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Personality tests, are they really what we should use?

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Written by Daz Burns

How many of us have taken personality tests? Have you ever felt conflicted with what they say?

Let’s talk about that and why human interaction is way better for us! 


Personality tests. Behaviour tests. Strength tests. 

Hands up if you have done WAAAAAY too many of these tests in your lifetime! 🙌

Over recent years, there are way more options and way more reliance on these to decide who will be a great fit within a team environment.

My issue here is a simple one.

How can you put me in a box? 

How can I be prominently “water” when the percentage between that and “air” was less than 3%?

How can I be prominently an “I” when again, the percentage between that and “S” was 4.2%?

How can you decide if I am the right fit for the box when I don’t fit in one?!


Should we really be relying on these?

Leaders, should I say, Managers, are referring back to these ‘accurate’ tests when making decisions for promotions and restructures. 

I challenge this and believe that Managers are actually doing this, because leaders are active, involved, listening and know their people. 

Managers can be much more passive, they are task focused and BAU focussed so aren’t actively seeking ways to know and understand their people. 


You must know yourself. 

You must know your people.

And you must be driven to help your people know themselves. 

Ask them great questions, like ‘what’s your base setting?’ Joy? Empathy? Creativity? Shame?


In pressure situations, we too often say “well, now we’ve seen her true colours”.

No, you have seen her true colours day in and day out doing the mahi alongside you.

In pressure situations you see their coping skills bubble to the surface.

Which again, links to how they were brought up, where they were brought up, who they were brought up by and what they were brought up with. 

Often, in pressure situations or under stress we reveal our ten year old selves. 

So if we were bullied, our parents were separating, we were in poverty, our bodies were changing, we moved house…. What we learnt as a ten year old to cope with that pressure and stress comes out unconsciously. 


So help your team to know themselves.

Set up scenarios for them to practice what pressure situations may feel like. 

Give them questions to ask themselves like ‘what did I notice?’ or ‘what was happening here that triggered that reaction?’

Take time to reflect with them.

Ask ‘what did you notice when the pressure came on?’


Here are three tests I have done in the last two years and a very brief overview of what they have said about me:


Tetra Map 

Water – is calm, caring and consistent, are important for holding families and teams together, they are loyal and deeply feeling, they show steadfast effort, patience and a desire for harmony and flow. Air – is clear, orderly and focused. Rely on their ability to think things out. Excel in finding logical solutions and making sense of situations. They listen and plan to ensure accuracy and quality. 


Ethos Self Perception Trilemma Questionnaire (ES-PTQ)

Strongest in affiliation (group connectedness, individual connectedness and extroversion), independence (independent thinking, independent assertion and operational autonomy), thinking span (openness to new ideas, breadth of thinking style and conceptual/abstract thinking) and dominance (assertiveness, leadership and self-confidence). 


DISC Behavioral Assessment

Influence – talks about team spirit, good things, future and oneself, loves people. Is open, sociable, calm, steady, exact, modest, non-aggressive, approachable, conversationalist, listening, kind, receptive, social, understanding, pleasant and adjustable. Values security and wellbeing. “She can’t be regarded as brave in making decisions. She is shy and content to compromise.” 


So just to clarify my issue in a nutshell:

  • One test says that I have self confidence and leadership skills to make decisions and one says I am not brave enough to do so.
  • One says that I am not open to convey my thoughts/feelings/mood with my team, another says I first and foremost consider and share feelings with people around me to build trusting environments. 
  • One says I am not driven to have success and results at work. I am not even going to dignify that with a defense. 🤦🏻‍♀️


One test does not define a person.

It does not give you a ‘fair idea’ of who they are or what they are like.

Step up to the plate and get to know your people on an authentic level.

In interviews, ask better questions to get the understanding you need.

No matter what research has gone into creating a personality test, nothing beats human connection, the vibe you feel, and the nuances you notice. 

So make the time.

Get to know the humans. 

Get to know yourself, so you understand why you may feel certain ways towards the different people you work with and meet along your journey.

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