How to Influence Your Boss – Leverage MBTI and Style Preferences

Illuminated light bulb in a row of dim ones concept for creativiI recently attended a Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) certification session where we participated in a thought-provoking and practical exercise: proposing an idea to our boss in light of our guess about his or her MBTI preferences. I was reminded how much style and personality come into play when trying to influence, sell and communicate effectively.

Leveraging some MBTI basics, I outlined below a few considerations and tips to review the next time you want to pitch an idea to your boss – or someone else:

How does your boss prefer to take in information – Sensing or Intuition?

Sensing – Does your boss tend to be thorough, systematic and practical? Does she like to focus on the facts and the specifics – the details and the here and now? Does she trust experience over inspiration and theory? If so, most likely, she prefers a “Sensing” approach, in Meyers-Briggs terms.

If you want to influence a boss with a Sensing preference, build your case in a systematic and linear way, and support it with data, facts and experience. Demonstrate that you’ve thought through the details. Show how you or others have done it successfully in the past.

Intuition – If, on the other hand, your boss likes innovative ideas and abstract concepts, prefers frameworks and theories, and enjoys connecting the dots and identifying themes and patterns, she likely prefers “Intuition,” in MBTI vernacular. Brainstorming, envisioning future possibilities and strategic planning are activities that may energize her. People with a preference for Intuition tend to be quick decision-makers and trust their guts.

Want to persuade a boss who prefers Intuition? Inspire her and engage her with your idea. And let her build on it. Communicate what meaningful and broad long-term outcomes your initiative will bring. Tell success stories about others who implemented the initiative in well-known and innovative companies. Beware of going into the weeds; stay high-level and speak with genuine passion and energy.

How does your boss tend to make decisions – Thinking or Feeling?

Thinking – Does your boss prefer to look at the pros and cons and enjoy analyzing problems? Does he tend to approach decisions logically, objectively and reasonably? Does he often come across as tough-minded? If so, he probably prefers a “Thinking” style, in MBTI language.

To convince him to support your proposal, let him know you have thought it through – and give him the chance to think it through, too. Lay out logical arguments, likely outcomes, costs and benefits, pros and cons and a clear rationale for what you’re recommending.

Feeling – While someone with a “Thinking” preference tends to take himself out of the situation to see it objectively, someone with a preference for a “Feeling” decision-making style tends to put himself into the situation to identify with all the people affected. People with a preference for Feeling tend to make decisions based on understanding, empathy and values – their own and others’.

Want your boss who has a preference toward Feeling to support your proposal? Show him how the recommendation aligns with his values and the organization’s values. Demonstrate that you’ve carefully and compassionately considered the impact on the individuals who will be affected.

Guidelines – not a formula

There’s a danger in using personality types and style preferences if we use them to pigeon-hole, stereotype, excuse or manipulate people. And there’s no sure-fire formula for guessing someone’s style and personality preferences … or for influencing.

But tuning into what you know about your boss’s preferences and targeting your communication accordingly – on top of a growing foundation of trust, authenticity and respect – will go a long way towards having the influence and impact you want.

Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults. In his work as a leadership consultant and executive coach, he often leverages assessments such as MBTI, DiSC, LPI Online 360, Shadowmatch and Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team to help leaders and their teams to increase emotional intelligence, collaboration skills and leadership effectiveness. You can reach him at or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.