Turning theory into practice – is environment more important than psychometrics suggest?

virtual sticky learningMany people love a psychometric test because they are personal, affirmative, confirmatory and reveal what you always half thought about yourself – which isn’t all that surprising really because you filled the questionnaire in yourself.

They also help us measure and compare ourselves against others so we can begin to understand that Bill in accounting works differently to me and it’s not surprising that Eileen in marketing struggles to understand how I operate.  And with that knowledge we can be more aware of ourselves and potentially adjust our behaviours accordingly.

They are often a good place to start a conversation from but can they also confirm our biases and fix us in our behaviours and reduce our opportunities to express other behaviours that are perfectly within our grasp?

I’m not an expert on psychometrics and you may disagree with me but it seems that there’s ample evidence that we’re driven as much by environmental factors as our ‘personalities’.

Here’s a recent story of people who behaved quite differently to their profiles and surprised themselves at how easy it was.  This particular team took a psychometric test and weren’t surprised to find they tended to be analytical, measured and rational, which was even more marked when they were exhibiting their ‘stress’ responses.  As a team their profiles indicated they had fewer ‘driver’ characteristics, were less inclined to ‘nurture’ or to be particularly creative.  Rather than focus on what their ‘expected’ behaviours were we wanted them to experience how they actually behaved in a new situation and how much flex they had.  We tasked the team with putting on a play in less than 2 hours.  You could hear the sharp intakes of breath, see the rolling eyes but we also heard ‘it’s team building so we’re going to have to do it.’

Of course we helped with some carefully designed exercises and a process to give them the resources they needed to create and perform a play and two hours later everyone was rewarded with a fantastic production, in 4 acts, of ‘Great Discoveries of Science’.  The applause and cheers could be heard half a street away.

When they analysed their behaviours they’d spent most of the time flexing their behavioural muscles in the areas that their profiles had suggested were weak.    The environment and the situation had affected them more strongly than their profiles had led them to expect; particularly since for this team it was mostly a stressful situation.  But it wasn’t the time or place to exhibit their normal analytical behaviours so instead they just got on, created ideas, supported each other and drove themselves to doing.  This team were pleased with how easily they’d adapted their behaviours – it just needed the appropriate environment.  So they’ve gone back to look at their culture and environment rather than trying to adapt their behaviours.

How often do our environments predict our behaviour more effectively than our psychometrics?

Please ask if you’d like to know more about how we can help your teams communicate more effectively in your workplace.