It’s tough out there right now and, like any small business owner, you can’t allow the usual misunderstandings and personality conflicts that endanger productive teamwork to continue. But, just how do you address those problems?
That’s where personality assessments come in. By having your employees take these evaluations, you can help them learn not only what makes them tick, but the motivations and styles of their colleagues—how they tend to make decisions, say, or their tolerance for risk. And, with that information, they can more easily figure out how to work together successfully.
That aloof employee who seems so unapproachable? Turns out he may just simply be shy and naturally cautious. His teammate who annoyingly makes decisions too quickly? In reality, she’s innately more of a risk-taker than most. “Administered correctly, the right assessment can help people understand their differences and similarities and use that to work together,” says Yvonne Kinney-Hockert, who heads Consulting Solutions, a management consultancy in Alexandria, Minnesota. “It’s a great way to boost productivity.”
But, fact is, choosing, administering and working with assessment results is a complex process. And it’s easy for novices to make mistakes. Here’s a look at what to avoid:
Doing it yourself
There are hundreds of assessments to choose from. One widely-used assessment, for example, is the D.I.S.C. Personality Profile, which is aimed at understanding behavioral types and personality styles across four dimensions: Dominance—how direct you are in your communication and decision-making approach; Influence—whether you’re optimistic and outgoing; Steadiness—the extent to which you’re empathetic and cooperative; and Conscientiousness—how concerned, cautious, and detail-oriented you are.
But, with such a plethora of choices, it’s difficult for the newcomer to know which ones are appropriate—or, even, statistically valid. For that reason, you’ll probably need to hire an outside expert to help. Another advantage: Employees will regard that person as more impartial.
Creating the wrong impression
If you’re not careful, employees will perceive the assessment as a test to be used for evaluating their performance. And, as a result, they most likely won’t answer questions honestly. For that reason, you have to explain clearly the purpose of the assessment: that you’re merely looking for ways to define people’s styles, help them understand one another better, and improve teamwork.
Even if you do that, however, people still might interpret their results—or those of others—as an implicit judgment. “Employees will start labeling themselves as being good or bad,” says Kinney-Hockert. Result: You need to keep emphasizing the purpose—and set the tone yourself, by discussing the information as objectively as possible.
Assuming you’ll share each individual’s results with the rest of the team
The best approach, says Kinney-Hockert, is first to meet with each employee to discuss his or her results. In the process, find out whether the person would be comfortable sharing the findings with the rest of the group. If you think it would cause a problem, then back off. Instead, talk to the team as a whole, but describe the overall pattern—there’s a preponderance of introverts or risk-takers, for example—without providing individual profiles. On the other hand, if you find no one minds sharing the results, then do so.
In some cases, employees may feel more comfortable disclosing their profiles if the boss takes the first step. Kinney-Hockert points to a small construction company with a president generally regarded as being standoffish and unapproachable. Recently, after he and his employees took an assessment, they met together and the president revealed his profile characteristics—basically, someone who cared about people but lacked the ability to show it. After he did that, his employees not only started seeing him in a different light, but also felt free to discuss their own results with the team.
Ignoring legal issues