Many of us have experience or awareness of psychometric testing and what it seeks to achieve. My first ‘psychometric’ experience in the late 1980’s was without doubt rudimentary. This short story is about a very different experience in 1992 driven by a visionary Personnel Director in a British Telecom subsidiary…..yes BT…. but it was a long, long time ago!
In early 1992 a newly incorporated subsidiary of BT required a significant project to be undertaken within a six-month deadline. The task was to evaluate all the information that the company used – from equipment data loggers through to top level business and strategic intelligence. The outcome required was a total overhaul of all the information gathering and usage processes. Seven people were selected by the board to run the project.
Vive la difference……!
This is where things got interesting. Our visionary Personnel Director approached the team and asked if we would be happy to take part in a side experiment during the project. The experiment required each person to be psychologically profiled and then, in a properly mediated forum, openly declare our profiles to each other (remember, this was 26 years ago). We all agreed, and a specialist company was brought in to run the psychological profiling process.
Unsurprisingly we discovered we were all different – and markedly so! As you would expect we all had different things we liked and/or were good at. We all had different psychological make-ups. We all had a different perspective of our world and different motivations. We all had very different attributes that we brought to the party. However, one thing that was surprising was we all had clear driving, complementary attitudes – albeit they were expressed in different ways depending on our individual psychology. For example, we were all curious, knowledge seekers. We were all focused on personal development. We all seemed to enjoy people – but in different ways. We were all open to sharing with and learning from others.
The heightened awareness of each other’s attributes and attitudes that the ‘open profiling’ created cannot be underestimated. Despite the very different psychologies across all seven team members – (e.g. introverts v extroverts, empiricist data lovers v wacky creatives, extrinsic v intrinsic motivations, ambiguity lovers v ambiguity haters) – we now understood each other at a much more intimate level. This intimacy engendered very high levels of understanding and tolerance that led to higher levels of support, care and of course team performance.
We feel your pain…..but now we can do something about it …!
One example concerns someone we will call Tom. Tom was introverted and a rather extreme example of someone who absolutely had to have order, structure, deadlines, frameworks, clear goals and outcomes etc. in order to function.
During the periods when we were undertaking the wild and crazy ‘idea generating’, creative problem solving, brainstorming and ‘flights of fancy’ sessions Tom was not just uncomfortable but close to be being physically ill. But guess what? Because the team were fully aware of his ‘profile’ and we had discussed each other’s preferred and non-preferred ways of working the other six knew exactly how he was feeling at these times. During the ‘divergent thinking’ stages, of which there were many, the other six would tell him to go swimming (his favourite sport) and to leave the crazy stuff to people who really enjoyed it.
Releasing the brakes on performance
And the really fantastic aspect of this intimate knowledge was that the ‘crazies’ who might otherwise have choked back on their output (because they did not want to deal with the follow-up hard work of making sense of the brainstorming) could now take the brakes off knowing that in Tom they had the perfect person to sort it all out. Tom could also relax and enjoy his swimming sessions knowing his time would come when he would lead the team in making sense of the unstructured output.
The team was without doubt highly effective. It completed its demanding task on time and with a high impact on the organisation. As importantly it displayed all the signs and aspects of what we now recognise as a high-performance team.
- • High trust (without this none of the below occur)
- • Agreed purpose (clarity of ways, means and ends)
- • Team identity (driving good values and behaviour)
- • High commitment (to task and each other)
- • High competence (and accepted roles)
- • High but constructive challenge (not accepting the status quo)
Psychological profiling provided a fast track route to intimate understanding within the team that otherwise would take months of ‘hit and miss’ interactions or which might never have happened at all.
‘Fit’ does not equate to ‘Same’
Although I did not know it at the time this was all about ‘fit’. And fit is definitely not about ‘sameness’ or cloning. All seven team members were very different psychologically as well as in competence and disciplines. What the profiling, and declaration of it, gave us was detailed awareness of ourselves and each other and how, despite our varied make-ups as a team we ‘fitted’ beautifully. It was the differences that worked, that created a great team that ‘fitted’.
Perfect People uses these types of processes and understanding when addressing the matter of fit around people, roles and organisations.