Article

Utilize Personality Tests for Leadership

Tests can help optometrists both be better leaders and identify team leaders for their practices

Running a successful eye care practice requires leadership. By leadership, I mean, using all of the talents given to us and the skills we have developed to influence members of our teams to want to work hard to achieve the objectives of the entire team.

This definition of leadership differentiates talents, which come to us naturally, from skills, which we have to learn. For example, some people have talents that naturally lend themselves to having an impact on others, and by extension, lend themselves to being leaders. Others may have a desire to lead, but lack the skills. And still others may not want to lead at all, regardless of their talents to do so. Also, this definition points out that leading is influencing the team to want to achieve. True leadership is not about getting results, but about touching on desires.

By this definition, there is no way to lead a group without knowing ourselves as leaders or knowing the team members we are leading. Here, I explain why optometrists should consider using personality tests.

SELECT A TEST

In practice, I have settled on a standard personality test that is taken online and comes with a 20-page assessment, which can be reviewed with a certified consultant. (The examples presented here will be largely specific to that test.*) In identifying a personality test for one’s practice, the O.D. should test a few of them, assess the subsequent results and judge how this can help meet the practice’s needs.

Typical personality tests, of which there are many, put the respondent in one of four categories: innovator, implementer, supporter or visualizer. (As a reference, I’m an innovator.) The category describes how the test taker most likely sees himself and how others probably see the test taker. That said, it goes further to help the test taker understand his overall tendencies in a variety of work-related situations, such as organizational skills or creative tendencies.

These tendencies are “graded” on a scale of 0 to 100 in issues related to dealing with others, to self-management. I take issue with this numeric scoring method, as it can feel like a bad to excellent scale. (Low numbers hurt feelings.) To try to prevent hurt feelings, I consistently remind respondents that the numbers just allow us to understand the results.

Another aspect of this innovator-implementer-supporter-visualizer assessment is a level of satisfaction score: It measures how “happy” the respondent is with his current life situation on a scale from one to seven. My favorite number for this is five because it says that the respondent is satisfied overall with life, but is ready to do some work to make it better. In my opinion, sevens are so happy, they don’t want to change. And ones and twos need to straighten something out in their lives before moving ahead.

KNOW YOURSELF BETTER

As mentioned, results of a personality test provide attributes of the test taker and tendencies in work-related situations. As the practice leader, optometrists should take a personality test to see what their leadership style is and how their teams may perceive them. Next, they should assess the results, perhaps with a coach, to glean this information and take actionable steps for improvement. One leadership trait is to be a good listener, which some people consider themselves, but in which they actually have low scores. I have found that it is best not to consider the test to be “wrong,” but rather to ask co-workers, who can be honest regarding advice or guidance. Additionally, resources, such as books, articles and podcasts on leadership can be of benefit for personal growth in leadership. A quick Google search can help procure those resources.

IDENTIFY LEADERS

Personality tests are also valuable for team members being considered for leadership positions. Recall that not all good workers are good leaders, but that they may accept new leadership positions and then become dissatisfied in their positions.

As I mentioned, most personality tests classify the test taker into four distinct groups, each with his own set of overall strengths and challenges. These quadrants are typically broken into graphs based on the test taker being introverted or extroverted and a rule-follower or a rule-breaker. For example, innovators are extroverted rule-breakers. I, personally, look at two scores on a personality test of anyone being considered for a leadership position: managerial tendencies and leadership potential. A really good worker without those talents rarely makes a good leader. A leader must find joy in other’s success more than their own. That’s tough to teach.

ASSESS YOUR TEAM

All teams need a variety of personalities to perform at their highest levels. By testing everyone on the team, optometrists can disperse the team into groups to see where the practice is lacking. This is important to know before initiating significant change.

Showcasing the team’s unique attributes and having a conversation about them can make it very clear that others may have a completely different perspective — and they are still valuable. Discussing everyone’s unique results at an office retreat can be impactful, and presenting them on a graph in the practice’s meeting room can ensure the lesson goes on for a long time. This understanding of different perspectives also goes a long way in unraveling many prolonged squabbles among team members.

EVALUATE APPLICANTS

Many consultants have successfully utilized some form of personality testing in hiring. I have experimented with this and have moved away from it. There is very little consensus as to whether these tools help in making good hiring decisions.

I find that hiring decisions should be made by the people who will be working most directly with the new employee. Certain parameters have to be set, and what the optometrist is looking for has to be clearly defined. I think personality tests work best when test takers are free to be honest vs. trying to impress to get the job.

REWARD PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Staff development was once called “fluffy” by leaders who worked on measuring their results with spreadsheets and income statements. Now that the dramatic impact staff has on the success of practices has been highlighted, professional development of our teams has become a focus within our industry.

I have found that practice owners who thrive all work with their teams to better understand who they are and what drives them. Personality tests are one of the tools that can be used to achieve this vision. OM

Further Reading

INTERESTED IN PERSONALITY ASSESSMENTS?
Check out these resources related to personality traits, testing and management:

→ Trudi Charest wrote on managing employees based on their personality type in the November 2018 issue: bit.ly/ManagebyPersonality .

→ The Society of Human Resource Management took a critical look at using personality tests in hiring, including stories of companies using tests, called ‘What Do Personality Tests Really Reveal?” at bit.ly/SHRMPersonality .

→ A 2015 Harvard Business Review article discussed the use of personality tests in building teams for success: “Personality Tests Can Help Balance a Team” at bit.ly/HBRteambuilding .