Updated: Jul 29, 2022
How to use personality types test the right way for effective team leadership
“Personality tests don’t work”. I do agree. I am a certified trainer within a personality type program, and yes, I do agree that the way many tests are used today by people and companies, doesn’t work. The mistake we make is to use tests to categorize people or ourselves and by that we reinforce our own narrative about ourselves or others. The consequence is that we destroy our chances to use these tools to help us by excluding the possibility that behavior is a choice.
Let me shed light on 3 myths on creating effective teams when using personality type tests.
“I don’t want to be like that…”
When I first came across personality type tests, I felt like a couple of 1000 light bulbs had lit up. I felt I finally understood why I preferred to behave in a certain way, and at the same time I felt labeled. In the beginning I rebelled against “my type” because I didn’t want to be like that. This had also to do with me still being on my own self discovery journey at that time.
What I experienced in the years after was that I consciously chose to act in different ways, and got different test results, not surprisingly. I don’t recommend doing that, as I essential was faking my own personality and lying to myself which led to being drained of energy and burn outs. In addition after this personal experience, and especially after I had become a certified trainer, I realized that the teams and people I coached and worked with using these tools often jumped right to putting people and themselves into boxes...
3 myths on creating successful teams
This can quickly turn into challenges like “I don’t want to work with her/him because she is XY.” “We don’t hire him/her because she doesn’t fit into the team”. Therefore, let’s bust some myths!
“I don’t want to work with her/him because she is XY.”
Myth #1: It’s not possible to make #teamswork with similar/different personality types.
Wrong. So depending on how you heard the story, or based on your own beliefs, you might either think that for a team to work you have to be very similar or opposites. Now, both have some truth in it, but the important point is that personality does and will not define if your teams will work or not.
It definitely is an advantage to know the preferences of other people on how they like to act and do things; e.g. if they need peace and quiet to process new information, or if they need to brainstorm in a group to spin on ideas. But this can’t and shouldn’t take us to the conclusion to base our decisions on for example putting together teams based on this type of information. Knowing other people's personality should on the other hand help us to be able to connect and “speak the same” language, and with that create effective teams.
So no matter what type of team you have - and to be frank we often don’t get to choose our teams - to know their preferences on communication and collaboration, can help us to be able to find common ground. But this knowledge should not be used to create segregation and labeling.
Myth #2: People will always behave according to their personality type.
The reason managers or leaders hire or put together teams according to results from personality tests is because of the assumption that behavior can be predicted based on our personality. Wrong. Personality and our preference on how to interact with our surroundings is only partially influenced by our personality. For some more, and for others less. There are so many other factors that influence our behavior. For example pain, pleasure, personal experience, trauma, desires, environment, values, beliefs, culture, instinct, habit and more.
Therefore, it is important, as pointed out above, not to use personality types to label people and assume how they are going to behave.
Myth #3: You are not authentic when acting outside your personality type.
I firmly believe that we need to learn to “speak a common language”. What I mean by this is that we should be curious about other people and especially the ones we work with in a team, in order to understand their preferences and motivation for their behavior.
Nevertheless, I often hear the question “Why should I make the effort, can they not change their behavior?” and “If I adjust my communication style then I won’t be my authentic self anymore.” My answer to this is two fold.
Firstly, yes, sometimes we all wish that others would sometimes act differently, but eventually it’s our pain. I always think about what they told us when getting my driving licence. If somebody cuts you off on the road or alike, you can’t just keep on driving and say they made a mistake, or their behavior caused the crash. You have to watch out both for your own mistakes, but also correct those of others. And yes, this might seem unfair sometimes, but eventually it’s your pain, too.
"You are not inauthentic as long as your behavior is guided by your inner motivation, core values and drives."
Secondly, you are not inauthentic as long as your behavior is guided by your inner motivation, core values and drives. According to Psychology today “[i]ndividuals considered authentic are those who strive to align their actions with their core values and beliefs [...]” (source).
As an example, let’s say you adapt your communication style, or maybe even act out of character, to accommodate an urgent situation that needs to be solved. Will it seem inauthentic? No, not if you do it out of your true inner motivation and based on your values. The problem arises when you act out of character in order to manipulate people, to sell a different picture of who you are, or you act out of character consciously over a longer time period.
So, what have we learned? First of all, teams should not be put together based on personality types. What matters most is understanding how people’s personalities work and using that knowledge to create more efficient and productive teams.
Secondly, people are complex creatures and our behavior are influenced by many factors beyond our personality. This means that people can and will act “out of character” at times, but as long as their actions are based on their core values, this isn’t inauthentic.
Do you want to delve deeper into this topic and are you ready to put this knowledge into practice? Join our upcoming webinar where we’ll discuss how to build an effective team using theories on personality and core motivation. You won’t want to miss it!