We’ve all been there. You’re stuck in a team where no one can agree on anything, there’s no direction on what to work on, and communication has broken down. Being a part of a high performance team can feel like an unattainable dream. Although humans are the most social species on earth — we’re also incredibly selfish. Putting aside our egos for the greater good is not something that comes naturally to us, especially in today’s political corporate landscape. How can we balance the tension between an individual’s ambitions and the wider goals of the team?
Building effective teams requires leaders to first select the right team members. This doesn’t mean just putting together those individuals with the right technical skills. After all, teams aren’t just machines with replaceable parts. Instead, it requires leaders to find members that are going to gel and find it easy to work with each other. Paying attention to the interpersonal dynamics of the team ensures that people will understand and support each other through thick and thin. They will communicate in similar ways. They have complementary thinking styles. Their baseline for working effectively together will simply be much higher.
Here’s the good news. Building rockstar teams becomes much easier when you use personality tests. Scientific and unbiased personality tests give leaders a reliable insight into the behavioral dispositions of their direct reports, providing valid cues about how individuals are likely to work together. If teams have the right soft skills, technical skills can be fully leveraged, resources properly used, and missions pursued.
In this article, we dive deep into why leaders should use personality tests to build and develop their teams, what to look for when choosing a personality test for your team, and share some best practices to use with your teams.
What is personality and to measure it
Our personality describes the various ways we act, behave and think across different situations. Personality reflects what makes you, you. Scientists have conducted thousands of empirical studies and found that our personality is stable throughout our lifespan, highly predictive of work success, and becomes more or less helpful depending on the environment that we find ourselves in. In other words, personality describes our “talent potential” — our ability to perform or be successful in a given role.
For example, outgoing and persuasive individuals are more likely to find sales roles easier (and be more successful) than reserved or introspective individuals. Conversely, such a gregarious person will likely struggle to perform tasks that require lots of autonomy, independent work, and spend lots of time by themselves. In other words, there is no good or bad personality profile. Rather, some roles are just better suited to some profiles over others.
Personality assessments have become a critical tool in recruiting and developing employees. This is because personality tests help individuals, and their managers, understand the level of fit between their personality and the environment, what tasks they’ll find easy, and what soft skills they’ll need to develop. The same applies for building effective teams: Teams are an amalgamation of different personalities thereby influencing the way they’ll work together.
An individual’s personality is best measured through psychometric assessments. Most commonly taking the form of a survey, these assessments ask individuals to evaluate themselves against a series of behavioral statements. Their pattern of responses are then calculated to produce scores on a variety of behavioral traits. Individuals then receive a feedback report detailing ways they can better leverage their personality.
What makes a good personality test?
You have probably completed personality tests that claim to tell you what your Hogwarts house is, or what Disney character you would be. Although fun, they are bogus (unsurprisingly!). There are also hundreds of commercially available personality assessments, each claiming to be useful when developing employees and teams. There are four key characteristics to be aware of when choosing a personality assessment for your team.
#1 Built upon a scientific personality framework
Commercial assessments like the Enneagram, DISC, the Myers-Briggs Indicator or Predictive Index’s Behavioral Assessment, while popular, are not built upon a framework of personality that is supported by the wider scientific community. These aforementioned assessments view personality as being the function of “types” (i.e. you are either an introvert or an extravert). This type-based approach views our personality as being organized into distinct categorizations, oversimplifying the rich nuance of how we behave. It’s no wonder that assessments built upon these theories do not predict much.
Alternatively, the Five Factor Model of personality (aka “The Big Five”) views our behavior through five traits: Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. These five traits are conceptualized as continuous dimensions, with behavioral extremes at each end. An individual’s personality can be described as falling somewhere between these extremes on each of the five traits. This approach results in a complex and nuanced personality profile that consistently describes how we behave across different environments, at different points in time, and is also highly predictive of outcomes such as job performance, leadership effectiveness, and teamwork.
When it comes to using personality assessments with your team, you need behavioral insights you can trust. You should always select an assessment that is built upon the Five Factor Model. Examples include the Deeper Signals’ Core Drivers Diagnostic, the Hogan Personality Inventory, and Assessio’s MAP assessment.
You can learn more about the Five Factor Model and why it's superior to other personality models here.
#2 Robust psychometric properties
A personality assessment may be built upon a scientific framework yet still produce inaccurate insights. You need to also ensure that the assessment has robust psychometrics properties. Namely, reliability and validity.
Reliability is important for personality assessments because it measures how consistent the assessment is. This ensures that the results of the assessment will remain consistent over time and across different contexts. If the assessment is reliable, it means that the results can be trusted and are not affected by any external factors.
Validity is important for personality assessments because it measures how accurately the assessment measures the underlying trait. The items of the assessment should measure the trait accurately, with minimal bias or ambiguity. The results of the assessment should also be predictive of relevant outcomes such as job performance, engagement, or turnover. This is known as ‘criterion validity’.
Establishing the reliability and validity of an assessment is achieved using a variety of statistical techniques and detailed in the assessments technical manual. This is a scientific report of an assessments’ theoretical foundations, how it was developed, and details the empirical results of its reliability and validity. Always ask for a technical manual when choosing an assessment and enlist the help of a psychometrician or Industrial-Organizational psychologist to help you evaluate the information.
As an example, you can read about reliability and validity of the Core Drivers Diagnostic in our online technical manual.
#3 Unbiased and free of adverse impact
Personality assessments should be free of bias in order to ensure that the results are fair and do not discriminate against protected groups. Biased assessments will lead to inaccurate results that are not representative of the individual's true personality. Additionally, bias in personality assessments can lead to adverse impact, meaning that the results of the assessment can disproportionately affect protected groups (i.e. gender, ethnicity and age) — eroding all hope of creating diverse, inclusive and equitable teams. If you decide to use personality assessments to guide recruitment decisions, you are legally required to demonstrate that the assessment does not produce adverse impact.
Personality assessments should only be used by organizations if its creators can share evidence that their assessment is free of bias and adverse impact. Always request the technical manual when purchasing an assessment as this will contain the relevant information. As an example, you can view evidence that our Core Drivers Diagnostic is unbiased and free of adverse impact.
#4 Comprehensive and practical feedback
The most scientific and accurate assessments are not much use if the results do not deliver meaningful feedback. The best assessments provide individuals with comprehensive feedback that enables them to understand their own behavior, and the behavior of their team members. Such insights can direct an individual’s personal and professional development, elevate their self-awareness, and help develop behaviors that are aligned with their goals.
Unfortunately most personality assessments do not do a good job of this. Feedback reports are either vapid or overly complicated and require an expensive consultant to decode them. They nearly always come in the form of static PDF reports that are quickly forgotten about. For personality insights to be practically helpful, they need to be engaging and support an individual or team’s development journey. Modern technology is finally changing this.
For example, at Deeper Signals, our personality assessments are accompanied by interactive feedback reports that are mobile-friendly, easy to navigate and designed to bring about behavior change. Individuals and teams receive access to self-directed Learning Journeys to help the work towards SMART goals. Continuous feedback streams also provide weekly nudges to provide ongoing coaching advice that grows their talent.
How to use personality assessments to build successful teams?
Once you’ve selected your personality assessment and had each team member complete it, what next? Practice these do’s and don’ts to build high-performance and cohesive teams using personality tests..
Do: Identify the team’s collective strengths
When aggregating the team’s personality results, what dimensions do they collectively score the highest or lowest on? Identifying these trends will reveal the team’s shared strengths. For example, a team that scores very high on Conscientious will be fantastic at executing plans on time and paying attention to the details. Low levels of Agreeableness would indicate a team that are comfortable challenging ideas, willing to have the tough conversations, and so on. Now evaluate these shared strengths against the team’s mission. What dynamics are most conducive to the team’s goals?
As a leader, your goal is to coordinate action. That means adapting your style and approach to most engage and motivate your team. Playing to its strengths will offer the path of least resistance, and quickly get everyone moving in the same direction.
Do: Avoid dysfunctional and manage risks
Studying your team’s aggregate personality will also reveal its limitations and enable you to proactively adjust your leadership to get ahead of any dysfunction. Our personalities are victim to the “too much of a good thing” effect — our greatest strengths, when overapplied, become our weakness. If your team is really disciplined, how will they manage changing direction or staying agile? Will your curious and creative team be able to stick to one idea and see it through to implementation?
As the saying goes, there is no free lunch. Team dynamics are no exception. Personality tests are like a compass for your team. Use them to direct your leadership, providing support where needed, removing obstacles, and most of all, being proactive in addressing gaps.
Do: Learn how to communicate
Communication breakdown is a leading reason for team failure. Our personality results reveal how we like to communicate, our awareness of others’ emotions, and willingness to cooperate. Within your team’s personality profile, are people more similar or different? By understanding the different personalities of each team member, teams can identify potential areas of communication breakdown and proactively address them.
Additionally, teams can use personality assessments to identify communication styles that are best suited to each individual, and use this information to create an environment of effective communication. With the right communication tools in place, teams ensure that each member is able to communicate effectively with each other, resulting in more successful and productive conversations.
Do: Make faster decisions
Teams that have lower levels of Conscientiousness will make faster decisions. Teams with higher levels will make more accurate decisions. Teams with a range of personalities will do both.
You can accelerate your team’s ability to solve problems and make the right decisions by leveraging the full diversity of your team. This means staffing projects with individuals who have complementary soft skills. For instance, use curious individuals to generate ideas and pragmatic individuals to implement them. Studies show that teams who can leverage such “cognitive diversity” are more innovative, share more knowledge and complete their tasks at a faster rate.
Don’t: Put people into boxes
Remember, your team members are more than just their personality results. They have the ability to learn, adapt and change. Be careful not to typecast your team members into specific roles or reduce their array of talents to their personality results. Use the personality results of each team member as a platform to guide, not determine, their development. Everyone has the potential to achieve great things. Your goal as a leader is to increase the chances of that happening.
Don’t: Ignoring the diversity
Teams that have a strong personality profile generally work well together. While this is a boon for cohesion and establishing a demonstrable culture, it does not foster inclusivity. Spend time looking at the distribution of personality scores to identify individuals that can easily be pushed to the fringes of the team’s social dynamics. Invest energy to bring them into discussions, ask for their opinion, and clear the way so that they can play an active role in contributing towards the team’s success.
Personality tests are a powerful tool for teams to better understand each other and work together more effectively. By understanding the different personalities of each team member, teams can make more informed decisions, foster collaboration, and improve communication. Additionally, teams can use personality tests to identify potential areas of conflict and proactively address them.
At Deeper Signals we’re passionate about helping teams understand their personality and use it to achieve great things. Using reliable and valid personality assessments, and cutting-edge technology, we give leaders powerful insights into their team’s strengths, risks, and culture. Designed for every team, the Deeper Signals platform provides leaders with targeted and actionable advice to support the team’s mission, strategy and goals. Schedule a call with our solutions team to start using personality tests that increase the impact of your team.