If you are working in higher education then you have a steady flow of people in and out of your teams. Effective teambuilding is important for creating that sense of belonging and helping everyone to work harmoniously during those times in the academic year when people are feeling stretched (elections anyone?) Personality tests can be a great tool for your team performance… when they are used well. This blog will show you some pitfalls to avoid and give you seven ways that you can use personality tests to build an engaged, empathetic and effective team.
Personality tests often come in the form of quizzes or observations that allow people to state their preferences or rank their traits. This then sorts people into a broad type based on whatever model you are using. And there are a lot of models out there; Myers Briggs, The Temperaments, Working Genius, Enneagram, Disc, Belbin and Jungian archetypes to name a few. It is worth noting that each of these models measures something slightly different.
It is also important to remember that personality tests are not scientifically valid. They cannot exactly pin down who a person is and predict their behaviour – and if they could, that would be creepy, right? So don’t spend hundreds of pounds on any personality assessment because it is not the test itself that is valuable, but how you and your team choose to use personality typing that makes a difference.
Personality tests can be great – you’ll often see a SLI teambuilding session exploring the temperaments or the working genius model. But, there are also a number of huge red flags in the corporate personality testing world.
Simply getting a quiz result doesn’t help your team. A good personality training session will facilitate discussion around personality types so that each team member can deeply reflect on which type they most fall into and what that actually means for them.
These kinds of reflections build people’s self-awareness so that they can begin using that information purposefully – choosing work that better aligns with them, working on their challenges and leaning into their strengths.
“I was able to dig into my personality traits that serve me and also identify what are my weaknesses. I now have less negative emotions about myself and am less self-critical. I am more confident in myself whether it’s the strengths I already have or abilities I need to yet develop. I now know how to work on those.” – Marina Tomovic, Erasmus Student, Developing Excellence in Leadership Programme
Once each team member knows more about themselves then you can facilitate excellent sharing sessions across the whole team. Learning about other people’s styles helps you to be more understanding and compassionate when they want to work differently to you or if they face a challenge that you find easy. People can find it hard to be vulnerable and talk about their challenges – but having a personality model to frame this discussion helps to make it more comfortable.
“I liked the self-reflection involved in the training; learning about myself and how others perceive me. I will remember how other personalities like to work and how they are different to mine.” – Katherine Davies, Postgraduate Rep Elect, Hallam Students Union, Officer induction training
Imagine if everyone in your team knew what they were driven by, good at and how they liked to work. And then take that knowledge and make a map of the whole team’s strengths, challenges and work styles. This allows teams to work in incredibly smart ways – allocating tasks to the people best suited for them, building support mechanisms if you anticipate that a team member may encounter challenges and teaming people up to complement and learn from each other. All of this means that people can get on with doing their best work which means more efficiency and harmony in your team.
Every personality test comes with its own vocabulary which you can use in your team to create a shared understanding of what you are experiencing and what you need. This will vary from model to model, but some examples might include.
“The training made me confront behaviour that might hinder me in the future. Learning about personality types made me self-assess my communication – so although I have good intentions I need to think about how others perceive it.” Yohanna Sallberg, Student Assembly Chair, Union of Brunel Students, Teambuilding training
One of the best things about personality models is that they emphasise how everyone is valuable and everyone has a place on a team. Sure, people do different things and work in different ways, but no one type of personality is better or worse than any other. You can use your shared vocabulary around personality testing to celebrate when people use their strengths and styles effectively and to remind each person the important things they bring to the team. “I love how you are able to ____, how you are driven by ____ , how you bring ____ perspective.”
This one really needs doing with care – you don’t want to simply hire people because of what they scored on a personality test. Whenever you are building a team, you have to consider much more; motivation for the role, experience, qualifications, commitment, work ethic and so on.
Personality tools can help to assess what strengths you already have in your team and the gaps you might want to fill in your next hire. Once you’ve identified this, don’t make anyone take a quiz! Instead, tailor your job description to what you team needs. For example, if your team is missing “Wonder” from the Working Genius model your job description may ask for someone who is good at asking the big picture questions, defining the problem and assessing the context so that project plans are fit for purpose. If you are missing a “Melancholic” Temperament in your team you may be asking for skills like analytical, logical, good at assessing risks and mitigating them, grounded and happy working with complexity.
Feeding your wish list into a job description allows you to attract people who are drawn to those ways of working or have those strengths without going through a crude process of doing an assessment.
Personality models may help you to balance the teams that you already have by assigning roles to people’s strengths and by grouping people onto projects based on what skills / strengths / work styles that project would most benefit from.
Ok, so simply doing a personality quiz won’t make people work harder or stay in your team. But, lets imagine that you’ve done all of the other six steps well:
That is a solid recipe for a happy workplace, and we know that happier people feel more committed to the work they are doing and want to stay for longer.
If you are thinking of doing a personality assessment with your team, be sure to carve out plenty of time after the assessment to have these deep and detailed reflections about what it means for your team – because that is where the magic happens.
Need some help getting started? Book in a free training consult to explore what a teambuilding and personality training could look like for your team.