Yesterday I spent just under eight hours undergoing corporate training on how to manage remote teams effectively. This might sound tedious to most but what the training actually boiled down to in my opinion was one big personality test, which actually proved to be quite enlightening.

Love them or hate them, I think that personality tests can often provide useful insights into human behaviour and I thought it relevant to share with you some of the learning I took from yesterday’s exercise.

Love them or hate them

Now I’m a self-confessed fan of personality tests even though I often struggle to easily pick which box to tick. My love of them probably stems from my passion for personal development, in that any further insight I can gain into my behaviours or those of other people is invaluable to me as I seek to work effectively with people and improve my relationships with others.

Yesterday’s test in the main looked at individual key strengths and the ways in which different people are motivated to play to those strengths. There were a few things that I really liked about the test including the concepts that underpinned it:

  1. Everyone wants to feel worthwhile about themselves as human beings.
  2. Self-respect is being valued by others for the things you wish to be valued for.
  3. Self-esteem is being valued by yourself for the things you wish to be valued for.
  4. There is no such thing as weaknesses. There are only strengths that we turn up or turn down, depending on our personality type or the circumstances we find ourselves in.

There is no such thing as weakness

This last one had the greatest impact on me. At first, as I listed my own weaknesses in my head, I dismissed the statement as simply not true but as the day progressed I started to think that maybe there was actually something in it.

Take the example of confidence as a desired behaviour. If we turn confidence up we might get arrogance or cockiness as a result and if we turn it down we might get meekness or shyness. So the premise is that we all have the same strength within us, but our personality types mean that it’s either turned up or down depending on how we are being treated by others. So in working with or managing others, how we tap into other people’s motivations determines how turned up or down their strengths are.

What’s in a type?

The test identified a number of ‘personality types’ – altruistic and nurturing blues, asserting and directing reds, analytic and autonomising greens and flexible and cohering hubs (a combination of the red, green and blue) to name but a few. I came out as a hub with red tendencies when things are going well and green tendencies when I was under stress or conflict.

This in a very small nutshell means that in the main I’m pretty flexible and consultative. When I feel great I am more likely to be persuasive, creative, forceful, ambitious and results driven and under attack or during times of stress I’m more likely to retreat, analyse my position and become more cautious, reserved and logical.

I felt that this assessment (and it was more detailed than I can possibly convey in this post) was in the main pretty accurate and having my personality reflected back to me in that way was useful in a number of ways.

  1. Sometimes we don’t know how we behave unless it’s reflected back to us and although when I read the results of the test I was able to go – ‘oh yes that is what I do.’ I’m not sure I would have noticed that pattern as clearly, had I not done the test.
  2. Through doing the exercises, I was also able to identify other personality types of colleagues and friends and this led to a few ‘aha’ moments as I began to understand the motivations behind their behaviours.
  3. Through the training I learnt of several ways in which I could modify my behaviour as a manager of people to get the best out of my colleagues by playing to their strengths and understanding their motivations.

Avoiding conflict through understanding

What this analysis also means is that I am more likely to clash with others whose motivations are very different to mine. To give a very quick and dirty example: If I am feeling great and I’m in ‘red’ state of being results-driven and feeling a sense of urgency to get the job done, encountering a strong ‘green’ personality is likely to result in conflict unless I take the time to understand and acknowledge their personality and what motivates them. Strong greens are likely to want to take time to analyse the information, consider all the options and then provide a detailed response to the situation.

Looking at this objectively with the training under my belt, I can see that both these ways of operating can be seen as strengths and combining them effectively could produce great results, but in the moment, without this knowledge, a strong red and a strong green sat in a meeting, are likely to drive each other mad.

The moral of the story

What I took from yesterday was not that we should pigeonhole all people into a type and then treat them accordingly. What I took from the exercise is that we all have very different personalities and different motivations, which in turn affect how we behave.

I think it’s very easy to get caught up in our own beliefs, motivations and values and forget that other people might have different but equally valid ones to our own, which will result in different behaviours being displayed.

In analysing the various personality types as we did, I came to realise that there is real strength in our differences and that when a group of people come together, if we can pause for a moment and try to understand each other’s motivations, then we will gain great insight into how to get the best from one another.

If you are interested in the tool it’s called the Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) and the people behind it can be found at www.personalstrengths.com.

Have you clashed with someone lately? Do you think that looking at motivations might help you work out why the clash occurred? I’d love to hear your comments below and please don’t forget to share with others if you like the post.

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