Many years ago, as a newly promoted supervisor, I had my first experience with a personality assessment. It was the “Personal Profile System”—also known as the “DiSC®” profile. My eyes were opened to a new way of working with people. One of my biggest learning insights was that my strengths of forcefulness, getting results, and enthusiasm could also be liabilities if I wasn’t mindful of their impact. Based on that management training class, I learned to pay better attention to applying my strengths at the correct time and with the right intensity when dealing with my direct reports, peers and bosses. This allowed me to key in to others’ communication needs to build better rapport and foster teamwork.
My positive initial experience with personality assessments fueled my passion for helping others discover their unique talents. For over two decades, I’ve consulted with organizations who want to use assessments for leadership development. The clients’ intent is straightforward and worthy: provide employees a means for becoming the best leaders possible, with assessments providing one avenue for personal development. In many cases, these efforts succeed. But sometimes, things go astray. I’ve heard countless stories of people who were excited to take the assessment, only to be left on their own to puzzle out the meaning of its results. Or, they were provided with a level of detail that left their heads spinning.
Let me go on the record as saying that highly complex, detailed personality assessments and 360 degree feedback processes have significant merit—if a company has the time, money and educated staff to implement these tools. For companies new to the use of assessments for leadership development, simpler is better. As Valerie McMurray, a former vice president of HR with extensive expertise in the use of assessments writes in 3 Things You Need To Know About Personality Assessments To Choose The Right One(s) For Your Employees:
“The most successful programs from the stand-point of the employees’ experience are less time consuming and effort-intensive with results that are simple and not confusing, fit your group’s learning style and have a direct alignment with organizational purpose which is emphasized with a well-executed follow up action plan.”
I agree with Valerie. When clients come to me for recommendations on leadership development tools, I take the “keep it simple” approach and recommend John Wiley & Son’s Everything DiSC® personality assessment. The feedback report uses a simple conceptual model of four primary “dimensions” of behavior: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. But “simple” doesn’t mean simplistic. Although the online DiSC assessment takes only about 15 minutes to complete, the assessment is backed by 40 years of psychometric research and sophisticated algorithms to quickly analyze a person’s responses and provide the most personalized DiSC feedback possible.
Speaking of assessment results—whether an assessment’s feedback is 10 pages or 100, it’s useless if the recipient can’t make sense of the information provided. The true power of any assessment is the ability to help the person receiving the feedback process the information and take specific action on the insights learned. That’s why it’s critical for anybody who takes an assessment to have a 1-1 debriefing session with a qualified coach. Clients tell me they appreciate the simplicity of the “Everything DiSC map” because the data is very clearly presented. This allows them to move quickly from understanding what their results mean to action-planning. Here’s an example of an “Everything DiSC map” an employee might receive:
Of course, every individual’s “DiSC map” is slightly different, because the assessment provides highly individualized feedback. That’s another beauty of this tool: people receive feedback tailored to their unique situation, but it doesn’t involve an hour or more to take the assessment.
When I talk with clients about leadership development efforts, I stress the importance of follow-up activities. A training event that’s “one and done” will not achieve significant behavioral change, no matter how motivated or skilled the participants are. Leadership development participants need follow-up reinforcement from their work team leaders, as well as periodic check-ins with a neutral party (such as a coach or a peer advisor) to help them reflect on their successes and setbacks.
If your company is considering using personality assessments as part of its leadership development program, consider keeping the process simple and straightforward. Work life and leadership is hectic enough as it is without layering on expensive and complicated professional development processes on top of it all.
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© “DiSC” and “Everything DiSC” are trademarks of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and are used with permission. Jennifer V. Miller is founder of The People Equation, which is an authorized, independent partner with Wiley. Jennifer is the presenter of InPower Coaching’s webinar, “Deep dive evaluation of the Everything DISC behavioral assessment tool.”
Check out the resources in the InPower Coaching EQ at Work and Soft Skills Research Index.