Choosing an Assessment For Your Team
There are several things to keep in mind when selecting an assessment for your team and your situation. No single assessment works for all situations or teams. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Cost, as always, is a consideration. Some well-regarded online assessment tools can be used for less than $20 a person. But the most effective and sophisticated tools cost more and are usually part of a package that involves a consultant to oversee the assessment, explain the results and draft action plans. These engagements typically run into thousands of dollars.
Before selecting the assessment tool, isolate what you want to learn about your team. Are you hoping to understand team members’ personalities better? Are you looking to gauge the quality of team processes, such as communication or delegation? Or are you trying to assess your team leader’s leadership skills?
If you have a team that’s already facing problems, you’ll need to identify the broad area within which the main problem lies, and then pick an assessment that specifically targets that area. Always aim to address the biggest problems first.
In fact, shoot your team an email, or have them answer a few questions with a simple online survey to get their input on the type of assessment needed. Here’s an example of one.
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During the assessment, you’ll need to plan time accordingly. If the assessment is to be followed by a discussion, workshop, or group facilitation, run the assessment before you start working with the group, so you have the results to shape the rest of your program. Make sure all team members participate. If you’re facilitating the session, make sure you set a good example.Keep in mind that even within each broad assessment category, different assessments are designed for different purposes. It’s important to understand exactly what an assessment is measuring and how, so you can determine if the assessment is right for you.
For example, if you’re focusing on team communication, don’t talk over people. Better still, bring in a professional to run the assessment. They’re typically more experienced and are not tainted by organizational politics, so they generally get more accurate results.
Lastly, remember that team assessments are simply an evaluation tool that cannot necessarily override the nuance and subjectivity involved in teamwork. If something works well for your team, don’t feel you have to abandon it just because an assessment says you should. Trust your team.
Personality and Behavioral Style Assessments
Personality and behavioral style assessments try to help individuals understand their behavior as a function of naturally emerging personality or style traits. Understanding your own behavior helps put your strengths into perspective, while allowing you to understand how your coworkers perceive you. Your coworkers do the same, which creates a greater, team-wide understanding of why people behave the way they do.
Personality and behavioral style assessments are designed to be taken by everyone in a team or workplace as a way of understanding how coworkers can work together most effectively and minimize frustration.
These tools are not suited to solving specific problems, but they provide a common language for people to understand workplace behaviors. By understanding work “styles,” as these assessments term them, you’re better able to appreciate other people’s perspectives and communicate and work together more effectively.
Tips: Assessments of this type often produce lengthy personality reports – allow your team some time to digest them before debriefing. When working with teams, raise the question of behavior style representation in your team. Does your team have a single dominant style? What does that mean for their work?
Personality and behavioral style assessments can be tailored to highly specific skill assessments. One example is the SPQ*GOLD Sales Preference Questionnaire, which measures sales call reluctance —the degree to which individuals are comfortable initiating first contact with potential customers — in prospective salespeople.
Examples: Everything DiSC Workplace, Hogan Personality Inventory, Gallup StrengthsFinder, Social Style, Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator, FIRO-B
Birkman Method Personality Assessment
Leadership assessments usually have two main aims: helping leaders understand the behaviors they exhibit (their leadership style), and helping leaders understand how they are seen by the people around them. These assessments usually look at such things as communication, creativity, decision making, planning, goal setting, progress monitoring, team communication, coaching, and operational knowledge. Some are 360-degree assessments, gathering data from people at all levels of the organization who interact with the leader to create a holistic picture.
Leadership assessments are designed to be used with people who have occupied leadership positions for long enough to have settled into a reasonably consistent leadership style. They can be used to troubleshoot specific problems or to broadly develop a leader’s toolkit.
Tips: It’s important to do a leadership assessment in a way that does not undermine the leader with his or her team. Gather feedback discreetly and as always, discuss the results privately.
Examples: LPI 360, Lominger/Korn Ferry Voices 360, Checkpoint 360, Everything DiSC Work of Leaders
Team assessments are based on diverse approaches. Some view teams primarily as sets of individuals fulfilling different roles, and explain team success as a function of a team’s ability to balance these roles (think Z Process strengths or the Belbin roles). Some focus primarily on the nature of a team’s processes (their communication, levels of trust, practice of holding team members accountable, etc.), and some examine the quality of a team’s outputs, treating these as proxies for overall team health.
Think about your reason for conducting the assessment. Are you trying to help new team members understand each other better? If so, pick an assessment that focuses on individuals’ roles as part of a team. Is your team running into communication problems? Choose a tool that focuses on the subtleties underlying this problem. Are your team’s results suffering? Select an assessment that examines performance factors.
Tips: Behavior style assessments and leadership assessments can also be viewed and used as team-building assessments. The former increases interpersonal understanding, which improves collaboration. The latter improves leadership, which can strengthen team efforts.
Examples: Shadowmatch, Everything DiSC Team Dimensions, The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team, The Table Group team assessment, Linkage Team Effectiveness Assessment, Harrison Assessments Employee Engagement
Tools to Help New Teams Build Trust
While assessments that focus on leadership and behavior styles are helpful for all teams, new teams should prioritize trust, which according to Patrick Lencioni, is the foundation of all good teamwork.
Assessments may focus either on the trustworthiness of individual team members or shared trust within a team. Since trust is a highly abstract concept, different assessments measure it in unique ways. Regardless of which trust assessment you choose, however, some determinants of trust appear to be almost universal — comfort with intimacy, reliability, integrity, and loyalty. And the end goal of all trust assessments is the same: helping team members build better relationships.
Trust-building exercises work well with new and newish teams because of Lencioni’s observation that a lack of trust is the root of all team dysfunction. While levels of trust may generally be lower among new teams, their newness also makes them more receptive to trust development exercises, which can double as team bonding exercises. If a lack of trust is a problem, address it early on, before it can spiral into other problems that hurt the team’s work.
Tips: Trust-building exercises can be difficult to conduct because many determinants of trust are really moral characteristics. Games are often a great way to get around people’s natural discomfort with overt trust-building exercises.
Examples: Trust Quotient, Speed of Trust, 12 Dimensions of Trust, Everything DiSC Team Dimensions
Tools for Building Team Understanding
Tools for building understanding among team members usually involve some aspect of learning about one’s self in order to understand other people. This is especially true for the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument (TKI), but it’s also the way many icebreakers work. By revealing how people think, act, and behave — usually in terms of comparing themselves to others — these exercises build mutual understanding. This fosters empathy and better communication.
The MBTI is a personality inventory that classifies people into one of 16 personality types according to how they perform on four continuums. It’s a big-picture view of how people see the world and what functions they’re best suited for. The TKI is an assessment of how people behave in conflict situations, and it’s specific to helping people understand how they approach conflict.
Although it’s tough to go wrong with tools to improve understanding in almost any situation, think about what you’re hoping the team will take away from the assessment.
Tips: Exercises to build understanding can be fun. Try using some funny icebreaker questions to kick off – they’ll relax team members and encourage them to be more forthcoming.
Examples: MBTI, icebreakers, Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument