I’m willing to guess that every person reading this post has taken some type of personality assessment during their lifetime. There are many to choose from ranging from free online assessments to some of the more well-known assessments including Gallup StrengthsFinder, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DiSC Personality Profile and Predictive Index (PI) Behavioral Assessment.
DiSC and PI are both scientifically validated assessments, based on the work of William Marston and his theory that emotions can be categorized into four types; Dominance/Assertiveness (A), Inducement/Influence (B), Submission/Steadiness (C) and Compliance/Detail (D). As an administrator of the PI, I have come to appreciate many aspects of the tool; the assessment itself takes roughly seven minutes to complete, the report is three pages in length and the results are scientifically validated for everything from hiring to employee development to supporting teams with communication and conflict resolution.
I get mixed reviews when I talk about assessments. Many people find them interesting, some have had negative experiences based on how the data was used and some refer to them as “junk science.” I would agree that there isn’t a lot of value in a one and done approach that may not be fully understood by the person completing the assessment. The real value is seen when the language and meaning of the assessment becomes woven into the fabric of the culture.
I was first certified to administer PI in 2012. For the first several years I was only using the tool for hiring, and primarily with my Customer Service and Inside Sales teams. In mid-2017, I had the opportunity to introduce one of my Engineering Managers to the PI. He was impressed with what he saw and asked me to facilitate a workshop with his team; a group of Mechanical Engineers and Regulatory Compliance Coordinators. Those of you who are familiar with PI, know what I mean when I say I was walking into a “Low B” group…a skeptical group of introverts who were wondering what this meeting with HR was all about. As a “High B”….an enthusiastic, fast talking, extrovert, I had my work cut out for me!
Long story short, the workshop ended with laughter and storytelling and people in the room having some major “aha moments” when it came to their communication with each other. I never would have expected this group to take their placards (a summary of their results) back to their desk and hang it up outside of their cubicle. This was the start of something truly amazing! After seeing their co-worker’s placard and hearing the stories that followed, employees were coming to me asking when they could complete their PI and see their results. One workshop turned into 20+ until every employee in the business unit had completed their PI and participated in a workshop. Workshops were only the beginning, as the PI became an integral part of the business unit culture.
By the beginning of 2018, every candidate who came into the office for an interview, completed a PI. In my experience, most companies have a candidate complete an assessment but don’t necessarily share the results. I got to the point where I was not only sending every candidate their individual results but reviewing their results with them. While patterns across roles emerged in time, I cared less about the results themselves and more about the candidate’s self-awareness and reaction to their results. The PI alone was not used to eliminate candidates. A great example is a candidate for customer service who had the “lowest A” I had ever encountered. While a “low A” is generally an asset in customer service, this candidate’s profile indicated extremely low assertiveness; timid and almost fearful. The hiring team met the candidate in person and talked through his results. His off the charts “low A” reflected the fact that he was being asked to step outside of his current customer service role and push for sales, which was completely outside of his comfort zone. We made him an offer the same day, and with the confirmation that sales would NOT be part of his new responsibilities, he accepted our offer and has been an amazing addition to the team!
As I mentioned in a prior post, an employee’s PI is often utilized as part of their professional development discussion. It’s a great way to bring awareness to inherent strengths and behavioral drivers and to help an employee think beyond their current role and department. It’s also a great way to identify potential development opportunities as it relates to future areas of interest. For example, if a “High D” wants to move into a more strategic role, they will need to get comfortable focusing less on every detail and being able to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Another example is how an Inside Sales Rep was considered for a Regulatory Compliance role in the business unit. Education and experience aside, this employee’s development discussion and PI results indicated a fit. While at first, both the hiring manager and the employee thought I was a little crazy for suggesting such a move, they quickly saw what I saw, and the employee was offered and accepted the position.
Communication and Conflict Resolution
Once all employees in the business unit had completed their PI, it wasn’t unusual to see a peer bring their PI to a meeting. Employees who hadn’t had the opportunity to work together before, would start meetings with “I am a High D so it’s important for me to know the details.” There were also many instances where I would use the tool in conflict situations, to help two people understand each other and find common ground. The tool gave all employees a non-threatening language to use when having potentially difficult conversations. It wasn’t uncommon to hear one employee ask another to “reel in their A” which meant they were coming across as too assertive and potentially dominating a conversation. What a powerful use of the tool!
It’s easy to see the difference in the results between a one and done approach vs. the value of integrating an assessment into the workplace culture. Which project team would you rather work on; one where time is spent learning the personalities of the team members as you go and encountering potentially avoidable conflicts along the way, or one where team members understand each other’s strengths and behavioral drivers upfront and are highly functioning from the start?