I am not a huge believer in the validity of personality categorization – although I find the tools endlessly fascinating. That said, people are very different from one another in ways that feel categorizable and that can inform how we show up in work and in life.
When I was a psychology undergrad, one of my enduring memories from class is the research into the Big Five or OCEAN personality categories – Openness, Consciousness, Extroversion/Introversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. Each category is a continuum between curious and cautious, organized and careless, outgoing and solitary, compassionate and critical, and moody and steady. A quick look into PubMed shows growth in OCEAN research from my undergrad days (see Modelling the contribution of the Big Five personality traits, health anxiety, and COVID-19 psychological distress to generalised anxiety and depressive symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic and Mapping Big Five Personality Traits Within and Across Domains of Interpersonal Functioning). These categories, however, with obvious social desirability on one end of the continuum, feel too sensitive to use in a work context.
Alternatively, there is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, probably the most widely used personality test in a work and healthcare context, based on Carl Jung’s archetypes (see Understanding and applying personality types in healthcare communication, The association between Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Psychiatry as the specialty choice, and the oldie from 1977 An assessment of the Myers-Briggs Type indicator). The introversion-extroversion continuum has become a fundamental part of our society (I recommend reading the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking or watching author Susan Cain’s hilarious TED talk).
At our Foundation for Health Care Quality we recently met to take and discuss the Clifton Strengths Finder – a tool that highlights what a person is good at doing rather than pointing out deficits (see Structured Coaching Programs to Develop Staff and Using personal strengths with intention in pharmacy: implications for pharmacists, managers, and leaders). Of our staff’s strengths distribution, we have multiple folks excelling at responsibility, arranger (how component parts fit together), positivity, and learner (enjoying the process of uncovering new information).
I love how our staff’s core strengths map so well to our FHCQ vision, mission, and organization’s core strengths – gathering chart abstracted data and applying that data to clinical practice, building consensus, developing community standards, and helping our community move to action. Perhaps being made of arrangers allows us to easily bring people to the table to collaborate around quality.
We are made up of introverts and extroverts, some neuroticism of course, judging and perceiving, and a mix of strengths that help one another and help our overall mission. Diversity of thought and of being is so important to help us all attain our full health potential.
Ginny Weir, MPH
Chief Executive Officer