Self assessment tools are commonly used in the workplace to help people understand more about each other, and themselves.
They can be a useful source of information and can prompt self-awareness and an understanding of different styles or personalities within a team.
In general, I’m a fan of these tools when used effectively. I think they can be really useful to help people understand their personal “iceberg” (see this post for more details) which can help them lead better.
However, they should also be used with caution. They don’t tell you everything about yourself, or about the people around you.
In this post, I’ll provide a few examples of common self-assessment tools, what you should do with them … and what you shouldn’t.
Common Personality Assessment Tools
There are a couple of tools that I prefer. First is the PRINT® assessment, which I use quite a lot with individuals and teams.
PRINT aims to uncover your “Unconscious Motivators” which are a big driver of your behaviour. You get a fairly detailed report and some practical ways to use it.
Another tool I like is the Clifton Strengths tool, which gives you a detailed report of your top strengths. The idea here is that you maximise the use of your strengths to bring out your best.
While I have my favourites, all the tools can be helpful to uncover a little about our personal styles, preferences or motivations.
Pseudoscience and Self Assessment Tools
There are people who dismiss these self assessment tools as being “pseudoscience”.
That is, the tools claim to be based on science, but aren’t really rigorously tested in the way that scientific theories should be.
I think this is partly due to the different focus for science and business.
The business field is generally aimed at making money, and if tools are considered to be vaguely helpful (even if not perfect), then they are likely to be applied in many workplaces, without waiting for the perfect scientific study to prove it.
My view is that these tools can be helpful for many people, and I’ve seen a bunch of people have “lightbulb” moments after using them.
Not because they suddenly discovered something new about themselves. Instead, it was because some of their challenges and stressors suddenly made sense to them, giving them a greater feeling of self-understanding, leading to self-acceptance.
If these tools can lead to greater self-understanding, self-acceptance and the ability to be more conscious of how we operate, I think they’re a good thing.
Next, I’ll talk about what how I think we can use the assessment most effectively.
How to Use Self Assessment Tools Most Effectively
Yes, I think self assessment tools can be useful.
But… we need to use them the right way. In my view, it’s really the manner in which we use them and explain them that counts.
1. Make Sure People Know There Is No “Best” Style
It may sound obvious, but whatever self assessment tool you use, you need to emphasise that there is no good or bad result.
No profile (whatever assessment you do) is better than any other.
Don’t assume that people know this. Be sure to tell them explicitly.
However, it would be silly to overlook that some personality profiles or styles will cope with certain situations better than others.
Some people will have no problem communicating in a direct manner. Others will find it more challenging.
Some people will easily understand the emotions of a situation. Others may be more focused on logic and facts.
Some people will find it challenging to speak up in front of a group. Others will do it without a second thought.
Some people will struggle to be diplomatic and tactful. Others will have a natural style that enables this.
There is no “best”, but there might be some that feel more comfortable in certain situations.
2. Explain That a Self Assessment Doesn’t Define a Whole Person
With self assessment tools, I sometimes see situations where people feel like they are being “put in a box”.
But the reality is, no matter what style, strengths or personality type (or whatever else) you are assigned, it’s not the whole you.
Under the waterline of your personal iceberg, you’ve got a bunch of stuff happening.
Cultural background, physical and mental health, past experiences, sexuality, biases and genetics are just a few.
There is no way a person can be fully described by a self assessment tool, so we shouldn’t let the results define us.
3. Use the Self Assessment as Information, Not a Label
I like self assessment tools because I think they can help people better understand the situations where they are likely to struggle, and those where they are more likely to feel comfortable.
Being an introvert can be a challenge when you’re giving a presentation.
But it can be a bonus when you are trying to focus on an important piece of work.
The point is, we need to use the results of any assessment as information, not as a label telling us what we can and can’t do.
Most assessment tools tell me I like to plan and be well prepared. But I can do last minute stuff when I need to, it’s just not how I generally like to operate.
Your results don’t tell you what you can or can’t do. You can choose to do whatever you like.
You Can and Should Adapt Your Behaviour or Style When You Need To
When we’re using self assessment tools, it’s important to emphasise the importance of flexibility and adaptability.
For example, if we’re naturally quiet, it doesn’t mean we *always* need to be that way. We can adapt.
Professor Brian Little refers to deviations of behaviour like this as “free traits”. He says that the expression of behaviour that deviates from our normal patterns are used to further various important projects that we are undertaking in our lives.
As an example: I’m an introvert, but I deliver lots of training and workshops where I need to speak in front of people all day.
I’m naturally quiet, but I can still do it and I enjoy it.
The warning here is that if you deviate from your natural style or approach for too long, you may feel fatigued or stressed as you are, in some ways, “acting”.
So the important point here is that we need to pick our battles about when we adapt.
4. Self Assessment Tools Are Not an Excuse
I’ve come across people that say (for example):
“I’m a <certain style or profile>, that’s why I come across as rude and direct”.
Hmm. Something’s wrong with that.
It is our responsibility to manage our behaviour to work better with others.
Being assigned a certain style or personality type is not an excuse for bad behaviour, or for telling yourself that you can’t do something.
Self assessment tools can give us information about how we tend to operate. We need to use this information to help manage our behaviour and actions.
It’s on us. It’s not an excuse.
Learn More: 5 Tips For Quiet Leaders.
5. Use Self Assessment Tools With Other Sources
In one of the points above, we covered that self assessment tools do not provide a complete picture.
They are also the result of a self assessment. And sometimes, we aren’t the best person to ask about ourselves, especially if we have some blind spots!
We might rate ourselves one way, when other people might rate us as just the opposite!
Feedback is valuable. Ask other people what their perception is.
Get coaching to help you uncover more about how you think and operate.
Don’t put all your eggs in the self assessment basket, because we may not be as self aware as we might like to think!
Learn More: Blind Spots: How to Shrink Yours to Lead Better.
6. Communicate Your Results to Others
While self assessment tools can be excellent for raising our own awareness, they are also useful to help others work with us better.
If people can get a sense of your style, and how you like to operate, they can cater for it.
We can only do so much to create a better work environment. Other people have to come to the party too. To help them do that, we need to let them know how we roll.
It may feel daunting to disclose your results, but it can be a valuable way to build trust, openness and more collaborative working relationships.
Learn More: Don’t Know Your Employees? Here’s Why You Should.
Self Assessment Tools Are Great, But Don’t Expect Perfection
I highly recommend the use of self assessment tools to explore your own personal iceberg, but don’t expect them to tell you everything about yourself.
Use the results as information. Test it. Do they hold true in all situations, or just some?
Use it as a basis to explore yourself, and how you feel in different situations. Use it to guide you and self-manage your own actions and behaviours.
Join the chat below! How have you used self assessment tools in your career?