How do you see yourself?

Julie is a twenty-nine-year-old new manager. She has always been a bit insecure; she would tell you that, although she’s been recognized for her professional accomplishments. She’s never really “found” herself. She’d also say that she was always on a quest to go deeper and become more self-aware. She heard about personality assessments, like Strength Finders® and Myers-Briggs® from other managers. They would say things like “I’m a Maximizer” or “I have Woo” as my top strength. Woo? She was curious – might she be a Maximizer or have Woo?

Maybe if she knew her Strength Finder® theme, she could settle down, be more herself and have more confidence. After taking the assessment, she was more confused than ever. And, she was even a little sad. The assessment said her top strength was analytical. It stated that “Your Analytical theme challenges other people to ‘Prove it. Show me why what you are claiming is true.’”

She didn’t see that in herself at all. She had the ability to make quick connections between concepts, but she wasn’t a “prove it” kind of person. Should she become one? Is that what was missing? Should she take the results from her assessment and try to become them?

Taking that assessment threw her into a tailspin that caused her to question her understanding of herself. She didn’t become a more assertive and confident leader; instead, her insecurity grew. That’s when she reached out for coaching. She thought that personality assessments made people better and told people how to “be” in the world. She was disappointed.

What do you believe about assessments?

In the U.S. alone, there are about 2,500 personality assessments that you can purchase. This concerns me. It concerns me because it’s an indicator of how much people are seeking to understand their identity, to know what they are about, and to understand how they fit in the world. I’m sure they surmise that if they can figure out who they are, they can walk more confidently, or they can “be themselves” without apology. The problem is, being yourself requires work that’s deeper than what an assessment can reveal. It requires doing the work of personal awareness and core level reflection that leads to getting acquainted with who you are. It requires the openness of mind and heart to be willing to use the assessments as a tool and not as a definitive explanation to validate or invalidate your existence.

The Tricky Part

The tricky part of the real question, when it comes to assessments, is how to take the information and use it to explore the inherent characteristics that make you who you are. Like Julie, others might take a personality assessment only to find out that it does not ring true for them or draws out an aspect of themselves that is foreign and unfamiliar, even if true. They are faced with a “but…the assessment said” response.

What’s tricky about that? Remember, there are over 2,500 assessments available in the U.S. Some were created as a result of deep research and science, while others are based on idealistic descriptors. You can find out what animal you are and what you are like because you are that animal. You can find out what color you are as in green, yellow, or orange, what being an early riser vs. being a night owl says about you or what number combination you are and so much more.

That’s concerning enough. What is even more concerning to me is that companies often use assessments to help them learn more about job candidates, team members, and leaders. This is a black and white approach which misses out on the unseen potential opportunities for both interview candidates and hiring agencies. How many of you would appreciate a doctor who never visited your bedside, but told you what your problem was and how you should treat it? Would you trust that information wholeheartedly or would you wonder if they missed something? The message I want to convey strongly here is you are more than what your assessment can reveal. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, which cannot be captured fully by any single or collective group of assessments.

The Challenge: Often companies use the wrong assessments in a situation

“Not all tests are created equal, and some assessments designed for one purpose (like career development) wind up being shoehorned into the hiring process. The well-known Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, for example, groups people into 16 different types, separating introverts from extroverts, the logically minded from the emotionally driven, and so on. While this could be seen as useful information for a tech company building out its sales team, or a restaurant hiring customer-facing staff, the company that offers the MBTI says using it for hiring is “unethical,” stressing that personality type shouldn’t be a dealbreaker for most positions”. The Pros and Cons of Personality Test in the Hiring Process, Inc Magazine.

Here’s more:

“Some experts estimate that as many as 60 percent of workers are now asked to take workplace assessments. The $500-million-a-year industry has grown by about 10 percent annually in recent years. While many organizations use personality testing for career development, about 22 percent use it to evaluate job candidates, according to the results of a 2014 survey of 344 Society for Human Resource Management members.

However, there are thousands of personality assessments available, and their quality varies. Some might even land an employer in legal trouble. HR professionals should explore their options carefully before deciding whether a personality assessment is right for their company and, if so, which one to use.

Even after careful selection of an assessment, they shouldn’t rely solely on the test results when making hiring decisions.
“This is not a silver bullet, It’s one of the many variables that need to be factored into hiring a person,” along with the applicant’s experience, education, references, and conduct during the interview.”

Compared to other hiring selection practices, personality assessments are among the least effective in predicting job performance, according to research by Frank L. Schmidt, management and organizations professor emeritus at the University of Iowa.
(Excerpt taken from From What Do Personality Test Really Reveal?) SHRM.Org

Not a Silver Bullet

If it’s not a silver bullet, then what is it? Personality assessments are tools to help you ask deeper questions, recognize where ability may be growing and how ability can influence the way you live or work. They can also be indicators of areas that need to be strengthened or reveal a pattern or way of thinking that you didn’t know showed up frequently in your life. Keep in mind, they are only one potential “revealer” of aspects of your personality. As mentioned above, many factors make up your behaviors, temperaments, preferences, personalities, and yes – depending on which assessment you are using – only one of those qualities about you is being measured! Using an assessment is only one lens that you can look through to see who you are.

When you leave all the work up to an assessment, you may inadvertently limit your growth or belief that you can become and perform over and above what the assessment says about you at that time.

Too often I’ve heard people describe themselves as a number, “oh, I’m an 8 on the Enneagram” or they will make a snap assessment of someone they know and label them accordingly. That makes me cringe because there is a giant reality being overlooked.

God’s unique design of you!

Each person is unique. He made it that way because it was important that no one had any other measure to explain who we are except for the Lord.

God can and will reveal more about you than any assessment can ever do. He has an incredible way of putting people in seemingly impossible places when looking at things from a natural perspective.

After being sold into slavery became the ruler of the land. Genesis 37-50.

Helped to deliver a people, after being widowed and going to a new land.

Led the children of Israel into the promised land, all the while having to be reminded to “be strong and of good courage”.

Overlooked by his family when it came time to anoint the next king.

If any of the leaders above had taken a personality assessment prior to being called by God in the way that they were, the assessment may have declared them incompetent to do what they did. It may have pegged Ruth’s loyal and kind nature as a weakness and advised her to never seek any position of leadership or do something that required deeply embedded courage because she would most likely not succeed. It may have been saying of Joshua “you are a great number two, but it won’t go well for you if you are number one.” And of David, I can imagine that his assessment may have affirmed that he was perfect to lead…lions, tigers, and bears!

We are Unique like Snowflakes!

I thank God we are not limited to a set of letters or numbers. There are no two people alike – just as every snowflake that falls from the sky!

I thank God, that the moment you became His child, no other measure mattered! If He called you to be a leader and you showed absolutely no signs of having the aptitude, access, temperament, or any other advantage, you could still do great exploits just on God’s calling and equipping alone!

I want you to hear my heart here – there is a bigger and higher (or I will say highest) authority over your life. One so big that He can take you from prison to the palace, from the second man to the courageous leader, from one who has an idea for a business to one who leads a world-impacting organization.

This is the power of God to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ask or think. God can CREATE in you the temperament He needs you to have to do what He has called you to do! And, what you are willing to do. I’ve met many leaders, who placed their faith and trust in God’s perspective of themselves and went far beyond where they thought they could go and did what they never thought possible.

Personality assessments have a purpose. They have helped many gain clarity or clues about how they show up in the world. I’ve used them. I’m not against them, but I would be remiss if I didn’t call to your attention that they are not the final word on who you are.

Your Unique Name

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone inscribed with a new name, known only to the one who receives it.” Revelation 2:17

This is your unique name. No one knows it but the Father. This truth needs to take precedent over any name or way you describe yourself on this earth. That’s the only label we can take absolute comfort. Within the name the Lord has given you lies EVERYTHING you need, period. If God has called you to lead, it’s in the ability He supplies for you to do so. If He positions you in a surprising place, it can be His calling on your life to do so.

Julie may have many more disappointments if she is looking for anything outside of Jesus for her identity. Personality assessments may look like a quick fix to answer the “who am I question.” However, this is a question that can only truly be answered by God. Use personality assessments as one aspect of describing who you are while remembering that there are many aspects of your life, including your upbringing, education, experiences and free-will that influence how you will lead or show up in the world. In the end, may this passage help anchor your identity:

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
Psalm 121 1-2

Finally, you need to be very, very convinced of who you are. Know your value, worth and unique design.

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