The Dos and Don’ts of Personality Profiling
Personality profiling is an important part of any HR leader’s toolkit, helping us to focus on personality styles and preferences as we manage teams and individuals. But there can be pitfalls and problems with personality profiling, if it is done inadvisedly.
Some years ago, an acquaintance was asked to complete a ‘personality test’. When the results were revealed, the assessor exclaimed, ‘I can’t be friends with someone with your profile!’ I cannot think of any less appropriate interpretation of a personality profile!
There are numerous iterations and versions of personal style assessments, such as Myers-Briggs; at Work Horizons we happen to use DiSC. However, in reality the value that comes from these profiles isn’t the individual’s preferred style that matters, it is the understanding that people can gain into themselves AND the recognition that to make proper connections with colleagues we need to adapt our communication behaviour.
So, if you are relatively new to using personality profiles, you may find these dos and don’ts useful:
- Do coach the subject through the results, test their validity and help them understand that this is a guide and help, not a cast-in-stone picture of themselves.
- Do emphasise that this gives clues regarding the best ways to interact with colleagues, clients and suppliers.
- Do see this as a way for teams to have a mix of styles, which may lead to cognitive diversity and better problem solving and creativity.
- Don’t take the results as scientific proof and an absolute description of the individual and their guaranteed pattern of behaviour.
- Don’t imagine people don’t try to rig the outcome to reflect the person they would like to be or to be seen as by others.
- Don’t let people interpret their own results because, again, there will be natural skewing for preferred perception.
- Don’t let the individual think that their on-going behaviour must always reflect their notional result.
- Don’t let people think that there are better or worse profiles.
These are tools, not answers. They are easily misunderstood and are best used in coaching sessions as a great stimulus for focused discussion.