Personality Tests and Training

Generally speaking; Doctors and nurses are the worse patients, waitresses are the worst restaurant customers, and trainers are the worst participants. I fall into the last group, I struggle in training session unless I find them relevant and engaging and I can be a bit of a critic.

I attended a training recently where the facilitator had some interesting ideas about keeping the session fun and interactive, ideas I am sure were well-intentioned and were there to help us learn. Unfortunately new to the facilitation world, he chose to start the session with an activity he was familiar with. The objective of our meeting was to learn a bit more about team dynamics and help us determine a team style. To do this, he had us take personality tests.

Why Not Personality Tests?

It can be fun to talk about ourselves and how we communicate or react, but personality tests are rarely science-based and should not drive how we manage ourselves in professional or personal settings. I attended this training in a leadership capacity. Serving in that role, I feel an obligation to lead my team, a need to facilitate communications, and a desire to help them achieve their goals.

My Personal Experience With Personality Tests

When I took the personality test at this meeting, I tested as an extremely direct person with entrepreneurial skills who is strong in a leadership position. I have taken this exact test at similar training sessions. The first time I took the test, it showed I am more of an independent, detail oriented person, strong in execution and technical skills. As luck would have it, I was working in Information Technology at the time.

Personality Tests in Team Building Courses?

personality tests

Personality tests don’t belong in team building courses. The test he used wasn’t the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, but it is worth mentioning the MBTI has been largely discredited. Similar tests have also been highly scrutinized, in part because people cannot be so easily put in a box. It doesn’t tell you much to tell you that at one moment in time I took a test that assigned me the letters ENFJ. Reading a profile filled with generalizations about a person does not teach you how to talk to them or improve team dynamics.

If Not Personality Tests, What?

The way to improve the way a team communicates is to help them get to know one another. I am sure most of these tests were originally intended to do exactly that; to be a tool used to start a conversation. However, when I was in the aforementioned training, one person shared that part of his sales training includes a personality test and that he requires all of his sales associates to test high in one specific category. People take personality tests far too literally!

Try a Quiz Instead?

If you want to add a test to your training to help with team dynamics, I suggest you make it something fun. Buzzfeed and Cosmopolitan Magazine are full of fun quizzes that tell you which emoji you are or what Halloween costume you should wear this year. Let your participants get to know one another with a similar light-hearted quiz. Creating these quizzes is fun, and you can customize it to be applicable to the group. In a previous blog post, Brian wrote about the Eyeball Part Quiz he created in a similar vein. It is a fun activity where people can learn a bit about the people in the room, but don’t actually believe they are a Cornea and should be treated as one moving forward.

What is your experience with personality tests in training? Let’s talk about it in the comments!


9 thoughts on “Personality Tests and Training

  1. This is very cynical view of profiles that can really add value to a team environment. I concur with Holly, these profiles have value and can help a team interact and develop with proper facilitation. Using the things suggested in order to “make it something fun” sounds like a waste of time. As a facilitator I don’t have time for “just fun”. I think if these profiles are being used to just distract then they are not being used well. If participants are not being engaged and know “what’s in it for me” then perhaps the reason for engaging has not been made.

    • Thanks Scott. I think fun can be engaging too. If the goal is to work together and understand team dynamics, there are light hearted approaches that work well. To your point, they should not be distracting or put in there to just fill time. Every activity should have a purpose. Thanks for your comments!

  2. I think tools like Birkman and EI type tools can be really useful as part of team building exercises, BUT, they cannot be used as a “one and done” type endeavor. That is the mistake that most folks make with them. They are first and foremost a tool for self-awareness. That, in my opinion, is really hard to do in a group setting the first go around. Results should be provided 1:1 like in more of a coaching session. Then later, they can be used as a tool to help understand how your behaviors and the behaviors of others of your team are the same or different and how everyone’s unique and perfect wiring may create symbiotic relationships or ones that grind. Using tools like this can raise awareness and open discussion about how to work more effectively together as well as brings the possibility for understanding and behavior change. Unfortunately, most peoples first exposure to these types of tools is a “one and done” scenario with little coaching on how to make them effective and therefore folks never use them again and their validity gets called into question. I am sorry you had such a rotten experience Heather because I do think personality type tools can go a long way in helping people understand each other better and how to work with others who are different from themselves.

    • Holly, that is a really good point. My perspective is from very little coaching. In fact, I have seen these tests administrated by facilitators who have very little background in the test.

  3. I have only used an emotional intelligence online test during staff training once this year, when introducing EQ to our staff and how to use it in the workplace and in personal life. Similar to what bettydannewitz said – it was for staff to understand where they may fall on the EQ spectrum, their current skills, etc. They shared their results highest and lowest results anonymously in a Poll Everywhere question so we could see where we may fall as a group, but they didn’t share their results with others in the group or with me.

    • I really like the Poll Everywhere idea Whitney. I haven’t used many EQ tests, they sound interesting. What do people learn about themselves and others when taking these tests?

  4. Generally people are too serious and self conscious, so these tests work as ice-breakers or attitude enhancements. I enjoy them because I’m old enough to be comfortable and be a bit silly. Depending on the group and the purpose of the meeting they can be fun and not too serious. At least I’ve never found the categories etc to be terribly useful.

  5. I agree wholeheartedly. Personality tests are really more for self-awareness and should be evaluated to see if they really fit. I use them as a way to become more self aware in my emotional intelligence skill practice sessions. They are for the person taking them to better understand how they might be, not for others to use to better interact with them. There really is no action step for others. Also, I am the WORST participant. Always. Occupational hazard :).

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.