By John Boitnott
CREDIT: Getty Images
Do your research to make sure the test is respected, and that it actually provides insight into your life and career.
While not everyone believes personality tests deliver world-changing insight, that doesn’t mean they’re devoid of value. Even if you’re not entirely sold on their legitimacy — learning your results can make you a more effective and productive leader. Just the habit of keeping your mind open to change can help you improve.
These tests not only help you understand personal habits — but can identify where you have room for growth. They can teach you about your team — and even increase your confidence working with those employees. Here’s how to find the right personality tests, and leverage them to help you grow as a leader.
1. Pick tests that built a following based on results.
Start by doing research. There are many tests that are considered to be more reputable than others. Some of the more respected include Myers-Briggs, “The Big Five,” and “The Enneagram.” This is at least partly because these tests were created, analyzed, and have been written about by professional psychologists.
Seek out tests that draw accolades from people you respect. I tried Myers-Briggs after reading about success people attributed to it. You’re looking for an indication that taking the test positively impacted people’s lives and those around them.
2. Look for questions that bring insight.
You grow professionally when you work to eliminate flaws. Sitting down to answer tough questions and reflect on choices or habits helps you understand yourself and others, deeply.
One of the tests I took asked, “Where do you stand in a room full of people?” It seemed like an odd thing to ask at first, until I realized that where I stood said something about my attitude and actions. I reflected that at networking events I often hovered at the edge of a room, not wanting to dive into the center where dozens of attendees were talking.
Now when I enter such a room, it’s a different story. I may not always go into the thick of the action, but I at least can choose whether or not I want to do so. I know that one action can help me make more meaningful connections. I just have to want it bad enough. This insight brings a level of effectiveness that wasn’t there before, helping me get more out of such events.
3. Look for features that attract you.
Any personality test worth taking is going to offer features that help you identify patterns of behavior. This can give you a framework to analyze employees, peers and yourself.
For example, If you have your team take the Myers-Briggs, you may learn one employee is an ENFP. This is usually someone who tends to care a lot about people and ideas — but struggles on follow through. You might consider pairing them with employees who are more diligent — but perhaps lack the direction that the ENFP has.
Another interesting feature in some tests is that they point to famous people that you’re similar to. It helps to see that even famous leaders have good — and not so good — parts to their personalities.
4. Use the results to nurture your strengths.
Tests are especially worthwhile when they reveal where you have the most room to grow.
For example, you may be asked whether you agree or disagree with a statement like, “I put others’ needs before my own.”
If you both agree and disagree with that statement, it could mean it’s a potential growth area. You’re now in a position to explore it further, and take actions that either put others people’s concerns ahead of yours, or vice versa, depending on the situation. This is you learning and growing in real time.
Before taking the Myers-Briggs I never saw myself as much of an extrovert or leader. Discovering I was an extrovert helped me see how people give me energy — or steal it. This recognition increased my confidence and people skills. Over time, I’m more selective about who I give my energy to — and my effectiveness has grown.
5. Don’t shy away from your weaknesses.
Learning how personality types behave helps you understand your weaknesses. The Enneagram can be particularly useful here. It provides you with a core personality type that helps explain what you’re like at your best and worst.
Exploring how you act under different conditions can help you overcome negative patterns. You’ll discover how to forgive yourself more easily too.
These tests are an effective way to be more comfortable with who you are and how you lead people. As you reap the cumulative effects of self-awareness from these types of tests — you’ll hold your head higher. You’re actions will illuminate that you are a better leader than you ever were before.
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