or both.  In some cases, the institution demanding the new pattern is at the same time reinforcing the old pattern.  This sets up a double-bind.

Unconscious reinforcement of the old patterns

One of the challenges of organizational change is to uncover the ways in which the forces for change are undermined or negated by patterns and messages that contradict change.  Consider: how do you react to sudden behavioural changes in a partner?  How congruent is your support?

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From crisis to management

veryard projects > personality > from crisis to management

Driven by crisis

The energy to start the learning process is often generated by crisis.  This is paradoxical: how to use crisis to get away from crisis management.  We want to build a position in which crisis management ceases to be dominant.  But if we are stuck in crisis management, this is probably the only mechanism available to us as change agents.

Taking up a position

Learning may necessitate taking up a fixed position, even though you know you are going to have to abandon the position later.
One of the difficulties of change is deliberately forgetting this fact - at least temporarily - in order to wholeheartedly commit to the chosen position for the time being.

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Care of the Self

veryard projects > personality > care of the self

Leadership Authority for oneself
Boundary management Personal character versus official role
Personal awareness Interpersonal valencies
Education and career development Lifetime requirement
Personal responsibility / duty

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Books on Personality

veryard projects > personality > books

Book Comment Information
L.H. Martin, H. Gutman and P.H. Hutton (eds), Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault 

(University of Massachusetts Press, 1988)

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This page last updated on July 10th, 2003
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