Two-minute read: What I learned from taking six personality assessments in six months

Talk about getting to know yourself.

During the past six months, I’ve taken six different personality assessments as part of coursework or project work. It has been one of the most valuable parts of returning to school and moving in a new career direction.

My experience with these tools was extremely limited before MSLOC. (Buzzfeed quizzes don’t count). But I’ve now taken Hogan assessments, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Reflected Best Self, the Cultural Orientations Indicator, the Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument and the CliftonStrengths assessment.

Reviewing the results has been empowering, eye-opening, humbling and invaluable – in very different ways. One assessment measured cultural awareness, another measured handling of conflict and at least two focused primarily on strengths. Each one has sparked reflection about my professional path, preferences, how to be a better teammate and how to best help organizations.

For those considering taking similar assessments – or providing them to your organization – and don’t have much experience with the process, I recommend the following:

Find an expert guide. A coach who is certified in a particular assessment can walk you through the results and answer questions. This is a nuanced process. She or he can offer valuable insight into how to interpret findings. One of my assessments, for example, focused on personality tendencies that appeared mostly during times of stress – not all the time. Thinking of becoming certified in administering a particular assessment? Each tool’s site has information on how to sign up, class schedules, cost and more. Be sure to check if there is a discount or deal through your organization or school.

Don’t freak out. Results aren’t all “good” or all “bad.” Don’t read results and immediately think you’ve got a list of character flaws that need correcting. Some preferences that might not seem optimal might actually be a benefit in a specific setting.

Find the patterns. Do you have the results from multiple assessments? When taken together, does a trend (or multiple trends) emerge? How might that play out during interactions within professional settings, especially as a member of a face-to-face or virtual team? How might that factor into your relationships with your boss or people that that you manage?

Consider results in context. Assessments like the MBTI measure preferences, not “trait, ability or character.” Every person is different. Every situation is based in a context. People can change. Adam Grant, Wharton professor and organizational psychologist, recently covered these issues in depth in his podcast. One of his guests, Dr. Brian Little, an expert in personality and motivational psychology, said:

I think that people have to be careful that once they diagnose themselves or something like that, that they don’t see it as something from which they can’t escape. We have far more degrees of freedom to shape our lives than those strong “trait is your destiny” positions would encourage us to believe. I think there are fates beyond traits.”

Personality assessment isn’t just for professional relationships.  I’m an extrovert, but have many friends and family members who are introverts. Before digesting the MBTI, I didn’t fully understand the differences between those psychological types, as defined by that tool. Recharging after a long day, for example, means very different things to different people. I’m paying closer attention to their cues and my reaction to various situations, with far greater understanding.

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