Personality Profiles:  How Do I Chose?

Written by our own Visionary, Cindy Morley

If you have ever conducted an internet search for personality profiles, chances are you were overwhelmed with all the choices.  Information on Myers Briggs, Social Styles Series, Social Styles, DISC, Insights, True Colors, and even assessments asking you to select your favorite tree or which character from Winnie the Pooh best describes you all “pop up” and scream for your attention on internet searches. 

How do you select which assessment to use?  Start by learning the basics of each instrument.

What are the basics?

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was developed by Katherine Briggs and Isabel Myers (a mother and daughter team from my home state of Michigan) in 1942 and was first used in the military in World War II.  MBTI, a self-assessment, measures preferences on four scales:  Extroversion/Introversion, Sensing/Intuitive, Thinking/Feeling and Judging/Perception, resulting in 16 unique combinations.   The assessment is quite comprehensive, but can be difficult to apply. 

Social Styles Series by Wilson Learning offers a multi-rater instrument which clusters behavior into four quadrants on a matrix:  driver, expressive, amiable and analytical.  This assessment is offered only as part of a training workshop and not as a “stand alone” assessment. If you have access to the workshop, it is somewhat comprehensive, and is fairly easy to apply.  Using a similar matrix, Social Styles by the Tracom Group is available both as a “stand alone” assessment and as part of a training workshop.

With the DISC assessment, individuals choose between a series of two adjectives that best describe themselves.  The results are tallied to indicate their tendencies in four behavior types:  Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance.  This model is not as comprehensive, but fairly easy to apply.

Like MBTI, Insights is based on the work of Carl Jung.  Insights uses a model of four color energies:  Fiery Red, Sunshine Yellow, Earth Green and Cool Blue.  This model is fairly comprehensive, and it easy to apply. Using a different model with colors of orange, green, blue and gold, True Colors has its roots in learning styles and is now also widely used as a work styles assessment in the corporate world, and the same descriptors apply to comprehension and application. 

The use of color in personality assessments is growing for a very good reason. In addition to the easy of application, people associate certain behaviors and emotions with colors.  People remember colors.  A recent Brain Based Biz article citing a research study explains “when people attempted to recall words or objects, color had the greatest effect on recall.”

Who is the Target Audience?

In addition to considering the use of color in selecting which assessment to use, consider your target audience.

One of my clients is a large chemical manufacturer.  When asked to work with their R&D organization, a collection of highly analytical PhD’s, I chose to use the Myers Briggs Type Indicator.  I selected Myers Briggs because it is comprehensive, and there is an abundance of research supporting the instrument and its statistical and data-driven approach. 

Another client needed a large global reach and selected Wilson Learning’s Social Styles Series due to the availability of Wilson Learning’s delivery in multiple languages.

Creative and artistic people such as a Marketing group tend to embrace the color models over the more word-based models. 

If the audience is into “giveaways” or tokens to remember the learning, this is easy to do with color models.  For example, organizations will give people silicone bracelets the color of their dominant color, or foam “Legos” that represent all four-color styles.

Our flagship workshop, Communicating with Canvas, utilizes a color model. A takeaway abstract painting, which is built throughout the workshop, reminds participants of their strengths, the strengths of others, and how to best meet their communication needs. By utilizing art, we are tapping into the creative right side of the brain and reinforcing the styles through color.

So What?

As you can see, personality profiles can be used for a variety of audiences in a variety of ways.  This leads us to the final and most important item to consider.  How will the instrument be used….what is the “So What”?  

Early in my career I worked as a Human Resources Manager in a public utility.  On my first day of work, I met with the Operations Superintendent.   A sign in his office stated “ESTJ Spoken Here”.  I asked him about it and he explained that he attended a Myers Briggs training workshop and learned that ESTJ was his personality type.  And that was all.  Nothing about the styles of his coworkers and how best to communicate with them.  It was all about him.

Unfortunately, this is all too common.  No matter what instrument you use, the learning should address the following three question:

1.     What style am I?

2.     What style are they?  (meaning coworkers and/or key people in my life)

3.     So what?  (How do I flex my communication style and strategies to best meet their needs?)

Ideally, the instruments are used during a Communications or Work Styles training workshop, allowing plenty of time to address and explore these three critical questions.  Never use an instrument as a “stand-alone” exercise.   When I was certified by CAPT (the Center for Application of Psychological Type) to administer the Myers Briggs Instrument, I needed to sign an oath stating that I would never administer the instrument outside of a training, counseling or coaching session.  This same standard should apply to all instruments. 

Select a learning professional/company, coach or counselor who has working knowledge of the variety of instruments.  Engage them early in your selection process so they can design a solution that addresses these three critical questions.  An innovate learning professional can also design a fun, interactive learning experience that engages the audience and improves retention . . leading to better communication, improved morale and application back on the job.  Isn’t that what learning about personality types is all about?