Recently, an executive from a mid-sized organization decided that all personality profile-based classes would be eliminated from the schedule. The effect was that close to a thousand employees pitched a collective fit. As these things go, that leader moved on, the personality-profile classes were reinstated, and were filled to capacity every time they were offered.
So, what is all this yelling about?
In fairness to executive who banned the profile-based classes, I have to admit that poorly managed, these programs can go horribly wrong. Labeling. Name-calling. Using disclosed preferences to disqualify, diminish, or exclude. Interpreting motivation, performance, or capacity through the lens of “type.” And in a couple of truly terrifying examples, to screen candidates for employment.
As an executive coach and leadership development practitioner, I am certified to work with over a dozen models/profiles/assessments that inevitably seek to segment the recipients into tidy buckets of preference, behavior, motivation, and range of potential. At a surface level, I agree. It is not valid, practical or respectful to reduce humans to what amounts to a #tag.
But there is, undeniably, more to this argument. Folks have an instinctive sense that having a few reliable indicators about preference, style, approach, hot-buttons (their own and others) better equips them to navigate the increasingly complex corporate conversation. With that in mind, a few lessons from experience.
It’s a data point
Many practitioners of personality/style-based instruments become zealots, extending the implication, and the application of these profiles almost to the point of religious fervor, and that’s a problem. I have yet to meet the human who stays in a box. We live in the white space.
The real power in this type of profile is to inform choices, influence approaches, and more effectively self-manage.
It’s a shared lexicon
Having a common framework of behavioral and motivational cues allows employees to mobilize their immediate environment around their strengths, and to move toward others for more effective collaboration.
It forms the baseline for organizational emotional intelligence, and the context for coaching to interpersonal mastery.
It must be managed
At the end of the day, this kind of tool—like every other tool—serves your intention. So, be explicit about the intention, the cultural and values alignment, and leadership point of view.