Understanding the Diversity of Board Member Personalities

Although we know the value of diverse perspectives around the board table, sometimes the challenges such diversity presents cause us to wish for the calm of working with a homogeneous team. One tool that can enhance our understanding of diversity and help us appreciate its value is personality assessment.

Whether a board uses the Myers Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®), DiSC®, True Colors™, Kolbe A™, or yet another tool, board members gain insight into how their preferred approach to such things as gathering information, making decisions, and interacting with people impacts others. They also learn how their colleagues tick, gaining helpful insights into the sources of harmony and frustration among board members.

A while ago I worked with a board in which many of the board members were frustrated with rehashing the same issues meeting after meeting, while the board chair believed these topics had not been adequately addressed. In the midst of exploring how the board members’ MBTI preferences impacted their work, the reason for the different perspectives became glaringly obvious. In MBTI terms, the board chair was a strong perceiver, who made decisions by considering all the available information and reconsidered decisions whenever he learned additional information. The rest of the board members were strong judgers; once they had some key information they made decisions, implemented accordingly, and moved on to the next matter at hand. The board decided at its next annual meeting to select one of the judgers as board chair as he could lead the board meeting in a way that would enable more timely decision-making, fit the style of the vast majority of the board members, and enhance organizational progress.

Yes, changing roles when an individual is seen to not be a great fit does risk hurt feelings because dedicated individuals may be assigned less prestigious roles. When an organization uses personality assessment it is essential to emphasize that all personality types have a valuable place in society. It just depends on the job at hand which types are best equipped to serve most effectively. All board members and the organization as a whole can win when everyone’s strengths are acknowledged and committee memberships, officer roles, and other tasks are assigned to maximize each person’s contributions.

About admin

Cathie Leimbach is Co-Founder and Consulting Partner with STRIVE!, a leadership development firm serving boards and senior management teams across the United States and Canada. Her diverse leadership experience includes chairing boards of directors, managing a team of 200, and coaching board members and senior managers to enhanced effectiveness. Cathie is recognized as an outstanding facilitator who engages workshop participants in the learning process for enhanced understanding and retention. STRIVE!’s book “The Imperfect Board Member” has been the top selling governance book for the last two years. Cathie writes a weekly board governance blog www.boardgovernance.wordpress.com.
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