Successful “Teaming” – It Starts with Understanding Personality

We’ve all heard about personality tests and it’s likely we’ve taken at least a few of them during our career. From DISC to Myers Briggs to Tilt and The Enneagram, personality tests have been used to better understand character traits in the workplace for years. And they are still some of the best predictors of behavior.

However, these assessments are not best used as a stand alone product, although there are many organizations using them in just this way. Well intentioned people leaders (HR, managers, Learning & Development leaders or even individual team members wanting to up their game) think that taking the assessment is all that’s needed. But it can’t stop there. It’s much like the quote: Knowledge is power. The reality is that knowledge alone doesn’t bring power… A more realistic way of looking at it is: Knowledge applied is power. 

So, when organizations find themselves looking at the possibility of another assessment in hopes of bringing their teams together, what should they do? Well, what they shouldn’t do is assume the employee will know what to do with the information about themselves, much less how to utilize it for a better employee experience. If you think about it, leadership development is close to a $400 billion dollar industry worldwide and close to $200 billion in the US alone yet, a majority of these programs have failed to create the desired results. Why is that? Because a good many organizations aren’t willing to do the follow up work required to embed the information learned in a way that creates a common language among employees. This is the path to sustained behavior change. This is the path to true organizational health. 

With that in mind, the first step is deciding on the best assessment and training for the challenges you might be facing in your organization. From there, want to know the best way to help your people digest and utilize the information individually and collectively as a team? Keep reading as we lay out the issue from both sides of the management coin: the perspective of the manager as well as those developing them.  

Know Thyself  

First, let’s look at how an individual manager can take the information gleaned from a personality assessment and use it to become a better manager. Before you can understand others, you’ve got to understand yourself. Reviewing the results from your completed report and owning the parts that resonate is step 1. After that, bringing your direct reports together to share all team member results is step 2. Understanding how each individual affects team dynamics is crucial and opens the door for conversations around how everyone on the team is wired.                

For example, what motivates one person may shut another person down. And, the emotional needs of one are likely the complete opposite of another’s. In fact, unfulfilled emotional needs at work are one of the biggest contributors to poor performance and engagement. So, a crucial step in the process is to explore the results of your team’s assessments together, looking at them from all angles to understand the people who work for you and allowing them to understand everyone else on the team, including you. As a manager, your willingness to be open and honest with your own results, is the foundational step toward building trust on the team. From there, it’s a matter of finding ways to keep the conversation alive. Include an icebreaker at the start of your weekly meetings that is based on information gleaned from the completed results. Encourage people to revisit the information weekly or monthly. Challenge them to consider areas for improvement based on their assessment results. Creating opportunities to purposely and mindfully use the information will continue adding to that foundation of trust. In addition, it will encourage effective communication skills along the way. That should be the long-term goal.

Challenge for the Manager Who’s Large and In Charge: 

  • What can you do to help your team implement the information so that it becomes a common language embedded in your overall team dynamic?  
  • How can you lead by example as a manager?

A Growth Plan For Managers

When we think about the people responsible for an engaged workforce we may immediately lay some blame on the managers. We’ve likely all had a manager at some point in our career that we felt was the cause of our own personal hell. In some situations, it might have even been true, but the responsibility isn’t typically only in a direct manager. It also lies with those who develop managers. As you may have witnessed (or possibly had this happen to you), sometimes individual contributors get elevated into management positions they just aren’t ready for. In our current post pandemic environment and on the heels (or possibly still fully in the middle) of The Great Resignation, some companies just need warm bodies to fill the void that is happening from a mass exodus. We get it. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, even if it means elevating someone who’s not yet there. But, elevating someone to a management position should only be the beginning of their journey. Organizations have to do better at empowering emerging leaders with the skills necessary to manage others to success.

Unfortunately, a lot of organizations don’t have any follow through when it comes to learning and development. They think a “one ’n done” deal is going to do the trick and when it doesn’t, they blame the training or program, rather than realizing that they didn’t support the system. For sustainable change to occur, you have to provide opportunities for employees to keep these Learning & Development conversations alive in the organization, creating a common language for the entire staff. 

Which brings me to another issue: the assessments being used. When teams within an organization are not learning the same language, it might be something akin to the Wild West. You’ve got a bunch of teams all out for themselves, and not for the greater good of the company! 

Leadership needs to decide a path forward and get the buy-in from their teams so that each team is getting the same information, and applying it in the way that works best for  their teams. All while speaking the same language. Without buy-in you’re just checking a box for giving the assessment and assuming that employees

will (1) want to dig into the information they get from their completed reports, and (2) be compelled or even understand what to do with the information.  A leader should never assume the information learned through the assessment will be ingrained in the employee’s mind immediately.  

Growth Plan Challenge:

For true, sustainable behavior change, the information gleaned through the personality profile needs to be woven throughout the organization, in a variety of ways. 

  • Encourage managers to understand the individual dynamics for each of the personality types on their teams, starting with their own. When people know who they are in the mix and why they show up the way they do (from their natural wiring to life experiences), it often opens a door of possibility. It creates some ah-ha moments in an individual, allowing them to get to that next level – actually caring about why someone else shows up the way they do and wanting to learn more about that.
  • Inspire managers to make space for empathy. When they have learned who they are and who others are on their teams, as well as why they show up the way they do, empathy around those differences goes a long way.
  • Motivate managers to use their teams completed reports to have more effective interactions with their direct reports, teammates or even their boss. The information included in these reports can be the game changer in an effort to level up their relationships at work both horizontally, as well as vertically. 


Personality assessments have been around for years and will continue to evolve allowing us to better understand character traits in the workplace. The trick will be to pair them with appropriate training that solidifies the information gleaned through the completed report. 

Well intentioned leaders who use them as stand alone products do their employees and the organizations they work for a disservice.  The information has to be embedded in the fabric of the workplace, creating a common language for all. So, how does that happen?

Organizations have to be willing to provide ongoing follow up that embeds the information learned in a way that creates a common language among employees. The path to sustained behavior change really is that simple. 

As a manager, or a leader developing them, remember these strategies for building cohesive, collaborative teams.

  1. One off training sessions don’t work and usually just end up irritating employees because it takes time away from things they feel need to get done. Providing assessments and training around a given challenge, helping them understand who they are in the midst of that challenge, allows them to see how they might play a part in the solution. 
  2. Never assume that learning of any kind will be ingrained in your employee’s minds after one exposure. For sustainable behavior change the information must be woven into conversations across the organization on a continuous basis. 
  3. Get into the habit of reflecting on the different personality styles of your team as a group. How do they solve problems?  What motivates them?  How do they respond to conflict? 

At Brilliant People, we are constantly striving to bring fresh solutions to the complexities of human interaction. Call us for a quick chat. We’d love to help you navigate your way to sustained organizational health.

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