So, your team has just done the DiSC, Hogan, the MBTI, or the Birkman.
You feel seen.
Finally, everyone can appreciate the multitudes you contain. Things will be better now. You’ll be respected and treated as you’ve always wanted. You’ll connect better, trust each other more, and accomplish great things.
Not bloody likely.
Or at least not without a lot more effort.
I’ve spent almost twenty years helping individuals and teams better understand their motives, styles, interests, habits, and needs. As a result, I’m a big believer in psychological assessments’ power to improve business performance and team dynamics.
But each time I encourage a team to open Pandora’s box of personality, I unleash a few monsters. People who, armed with a profile that says they’re a red (or a D, or an ENFJ, or a Peacock) justify unhelpful behavior by invoking the Popeye defense, “I am what I am.”
Things go downhill from there.
Even with the risk of propagating Popeyes, I’m still a big proponent of psychometrics because I find them powerful tools. However, like most powerful tools, there’s a safe and an unsafe way to use an assessment, and you need a manual and a few warning stickers to prevent someone from getting hurt.
So, before you fire up your nifty new assessment, let’s talk about what you shouldn’t do with it.
What Not to Do with Your Assessment
#1 Do not expect your colleagues to know and understand the complex human that is you.
Buying a saw does not make you a carpenter.
A personality tool will provide useful information, but there is a wide range in reliability, validity, and comprehensiveness of these tools. An assessment won’t allow your colleagues to grasp all your nuances and quirks.
But some might come close. If they’re curious, open, and attentive, they might achieve a solid understanding of what makes you tick.
Even if they do…
#2 Do not expect your colleagues to remember all the facets of your personality in the heat of the moment.
Knowing once is not remembering forever.
Your profile has myriad complexities, and you’re only one of many people your teammate has to consider. The volume of information they would need to remember to be tuned in to everyone’s needs is overwhelming.
But maybe they do remember the salient bits. If they have a memory like a steel trap or a cheat sheet in their notebook, they might be conscious of your needs in the moment.
Even if they are…
#3 You should not expect your colleagues to change their behavior to prioritize your needs over those of others or the business.
What’s best for you is not best for all.
Your needs are your needs, but they might directly conflict with the needs of another stakeholder (like a colleague or a customer). Alternatively, your preferred way of doing things might not be viable in the situation. You might like to weigh all the options and develop scenarios for important decisions. Still, if there’s a power outage affecting the eastern seaboard, you’re gonna’ have to act in the absence of complete information.
What You Can Do with Your Assessment
Can we agree that sharing your psychological assessment findings with your team does not transfer ownership of your needs to them? Nor does it serve as a binding contract that “thou shall be treated optimally for a Purple 8 or an ISFJ at all times.”
If you agree, there are gazillions of other ways to use your assessment to make your team more effective and fun.
Try these things to unlock the benefits of greater insight with your colleagues.
1. Describe Where Your Needs Aren’t Being Met
- Share your findings and open up about situations where you feel that your needs aren’t met. “I’m realizing that my ability to absorb change is much higher when I get involved early, and recently, I’ve been pulled into projects late in the game.” Ask for advice on how you might make the best of these situations. “How could I encourage engineering to pull me in sooner?”
- Get suggestions about coping strategies. “Any idea how I can handle it if I’m called in at the last minute?”
- Ask for help. “I’d appreciate it if you’d advocate for me if you think there are deliberations that I should be involved in.”
- “Did the assessment highlight areas where you’re not being set up for success? What could I do to support you?”
2. Highlight Areas of Friction
- Point out areas where your profile and that of your colleagues might create friction. “I noticed that you prefer direct and frank feedback. I’m better when feedback is a little more diplomatic, and I think I tend to deliver it that way.”
- Ask for examples of where they have experienced that rub. “Have you noticed me sugarcoating my feedback or delivering it in a way that doesn’t work for you?”
- Inquire about how they would prefer you to behave in the future and “What’s a better way to get my message across?
- Urge them to point out if they experience friction with your style. Will you please let me know if I start to gloss over issues or stay too vague?”
3. Discuss Surprises
- Ask if there were any areas where your colleagues were surprised by your results. “You laughed when the report said I had high social needs. Did that not resonate based on your experience of me?”
- Share any stories that would help them understand how you experience that characteristic. “I know I’m quiet, but I love being part of the team, and I get a lot of energy from being included. I might watch from the sidelines, but I get FOMO if I’m left out of the action.”
- “I was a little taken aback by your concrete thinking style. How do you see that playing out on the team?”
4. Call Out Your Needs in the Moment
- Remind people of a specific aspect of your profile if their behavior is not meeting your needs. “As you saw in my profile, I like to reflect before I decide, and this is the first time I’m seeing this proposal.”
- Ask for a remedy. “Would it be possible to dig deeper into this before I give you my take? Could I get back to you this afternoon?”
- Give feedback after the fact. “I knew you needed to get my take quickly, so I did my best. I’m most confident in my contributions when I can have a night to sleep on things. How could I get more lead time on these issues?”
5. Remind People You’re More Than a Color
- Reframe attempts to pigeonhole you or others. “I got a lot out of using the assessment too, but I don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking our profiles are our destiny. The facilitator told us that assessments don’t tell us what we can or will do; they only help us understand our defaults.”
- Try on other styles. “I know the test says I’m an introvert, but I’m going to flex my extrovert muscles and volunteer to be the one who hosts the town hall.”
- Call-out counter-type behavior. “Bruce, you said you were working on providing more clarity for your team, and I noticed how well you did that by providing details about your expectations and when to escalate.”
Assessment Rights and Responsibilities
I’ve spent this entire post talking about what is not legitimate to expect from your teammates; now it’s time to be clear about what you should be able to ask of one another. I’d love for everyone on a team to commit to this list before sharing their psychological profiles.
- I will treat assessment information respectfully and will not share it beyond the group.
- I will take people’s needs seriously and avoid belittling or invalidating them.
- I will not use the findings to constrain what I believe anyone is capable of.
- I will make reasonable accommodations to meet my colleague’s needs.
- I will match the approach to the business needs first and individual needs second.
- I will take accountability for getting my needs met and provide feedback to help my colleagues position me for success.
- I will flex my style and find coping strategies when the situation requires an approach that doesn’t meet my needs.
I’d love to hear how using assessments has helped you or your team. For example, what breakthroughs did understanding one another’s personalities create? And while you’re commenting, what else would you add to the Assessment Charter of Rights and Responsibilities?