Are you using behavioral assessments to put people in a box, or to open a door of exploration?

Many teams have experienced the benefits of behavioral assessment tools like DISC and the 6 Types of Working Genius. They are like an open door of exploration leading to increased understanding, a common language aiding communication, and higher moral and productivity. However, these tools have the potential for harm, especially when used to place people in a box. Whether we these tools for good or harm stems from how we handle the challenges of understanding behavior.

Challenge #1: Alternate Understandings

Words have the potential of multiple meanings. Take extrovert and introvert for example. These terms describe a behavioral trait related to social interactions. They describe if someone is outgoing or reserved. They may also indicate where a person derives energy – from people or solitude. These are similar and often interconnected. However, they are not the same. Take a reserved person who gains energy from others as an example. One classification would say they are an introvert while the other an extrovert.

Behavioral assessment tools help to overcome alternate understandings. When a team goes through a behavioral styles workshop, they develop a common language. However, this one shared experience is only the beginning. The team needs to continue to engage and get curious. They need to regularly test their assumptions. Both of their understanding of the terminology, and what it means for their team members.

Challenge #2: Variations

Stereotypes would be great if they were 100% accurate. Although there is enough similarity to create a “norm,” there is a measure of inaccuracy. Those that fit the norm will exhibit nuances and subtle variations from one another. Additionally, there are variations of the norm which don’t quite fit. Yet, they lack a more accurate alternate description. The broader the generalization, the greater the inaccuracy.

Behavioral assessment tools attempt to compensate for this. They try to capture the variations while still being simple enough to understand. This lends the initial concepts easier to grasp. However, the nuances take time. With continued learning comes increased awareness.

Challenge #3: All or Nothing

It is easy to assume someone always behaves a certain way. This is particularly true when that is all we see. They are either always an extrovert or always an introvert. They either always put people first, or always put tasks first. And yet, reality can be quite different from our perception. In other settings the person may behave quite differently. That may even be their preferred style. If we want to stop putting people in boxes, we have to break the all or nothing perception.

Behavioral assessment tools can either reinforce or break this perception. I have seen some that give a person a zero in a category. This can leave a perception they can’t do it. That is why I prefer tools like the DISC assessment as it never scores a zero. With every assessment I do my clients get to see how they are a mixture of each style. They may favor certain styles in a setting, but the full range is still available to them. Seeing this helps avoid the all or nothing perspective.

Challenge #4: Subjectivity

We view ourselves and others with a measure of subjectivity. An introvert may identify someone as an extrovert while an extrovert may identify the same person as an introvert. Who is right? How do we know?

Further complicating things is the notion of value or judgment. Words are just words. However, they can carry a value judgement. Is being an introvert good or bad? Does it change based on who is saying it? From some it may be positive while others an insult.

One of the ways of addressing this is to replace subjectivity with a common point of reference. Although we cannot do this entirely, behavioral assessment tools do a great job. With everyone on a team using the same tool, there is a common point of reference. Further, the assessment tool is neutral. It does not place a value on one style over another. Many tools will even demonstrate how the styles complement one another.

Take your team to the next level

The best teams are ones that understand each other. They are able to communicate effectively while tapping into the natural gifts and talents each person has. Rather than putting people into boxes, they get curious. In doing so, they reduce dysfunction while increasing moral and productivity. But these results do not happen on their own. They require intentionality. This is best achieve when a leader enlists the aid of a trained consultant. After all, if it is worth doing, it is worth doing right.

Is it time for your team to open a door of exploration?

Contact Jeffery Schau today for a complementary consultation. By using tools like DISC and the Six Types of Working Genius, he can help you get the most out of your team.

Certified DISC behavioral analysis consultant.

Certified Six Types of Working Genius Consultant.