Usefulness is more important than complete accuracy when using Personality Profiling tools for teams

There are many personality profiling tools. Myer-Briggs (MBTI), DISC, OPQ and Wave are a number of the more commonly used approaches. Technically they are hard to separate although the Wave (to which I am licensed) is able to provide evidence that it is superior to the rest.

From a personal development perspective I advocate the use of any one of the abovementioned tools. I strongly encourage that they be used with support from experts.

Where I don’t advocate the use of these tools is with teams.

I don’t say this because I think the tools are poor – rather they are too complex for most people to make them useful from an ongoing perspective.

When I conduct team development programs I ask the participants if they have ever completed any personality profile assessments. A large percentage of people indicate that they have completed assessments, but their memory of what the results meant is limited.

“I did the MBTI and I think I was an extravert…” is as much detail as most people can muster.

When I ask how the tool was used to improve the performance of a team people struggle to provide clear examples. However they add, “…but I thought it was really interesting and learnt a few things about myself.”

The issue here is that we need to use team profiling tools that are memorable and useful. It is for this reason that I use the What Makes People Tick Personality Profile tool. I’ll be the first to admit that the science behind the tool is nowhere near the sophistication of a DISC or the OPQ. What is important is that the tool is easy to remember and therefore apply. You don’t have to be an expert on the tool to be able to apply its lessons within your team.

This is a significant problem I find with a lot of the other tools. You virtually have to be an expert in them to be able to apply them in a team setting. Most people are too busy being experts in their own fields and simply don’t have the mental ‘space’ to become an expert ion personality profiling tools.

A case in point. When recently facilitating a team development program, the youngest person in the room (a 26 year old) was able to provide a detailed description of the What Makes People Tick approach. He was able to accurately remember and describe the four personality types as well as how they were used to help improve team performance. This person was not university qualified yet he knew more about the practical application of techniques to manage personality differences that the vast majority of university graduates with whom I have worked.

This was despite it being a full two years since he had worked with the team where he had been exposed to the tool. No one else was able to provide any examples regarding the practical application of the tools they had used.

What Makes People Tick uses only two sets of dimensions from which a person’s profile is derived. They are:

  • Introversion/extraversion
  • People focus/task focus

The combination of these dimensions result in a people having a combination of four preferred ‘windows’ through which they make sense of the world. These four windows are:
  • Introversion/people focus
  • Extraversion/people focus
  • Introversion/task focus
  • Extraversion/task focus

The memorability aspect of this tool derives from the descriptions that Des Hunt, the creator of the profile then added to each of the above windows.
They are:
  • Dove
  • Peacock
  • Owl
  • Eagle

The majority of people are able to describe some of the key behavioural characteristics of these birds without being an expert on the tool. They are able to do this because of the differences that the images of the birds demonstrate. When the characteristics are applied to humans people have a lot of fun but are also able to make sense of how the personality differences can generate unhealthy conflict within a team. Conflict that is often hard to ‘pinpoint’ yet makes complete sense when the ‘bird’ profiles are discovered.

More importantly people are able to quickly identify strategies for managing the differences.

For examples, ‘Peacocks’ are ideas people who like to follow their gut instincts. Owls, on the other hand are conservative and like data to support decisions. It’s not hard to imagine how such differences in preferences could generate problems.

Armed with this knowledge the Peacock could engage another Owl to do some research for them to find some facts to support their idea. Armed with the facts the Peacock could then present the idea to the Owl. Similarly the Owl can choose to be more forgiving of the Peacock. They might also choose to do their own research on how often the Peacock’s ideas have been useful. Upon discovering a high percentage the Owl could use this data to support the Peacock in going with their intuition. The simplicity of the tool enhances its functionality.

What tools have you used and how useful have they been from the perspective of helping to improve team performance?

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
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