Understanding ourselves and other people is one of the most important management skills and is very useful in building and sustaining a productive and satisfying working life. Some people have natural self-awareness and empathy; most of us have to work at it.

If you reflect on your own working life, it will soon be apparent just how important this is. Think of times when having a better understanding of yourself would have helped you to predict your reaction in a difficult situation or to know what was likely to stress you, how you would react to stress and what you might do about it.

If you understand your strengths and weaknesses, you can improve your decision making, building in greater realism or imagination as required or seeking these qualities in others.

Think also of others' behaviour that has surprised you. Did you dismiss them as odd, or worse? Or did you stop to think why they were so absorbed with the facts that they missed the big picture or why their inspirational vision was unsullied by any consideration of the practical realities?

In 1991 I was introduced to the Myers-Briggs tool and began a journey of self-discovery that is still going on. I found that I was strongly introvert and drew my energy from reflection and strong inner values. I learned that just because I could speak to groups large and small and work a room, that did not make me an extrovert. I realised that this behaviour was learned and drained me of energy, so that at the end of a busy working day, I had little left to give to my family and friends.

I understood that I needed to be aware of the weakness as well as the strength of judgements based on inner values. Unfortunately, I did not learn about stress issues. If I had, my workaholism might have been controlled and a great deal of grief might have been avoided.

I always like to know where ideas that influence me come from, and the origins of Myers-Briggs are remarkable. Katherine Briggs began to study individual differences through biography in 1917. In 1923 she and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers began to study Jungian theory and to observe personality in terms of type theory.

The early forms of the "type indicator" were not developed until 1942-44 and this was followed by 12 years of type indicator data collection and research on medical and nursing students.

It was not until 1975 that the Myers-Briggs type indicator became widely available, and the remarkable book Gifts Differing was not published until 1980, 12 years after Katherine died and the year of Isabel's death.

Sadly, many people's experience of the indicator is a "test" administered remotely and feedback that seeks to tell them who they are. Katherine and Isabel would be horrified.

If you use the indicator, remember that the remarkable women who developed it would have wanted you to assess the type that fits you best, using it as a guide. They would not have minded if you never settled on a type or put yourself in a box. They would have been pleased if you understood yourself and others better. That is a road well worth travelling.