Understand Your Personality Better to Embrace Opportunity and Avoid Pitfalls

Learning more about what makes you tick and how you show up at work when things are going well, and when the pressure ratchets up, is critical information to help you capitalize on strengths, work around weak spots, advance in your career — and perhaps find the journey less stressful. A wide range of personality assessments, many available at no cost online, can be a good starting place to gain objective insights.
“You want to start from a place of curiosity and discovery,” explained Chief People Officer with The Wendy’s Company, Coley O’Brien, talking about Embracing Your Personality Type during a recent Third Thursday WFF Exchange Network. “As you build understanding and awareness about personality aspects that can help or hinder your performance, that awareness can lead to actions that will enable you to improve in areas that could be holding you back and build on areas that serve you best,” he said.
WFF’s monthly Exchange Networks connect you with inspiring peers and role models in powerful virtual events that include live moderated Q&A with a top industry leader on Zoom followed by focused networking in small breakout groups.
Where to start
It’s easy to fall into the tendency to label people with personality testing, but the real power of these assessment tools is that they provide a lens into understanding more about how you’re wired and how some of your most common tendencies work well for you, or could be tailored to be more effective,” O’Brien said. “There’s no one personality type that’s better than another. Each is a matter of matching them to the right situations and in the right degree.”
He points out, for example, that people often assume senior leaders are likely extroverts but that’s often not the case. “Many executives will define themselves as introverted but they have learned over time how to make the most of the attributes that come most naturally to them while also mastering techniques to become more comfortable in more challenging areas, such as being in the spotlight, leading large meetings and public speaking,” he said.
Specific evaluation tools may be available to you through your employer, a professional association or even the career planning and placement services of your alma mater. Many are also available (sometimes in an abbreviated form) online at no cost. Some of the most widely used assessments include:
  • DiSC personality assessment focuses on four combinations of observable behaviors that can be especially useful in evaluating how you function within a larger group. There are multiple variations of the test to choose from, but the final assessment will highlight your unique combination of dominance (D), influence (I), steadiness (S) and conscientiousness or compliance (C).  The test provides insights about whether you tend to be more people- or task-oriented and whether you are more reserved or active.
  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) has been used for more than fifty years and relies on sixteen different personality types to help people understand their own behavior, and that of others. The 93-question test gives you a series of A/B choices where you pick one answer. The key traits measured are introversion/extroversion; thinking/feeling; sensing/intuition; and judging/perception.
  • Big Five or OCEAN Model links personality traits to those compatible with a position’s roles and responsibilities and can be especially helpful in building a high-performing team. The five personality traits measured are openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. Rather than creating binary categories, the Big Five Model ranks personality traits along a spectrum.
  • Princeton MCG Leadership Blind Spot Assessment is particularly interesting if you are further along in your career and want to take a candid look at what you might be missing in your leadership approach. The 40-question test helps tease out blind spots you might have about yourself, your team, your company and about the markets in which your organization competes.
Where to go with it
The most effective way to use insights from personality assessment is not so much to strive to eliminate perceived weaknesses, but rather to manage them and optimize behaviors for certain situations.
Understanding your default behaviors can also help you identify circumstances more quickly where you might not be at your best so you can choose to respond more effectively. Professor of Business Psychology at Columbia University, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, calls this identifying your danger zones. Writing in Harvard Business Review, he says, “As your situation changes—say you get a new manager, take a promotion, or switch organizations—different derailers may become more pronounced, and the context will determine whether they are more or less problematic.”
He points to how someone who scores high on being imaginative might excel in an innovative role or with an entrepreneurial boss but struggle if moved into a role that requires greater risk management or working with a more conservative manager. The process of change, he explains, will involve feeling your way by tracking others’ perceptions, making adjustments, and gauging again. “The goal here is not to reconstruct your personality but, rather, to control it in critical situations,” Chamorro-Premuzic advises.
Building self-awareness by exploring your personality is a highly intentional growth strategy that can help you increase your contribution and accelerate advancement. “When we’re at our best, we are working together with various styles and ways of synthesizing information and making decisions together,” O’Brien said.
You can REGISTER now to attend the next WFF Exchange Network, Finding Your Motivation/Shine Where You Are November 18 from Noon-1 p.m. CT.

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