I have always been serious about improving my leadership skills and investing in professional development. This goes back 25 years to when I was a young leader in my family business, and was responsible for leading a team of people who were older and more experienced than myself. During the early years of my career, I realized that I had a lot to learn—and, eager to be the best leader I could be, took steps to develop the qualities I would need to succeed.
Today, as a leadership and succession planning keynote speaker, I help my clients develop these qualities. In fact, as I’m writing this, I have just finished an intensive three-day leadership retreat with a client’s executive team. Of course, if you’re in the early days of your management career or, say, in the grip of a global pandemic, attending an in-person retreat may not be an option just now! So, in the meantime, here are six helpful tools to try.
Start with Individual Personality Assessments
Over the years, I have learned a lot about myself—and my employees—with personality assessments. The three I’ve gotten the most from are the Myers-Briggs Test, the DISC Profile and CliftonStrengths Assessment. Here’s a quick breakdown of how these popular and useful tools differ from one another.
Myers-Briggs (MBTI) Indicator: developed in the 1940s using theories rooted in Carl Jung’s archetypes, the MBTI test uses four opposing pairs of tendencies to determine which fundamental personality traits drive you: Introversion (I) vs. Extroversion (E), Intuition (N) vs. Sensing (S), Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F), and Judgment vs. Perception. The questionnaire will ask you to self-report a variety of preferences across multiple scenarios; your result will be one of 16 personality types. The U.S. version of the test contains 93 questions (88 in the UK) with A/B choices, with about two million adults completing the MBTI inventory every year.
DiSC Profile: DiSC profiles measure four aspects of personality: dominance (D), influence (i), steadiness (S) and conscientiousness (C). The Everything DiSC expands on the original four quadrants with the goal of dialing in tighter for the needs of business—managing others, leadership, sales potential, handling conflict, etc. You’ll answer a series of questions describing your behavioral tendencies in common situations: your preferred pace, your impact on others, how you respond to challenges and your relationship with rules or procedures. The typical online questionnaire has about 80 questions and takes 20 minutes.
Clifton Strengths Assessment: in this hour-long questionnaire, you’ll see 177 paired statements, and choose where you fall along the spectrum between them. This process will measure your natural patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving and categorize them into the 34 distinct CliftonStrengths themes. You’ll receive a Signature Theme Report detailing your five most dominant traits; these are reportedly so individualized that the odds of finding another person with the same five themes is one in 33 million. Your report will also provide guidance on how to best leverage the combination of strengths that make you uniquely you.
Real-Life Takeaways: Personal + Professional
As a developing leader, these tools helped me to become more aware of my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to leading a team. As I have faced both internal and external situations, I have got better at delegating responsibility to others, communicating with my team more effectively and being able to be vulnerable as a leader. One of the biggest growth areas for me personally, especially in my early leadership days, was learning to ask for help when I knew I did not have the knowledge or experience necessary to move forwards.
I found these assessments so effective personally that I started to use them for management throughout our organization, to promote awareness of their leadership styles and the ways they were influencing or demotivating their respective teams. All three assessments are great coaching tools, as they give us some specific behaviors to discuss and build upon.
Today, as a leadership and succession planning keynote speaker, I continue to revisit these assessments periodically—both to work on certain aspects of my leadership style, and to actively seek feedback from my direct reports. Even if the answer is not always what I want to hear, it’s about continuous learning and improvement, which I believe is important in business and in life! If we’re not open to learning, we can’t grow personally or professionally.
Getting Granular: Other Assessments to Try
In fact, this is something I often tell my leadership and succession planning keynote speaker clients—learning should be a lifelong pursuit! That’s why I’ve been researching the NEXT three tools to take my leadership skills to the next level. Here’s what’s on my to-do list.
IHHP Emotional Intelligence Assessment: Researchers now believe that one’s Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is twice as likely to predict success than either Intelligence Quotient (IQ) or technical skill. Institute for Health and Human Potential collaborated with Harvard Business School. Evaluating your ability to recognize, understand and manage your own emotions—as well as your ability to recognize, understand and influence others’ emotions—is critical to your ongoing personal and professional growth. This assessment is a collaboration between the Institute for Health and Human Potential and Harvard Business School.
IHHP Performing Under Pressure Assessment: I say this often on the leadership and succession planning keynote speaker circuit—a leader is only as good as they are during a crisis. A recent study of more than 12,000 business leaders found that the top 10% shared key performance traits that set them apart from the crowd. While this five-minute assessment acknowledges that nobody performs better under pressure than they do under normal circumstances, it can nonetheless identify hot-button growth areas for you to work on.
Princeton MCG Leadership Blind Spot Assessment: If you’re a little farther along in your career, this comprehensive assessment can help you identify areas of oversight across four key categories: yourself, your team, your company and your industry. The 40-question test includes both tactical inquiries (Do I spend time each month interacting with frontline employees?) and reflective questions (Do I take time periodically to identify my weaknesses and the actions I will take to improve in these areas?). Fair warning, though: you’ll need to (a) have a fairly high level of self-awareness (b) be plugged into your enterprise and industry, and (c) answer with total honesty in order to gain insights. I’m particularly interested in this test, because it’s targeting the exact things we can’t—or don’t want—to see.
Self-awareness and discipline—both are important leadership qualities, but when it comes to personal growth, the combination is incredibly powerful. With a new (and hopefully better!) year right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to take stock of strengths and growth areas, both individually and as a team. Best wishes for a wonderful holiday and prosperous 2021!
Here’s to your business success!
Richard J. Bryan
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