Team of Persons: The Value of Type Tests

Travel back a couple decades with me. My father opened up a whole new world of insight one day as he unleashed a bit of management speak. My dad’s entire career has been devoted to the kitchen cabinet industry, and in this world he is a true master. But on this particular day in my ninth or tenth grade year, he had DISC tests on the mind.

I’m sure you’re familiar with this. Most likely you’ve taken it at some point. More often than not, you’ve taken the assessment more than once.

It’s one of the original personality tests, using self-identified patterns to uncover one’s behavioral style. While the test itself continues to evolve—even to the point of renaming the “I,” “S,” and “C” styles themselves—it was originally designed from the theory of early Twentieth Century psychologist William Moulton Marston.

Anyway, my father explained that day about how and why he’d started having each of his new supervisors and management team members take a DISC test. Though some might be in the practice of using such assessments to filter out certain types, it was his conviction that all types were needed for a well-rounded team. And he talked about how it was important as a leader to place on your team those with opposing personalities and skill sets, so that they could make up for your weak points as each individual on the team worked to compliment one another. I’m not sure I remember his exact words, but this was my takeaway.

And I found it completely earth-shattering. Or at least perspective-shifting.

Before this I had been in the business of trying to become the right style rather than feeling freed up to simply embody the most high-quality version of my own. But it was here were I saw a diverse team as the truly healthy one. It was here were I realized that a well led company had a spot on its roster for everyone.

From there, a college class introduced me to Myers-Briggs and a grad school course on teaching with skill and influence carried me deep into the joys of David Kolb’s Learning Styles Inventory.

Critiques would often swell about these and other such tests. That they aren’t objective enough. That the science may be questionable. That the fact a person can take an assessment twice and get two different answers shows its failure.

All of these critiques may be true enough. We should never receive any results as an end-all authoritative voice on someone’s life. But I would suggest that incredible value remains in simply taking them for what they are: Tools to harness and pool strengths that may otherwise be missed, while affirming the need for team diversity and assisting in collaborative possibilities.

And I’d suggest the specific results are less important than the effect they produce: Strengths-focused team work. And as ongoing assessments are retaken throughout an evolving lifespan, insights remain fresh and timely.

And so yes, just as my father continues today, so I too have been using assessments (specifically the Kolb LSI) on each of my teams for about the last ten years. I believe we are stronger for it. And I continue to help other team leaders use them with theirs as well.


Now just to boil it down for you, here’s why you should care:

Five WHYs of Personality Profiles

  1. Helps you better understand your own personality, who you are and how you’re wired, providing a grid that helps connect dots that previously seemed random and frustrating.
  2. Clarifies your most efficient role on any given team, releasing you of the need to try to embody all roles and accomplish all functions yourself.
  3. Highlights other personality types that you will do well to surround yourself with, so that you can both benefit from one another’s strengths.
  4. Provides an outline for team composition, allowing all participants to play to their strengths while still ensuring that all skillsets are effortlessly covered.
  5. Develops insight and empathy into why those of opposing personality types act the way they do, producing a renewed appreciation for and patience with those who are so “different” they’d otherwise drive you crazy or make your skin crawl.
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