August 2011


There are probably some fairly bad taste jokes to be cracked in the context of psychometrics about ‘not knowing your own strength’, and I’ll try to avoid them. But as psychometric instruments go, the Hogan Development Survey is different in identifying those strengths that can, indulged to excess, undermine us. Sometimes referred to as ‘The Dark Side’ rather than ‘The Development Survey’, it will help to keep in mind that the reference is to the less desirable aspects of our personality that may escape our ability to control or conceal them when we are living or acting under pressure.

Pausing to exhibit my capacity for mangling metaphors (even when not under duress), this isn’t so much a matter of a double-edged sword as a flip-side. Nor is it about avoiding going to extremes: some behaviours – passionate, excitable enthusiasm is important in driving or inspiring others – don’t benefit from being over-moderated. It’s not that this is something to be avoided – a lack of enthusiasm isn’t an improvement – rather than recognising what too much of it can be like not just for the individual but for others, and how it might demonstrate itself in stressful situations. There’s a big difference between The Duracell Bunny and The Moody Diva, and not just in how cuddly they are.

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Gratitude is due to Brains on Fire as a company, as they inspired us to launch this blog. (And as they’re all about listening, get Spike to write more often: a little spikiness livens up a dish.) They’ve now given us a book – one that risks being misinterpreted, and which I suspect plays less well in the UK than it does on its home turf. There’s a lot of talk within its covers – and even on them – about passion, love, powerfulness and what some will consider other qualities that qualify as ‘the usual suspects’. The book actually explicitly mentions cheerleaders more than once, and some people this side of the Atlantic may choke a little on their sherry reading it. (They would have better objections, but I’ll come back to them.)

The misinterpretation that I fear with this book is that – despite the clear statements it contains to the contrary – some will reject it, before or after reading it, as being mostly about social media. (It isn’t: it goes out of its way to – quite rightly – remind its readers that 90% of the world’s interaction still happens offline, although I’d say that percentage is dropping.) It’s headlining of the idea of ‘movements’ also left me wondering if its pitch would work as effectively in the UK as in the US: having now read the book, I felt it was mostly actually about forging closer and more loyal customer relationships and about – to use the word Ford’s Head of Social Media uses in a back cover blurb – ‘humanization’.

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In the previous episode in this series, I related the experience of completing the MBTI questionnaire and receiving facilitated feedback. But if MBTI is mostly about the individual, giving feedback on relationships with others more by inference and implication, FIRO-B is explicitly about the individual, others and the relationship(s) between the two. This is an instrument that looks at the ways we wish to behave towards others and others to behave towards us, and illuminates that these may be very different even in a single dimension: FIRO-B can illuminate many things, not least that “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” may be a familiar expression but it can also be highly inaccurate in describing our behavioural patterns.

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There are many different psychometric instruments in use, not just in leadership or management development, but also in the recruitment and personal development fields and others. As it occurred to me that very rarely do you get to read a first-hand account of the process of completing some of these questionnaires and receiving feedback on them, I took the opportunity to follow up a fascinating session by an ASK colleague during Adult Learning Week by completing a range of the most commonly used tools and receiving facilitated feedback on them. In this first post in a series, I’ll cover MBTI® (later posts will cover FIRO-B® and instruments from the Hogan stable), and I hope they will provide not just interesting reading, but an insight into the psychometric experience for those who have yet to undergo it or are apprehensive about doing so.

Like many other organisations, ASK frequently deploys a range of psychometric instruments. As we value professionalism, client confidentiality and well-being, we only do so where those administering the instrument in question are licensed to do so, and all feedback is facilitated by trained professionals: while we can’t claim to be unique in this, many individuals each year receive feedback from the use of psychometric tests that is unmediated, unsupported and unfacilitated. (Given that any psychometric tool is a form of mirror to be held up to the person completing its questionnaire, this is never something that we would recommend.)

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