Utilize personality tests and/or player cards

Utilize personality tests and/or player cards

Personality tests can be helpful for understanding, unifying, and supporting each member of your leadership team. They typically ask a series of questions that identify characteristic patterns or traits that are used to group people into “personality types.” Some commonly used tests:

Why it’s important:

These tests help teams get to know each other better by illuminating individual strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies. Understanding what each person values, how they problem-solve and how they communicate builds trust and respect within a team. In other words, it answers the important question: how do I best work with this person?

Personality tests can also reveal who might work well together and in what types of roles. Some people may be more comfortable working independently, for example, while others thrive in collaborative situations.

As Leah Fessler writes in “ Managers are missing out on the most important part of personality tests ,”:

“Reflecting together on the accuracies and inconsistencies we perceived between our test results and our own self-image revealed our insecurities about our jobs, insights about which communication tactics we liked and disliked, and our professional strengths—all of this before we knew one another’s neighborhoods, alma maters, or relationship statuses. [...]

The information gleaned in these discussions offered a different kind of intelligence on the people in our work environment, intelligence that’s typically tough to gain otherwise.”

DIY vs. software vs. using a coach:

  • DIY: sign up for the test(s) directly and follow the suggested curriculum. As with EOS or OKRs, follow through is everything. Share results across the team, design follow-up conversation and revisit periodically.
  • Software: certain tools are great at collecting, visualizing and/or helping to interpret results across a team. Our friends at Cloverleaf, for example, have created a nice team dashboard as part of their system (partial screenshot shown below).
  • Coach: there are many levels of possible engagements, from a one-time facilitated session to a multi-week deep dive. The latter is likely overkill for startup and early growth companies, but the former can produce a nice bang for the buck.

Player cards:

Individual player cards can quickly convey things like working style and personal background and interests. Some organizations take this to an extreme, such as Bridgewater Associates which is famous for its sophisticated, peer weighted system with many categories of attributes . Others keep it simpler. Claire Hughes Johnson, COO of Stripe advocates that leaders write a simple guide to working with them which covers things like:

  • Personality type [our addition] – reference personality tests if a common reference point
  • What do I want to be involved in?
  • When do I want to hear from you?
  • What are my preferred communication modes?
  • What makes me impatient?
  • Don’t surprise me with X
  • Personal interests [our addition]

Try starting simple. We’ve found this to be a useful tool.

Use with care:

While personality tests can be a helpful team-building tool, use them with caution. Some employees may feel like they are judged, placed in a box, or discriminated against because of their personality type. Be sure to reiterate that there are no wrong answers. Also watch out for tests with personality types that one might perceive as inconsistent with any core value. To use an extreme example, if ‘speak up’ is a core value, newly verified introverts may feel alienated. You can try to assuage the concerns by explaining the nuance but it’s best to avoid these clashes altogether where possible.

Lastly, personality tests should likely be avoided in the hiring process:

“They’re best used as a tool to unify and support your team, rather than to make hiring decisions. Personality tests are inconsistent indicators of performance and intellectual ability. They introduce risks of legal defensibility when used in business settings. Competency and cognitive testing as well as case studies are empirically better ways of evaluating performance capability. Cultural fit is better assessed with structured interviews and in-depth reference checking”. - Keith Kefgen, AETHOS Consulting Group

Prioritize and cultivate diverse leadership

It all starts from the top: diversity needs to be embedded in the highest levels of your organization.

First, it’s important to understand the full scope of diversity, which includes the following, among others:

  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Age
  • Disability status
  • Educational experience
  • Professional experience
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Parent/family caregiver status
  • Socioeconomic background
  • Veteran status

Each leader that brings a new perspective based on their life experiences reduces blind spots and stimulates greater creativity. Quite simply, failing to prioritize diversity will set your organization behind.

Countless studies show that startups that prioritize diversity perform better than startups that do not. Plus, potential employees increasingly value transparency and diversity and choose to work at companies that champion these principles.

Watch out: Hiring and firing for values fit is good. Using ‘culture fit’ as an excuse to hire people just like you is not. Avoid this common trap.

Prioritize diversity - good practices:

  • Don’t delegate it
  • Search for talent from a wide range of diverse sources and candidate pools (if applicable, push your recruiter on this)
  • Revisit your hiring criteria and interview practices. Are there clear biases? Make sure interview teams are diverse. Don’t assume every person with a particular background can do the same job that people with similar backgrounds had done.
  • Ensure newcomers are seen as one with the whole
  • Encourage conversations about diversity. Embrace the potential discomfort and break through it. It’s important to cultivate a culture of open communication and empathy.