PERSONALITY TESTING AT WORK
Many of us would have completed some kind of a personality test at some stage of our lives. They seem to exist within a spectrum of applications, be it career or personal. You could be an extroverted intuitive in the Miles Briggs system or dominant influencer in the DISC system. It seems the list of tests to define us is endless.
If you’ve ever done one of these tests in a work context you may have experienced the personal nature of disclosing your preferences and habits to a group of people. Talking about differences in a group can bring up issues around our core drive to belong. If you’ve ever disagreed with something in a group setting you may have felt how this is not always a comfortable moment.
Recently I completed a personality test where your personality profile is defined by a type of bird.
This test was created by Des Hunt and Andrew Cole and simplifies the Myers Brigg and the DISC test and touts that it is the ‘simpler and more effective alternative”. The test assigns traits of leadership to four birds Eagles, Peacocks, Owls and Doves.
Eagle: Wants to have the control and the freedom to get results. Wants to be the boss.
Peacock: Wants to be recognised, thanked and applauded for who they are and what they can do. Wants to be the centre of attention.
Owl: Wants to work and live within structures and laid down procedures. Wants to be right.
Dove: Wants to be supportive and appreciated as an important member of the team. Wants friendship, approval and to be loved.
So what happens when you are a Dove in a room full of Eagles?
Here we come to the crux of my story. I have actually done this test years ago. The last time I did this test it turned out I was the only Dove. It was weird, all the eagles were flying around the room high-fiving each other and deciding where we were going for lunch and I was quietly shrinking.
It gets weirder! Did the test have some magical power to transform the eagles into “better leaders”? In fact, as the test results circulated in the office it slowly became a mark of pride that the eagles were the leaders.
Are these definitions a mark of pride or uncomfortably revealing?
Eagles are motivated by power and control so it makes sense that the Eagle personality type is going to feel proud to be associated with a powerful bird.
The Owl’s are equally as proud. Owls are considered the wisest of the birds with many storybooks using Owl’s to represent being book smart and full of sage advice.
What about the Peacock? The Peacock is often representative of the vain and self-involved. Is it a little bit awkward to identify as a Peacock?
And the Dove? In the workplace where we are supposed to climb up the corporate ladder and where being the boss is largely represented by dominating and loud white men. Is being a Dove something you want to admit in the workplace?
Fleshing out how I feel about life as a Dove.
I told the group my experience with this test in the past and maybe that’s a really “Dove” thing to do I don't know? I wanted to relay how we need to be less singular in our approach to our strengths and how acknowledging our differences is building on our strengths. We need to be aware of the needs and communication styles of the people around us so we can help those around us work in a style that suits them best. That’s when you truly get the best work out of people. When it feels like passion and less like work.
As we digest the results of this kind of testing we have to be aware of the implicit biases they present. As a Dove my supportive, listening, considerate style was apparently bumped to the bottom of the pack in one workplace. But what if I believe in it? It is after all the way I authentically operate and I believe it’s a valid way to lead.
On this recent occasion when I stood up in front of a group of people disclosing their leadership test results I was so conscious of my fellow birds in the room. I was also conscious of the journey I’ve been on since the last time I self-assessed . I have become much more accepting of my own style and am working with my strengths more and more within my own business.
The truth of the matter is that I don’t work well with stereotypical eagles. And my experience with Eagles makes me a little gun shy. My perspective of that style leads me to see it as patriarchal, hierarchical, authoritative and sometimes aggressive. However I have since met some amazing Eagles with whom I work brilliantly with.
So while my experience with personality tests has been a little fraught, it was an interesting task to reexamine that experience from more distance and experience.
I have worked out I work best in flat hierarchies where everyone at the table gets a voice. I like to watch people get excited. I like to hold space so people feel comfortable sharing their ideas and dreaming as big as they can.
I think a workplace where people are given space to dream big is an awesome place to be.
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