I was soaking up some sun on an Italian beach with my friends Mark and Priscilla and got to talking about one of my favorite topics—the Enneagram. Mark asked a question: So what really is the practical value of a personality assessment? Such a perceptive question since most leaders I know take assessments out of curiosity, have a conversation or two about it with spouse or team…and then get back to work, rarely to make any internal or external shift based on what they learned.
If assessments don’t lead to some change or growth, really what’s the point?
I have always found personality-typing fascinating, but its profound potential shows up in three dimensions, corresponding to our three core relationships: self, others, and God.
Personality profiles help us understand how other people experience us, which has the possibility for moving us beyond our native egocentricity. This is a fundamental shift from the usual human posture that is almost entirely self-referencing…toward the chance to be intentional about our impact upon others, individually as well as upon the larger community we inhabit.
This begins with the revelation that we are one type out of many; others see the world and themselves differently than we, have different ways of thinking and behaving than we do. We are not the defacto standard by which to measure others. This has the potential for moving us toward humility and respect. Of not acting on “auto-pilot” but understanding that, while we have default behaviors that are comfortable to us, we indeed have a choice on how we show up for others. Some choices are constructive, others destructive…and we must take responsibility for that.
Self awareness impacts our relationships to be sure, but assessments also offer us insight into how and why others behave differently than we do so that we can appreciate both their strengths and weaknesses. Here’s a very basic example: introversion vs. extraversion.
These qualities are generally defined by where our energy comes from—from being alone or being with others. Self awareness helps us manage our environments to keep us ourselves in a healthy state of energy rather than become dysfunctionally depleted. Knowing that I was going to be with friends for lunch today and then at a larger gathering this evening helped this introvert choose to decline an invitation and be alone this morning.
The concept of Positive Impact takes us a step further by helping us manage our environments for the benefit of others. Knowing my host’s strong need for the energizing influence of interaction, I entertained her son for a few vital moments before lunch today; this was good for her extraversion as well as my introversion. The healthier we are in our own souls, the more opportunity we have to serve others in ways large and small.
Perhaps the most profound power of an assessment is to pull back the curtain on our instinctive grabs for control, approval, and security. Have you learned to see yourself doing that yet? None of us can become effective leaders, effective spouses and parents, or effective human beings—we cannot come fully alive—without this capacity. And this is the most central reason we have been placed on planet earth: to express the love and character of God in the unique way that only you can. This is purpose. This is significance. This is eternal.
The best assessments can illuminate precisely when and how we defend and excuse our false selves…and when and how we can champion and cultivate our true selves. And the true selves of those around us. This is a big deal!
I am familiar with a host of personality tools and I like them all, from Myers-Briggs to DISC to spiritual gift inventories to StrengthsFinder to ProScan to Leading From Your Strengths to Emotional Intelligence, but I do have a favorite: the Enneagram. I probably gravitate toward this one because of its unique capacity for personal and professional transformation. And this is my great passion as a coach and mentor. This is what allows us to, not just accomplish great things, but become great people. Or perhaps better said, to fully become the men and women God designed us to be! If you would like to explore an Enneagram assessment with me, give me a shout here.
Find the courage to own your transcendent nature...as well as the humility to name that which is corrosive and not-yet-transformed (2 Peter 1:4). Both are essential for life and leadership.