The Danger In Personality Models, And How To Beat It
If you’ve been exposed to a personality model, you’ve probably experienced it like most people. You took an on-line assessment. A consultant presented your results in a slick booklet. If you’re lucky, you got a couple of hours of debriefing. By the end, you may have even been enthusiastic about the possibilities.
Understanding your personality could help you become aware of your strengths and identify your weaknesses, you hoped. It could help you appreciate differences in other people. It might even be able to guide you in selecting a job that’s a good fit.
A couple days or weeks later, once the intrigue wore off, it was business as usual. Your booklet began collecting dust along with the rest of the training manuals on your shelf. By then your company had probably paid the overpriced consultant and he was off to the next naive organization looking for a magic bullet.
Only it wasn’t business as usual. It was worse.
People began labeling everyone they met. After a while, your teammates developed tunnel-vision, expecting people to act according to their personality. When they didn’t, it led to an argument. Several teammates hid behind their personality, developing an entitled attitude, expecting everyone to treat them special. It was a fiasco.
I’m not against personality assessments. They have value when used correctly. However, learning about personality differences is virtually worthless unless you also learn how to communicate effectively with them.
What’s the point of knowing if you can’t put it into meaningful practice?
What good is diversity awareness if you have no ability to leverage that diversity?
Why help people find a good job fit if you can’t motivate them?
Why introduce people to fancy categories and labels if they will be used as weapons?
Personality differences mean nothing unless two or more people are trying to get something done. Even then, communication is the key competency. Personality models that don’t teach communication skills are a waste of energy, money and time. Leadership development efforts that introduce people to personality diversity without going the distance to teach and hold leaders accountable to new communication behaviors are doing more harm than good.
Next time you consider investing in personality assessments, consider an approach that will help you answer these questions down the road:
- How have your systems, structures, and processes been adapted to accommodate different personality types?
- How do your leaders individualize communication to engage each personality type? Can you see it and hear it in their daily interactions?
- How does your performance incentive and evaluation systems motivate the types of personalities you most want in your organization?
- Does your organizational communication reflect the types of language that reaches all personality types?
- What about your mission, vision, and values statements…which personalities will connect with them?
By answering these questions you can maximize your investment of time, effort, and money.
Meanwhile, enjoy this light-hearted video exposing some heavy reality about one popular personality model.
Looking for a better alternative?
PCM, a model for communication, leadership and personality. Download the free app for Android or iOS to learn how to communicate with different personality types.
LOD, a model for culture change around compassionate accountability.
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