What’s really behind our obsession with assessments? Now, don’t tell me you haven’t taken an assessment (or two or ten) in your lifetime! Fess up… you know your Myers-Briggs Type, your DiSC profile, your Kiersey Temperament, and your StrengthsFinder Insight (and you know you wanted Woo!). You may have taken the Conflict Dynamics Profile or the Thomas-Killman Instrument. There is the C.A.R.E. Profile for teams. There’s a name for your Leadership Style, your Communication Style, and your Hair Style. Okay, maybe that last one isn’t an assessment (yet). Forrester even created one called the Customer Obsession Assessment.
There is a lot of literature about the assessment obsession in K-12 education. That’s not the obsession I’m referring to here. What I’m thinking about is how many different ways we seek to describe ourselves in the quest to understand ourselves and others. In that vein, I offer a few justifications for this obsession with assessments along with a word of caution.
Justification #1 — Our people-skills suck.
Forbes recently published an article titled The Leadership Skill Everybody Needs — And 90% Of Managers Lack. The author’s claim is that while “people management… is the crux of their job,” managers rarely receive any training in that area. Fear not, the article does go on to offer some hope.
The first step in building your leadership muscles, whether you currently manage other people or not, is to cultivate a skill most managers — and indeed, most people — lack.
The skill is called perspective-taking.
Great! But how exactly do I get better at perspective-taking? The author suggests a couple ways, and I am greatly simplifying here: analyze communication and reflect on conflict. Actions which are made infinitely easier when you understand your behavioral style, communication style, and method of dealing (or not) with conflict and can understand how others’ styles may be different from yours.
Justification #2 — We can be blind to our weaknesses.
If you know about the Johari Window, you can see where I’m going with this one. The Johari Window is divided into four quadrants:
- The open part — stuff you know about yourself that everybody else knows, too.
- The hidden part — stuff you know about yourself that others don’t know about you.
- The blind part — stuff you don’t know about yourself that others do know!
- The unknown part — super secret stuff nobody knows… not even you.
The goal is to increase the open part by minimizing the other three parts. By doing so, you can enhance your communications, decrease conflict, and have better relationships with people (again, greatly simplifying).
Justification #3 — We want to be happy! (Don’t we?)
Would life be more fun if there was less stress and conflict? Would there be less stress and conflict if we could get along better with our coworkers, our boss, our family? Could we get along better if we understood where we were coming from… and how where the other person is coming from may be different?
A word of caution…
Assessments are not tests. There are no right or wrong answers. There are just different answers. One MBTI type isn’t better than another. No one Strengths Theme is rated higher than another. Types, strengths, profiles, etc. should not be used as a defense or an excuse. They are a way of looking into a mirror and seeing who we are at a level we may not have seen before.