Discover Yourself – Creating Lasting Behavior Change – Forming New Habits

We all know that making a lasting change to our behavior is tough. Whether someone is trying to develop new work skills, to live in a healthier way, or to make more time for self-care, creating a change that lasts is a challenge. It’s not enough just to have good intentions: people need to make sure that their new behavior becomes a habit in order to make it stick. Fortunately, research in psychology can provide information on how to make behavioral changes that last.

Public Health Versus Individual Change

Much of the scientific research on behavior change looks at issues of public health, in the context of medical personnel or government workers trying to change the behavior of large groups of people. For example, interventions to discourage people from smoking (such as the indoor smoking bans which were introduced in many countries over the last 15 years), or to encourage them to eat healthily (such as Britain’s “5 a day” fruit and vegetables campaign) try to change the behavior of the public as a whole. Similarly, public health campaigns about washing hands to reduce the spread of disease, or anti-drunk driving initiatives are generally performed on a country-wide level.

But there are lessons from these large-scale campaigns that can be informative about individual behavior change. If individuals want to form new habits, then they can benefit from looking at what works on a group level and finding ways to apply these lessons to their own lives. For example, a key requirement of a behavior change campaign is that it must promote a directly actionable activity. It is no use for someone to decide that they want to eat more healthily if they do not have a plan for what healthy eating should look like. To be successful, this person will need a specific goal or set of goals to work for, such as eating several portions of fruit and vegetables a day, only eating fast food once a week, or switching to low calorie sodas.

Setting Goals

As the example of eating more healthily demonstrates, people need to have not just an intention to change but also a specific and achievable goal to work from. Setting goals is key to motivating people to change, but only if the goal is both challenging and achievable.

If a person tries to start a side business, change their diet, exercise regularly, and spend more time with their children all at once then they will almost certainly fail – this is just too many changes at once to be feasible. And then, when the person inevitably fails at one or more of these goals, they will give up on the whole endeavor and revert back to their previous behavior. Just look at the new year’s resolutions that everyone makes, where they spend a few weeks in January trying to change their entire life, only to give up within a few weeks with none of the changes sticking in the long term.

It is better to start with one change at a time, and to set reasonable goals for that one change. And a good way to set useful goals is to focus on effort rather than achievement. If someone wants to start running and they set a goal of running a mile in under eight minutes by the end of the month, if they are out of shape then they may well fail and become discouraged. But if the goal is going running twice a week, at whatever speed they can manage, then they can focus on acquiring the habit of going running instead of looking at their achieved speed. After a month or two of running regularly, it will become part of their routine and they will likely learn to run faster anyway. This kind of incremental effort-based change is much more likely to stick than trying to achieve many changes at once.

Importance of the Environment

Most people believe that what they think causes their actions. It seems obvious that thoughts cause behaviors, like when someone thinks that they are thirsty so they decide to take a drink of water. But in fact, this view underestimates that importance of unconscious motivations and the environment.

Very often, people follow cues in their environment more than they are aware of. A famous experiment had people sit in front of a bowl of soup and eat as much as they wanted – but sometimes the soup bowl was designed so that it would re-fill itself without the person noticing. When eating from the re-filling bowl, people ate much more soup than they did otherwise. How much they ate wasn’t determined by how hungry they were so much as it was influenced by the amount of soup that was available.

The practical upshot of this research is that if someone wants to make a change to their behavior, then they should make a change to their environment. In the example of how much food to eat, if someone wants to eat less, then they should try using smaller plates to make their portions look bigger. And the same principle works for other behavior changes too: if a person wants to write every day before going to work, then they should have their writing materials visible and easily accessible on top of their desk each morning. If someone wants to spend less time using screens, then they should sit in a different room without a TV or computer in it but with plenty of books and magazines.

Habit Formation

It is also easier to stick to a new habit if it becomes part of a regular schedule. If someone wants to reply to customer emails but feels like they never make the time to do so, then they can set a regular time when they first arrive in the office or right after lunch each day to do so. After a few weeks of doing this task at the same time each day, it will become an automatic habit and the person will no longer have to force themselves to perform it as it is part of their routine.

Behavior change is just one area where psychology research can be helpful in business and in other areas of life. To learn more about how psychology can benefit you, visit www.discoveryourself.com.

Discover Yourself – Stress and Insights Discovery

When discussing personality types, it is important to remember that people will express their personality traits in different ways depending upon the environment that they are currently in. For example, Insights Discovery is based around personality assessment for a business environment, so it reflects people’s personality style at work more than when they are at home. A key psychological factor which can have a large influence on personality traits is stress: people will express different aspects of their personalities and will react in a more extreme way when they are stressed.

As work can frequently be stressful, it is helpful for managers to have an understanding of how different personality types react to stress, what those stressors are, and how managers can help to alleviate this stress. Today I’ll be sharing some thoughts on how stress affects each of the different Insights Discovery color energies.

Cool Blues and Stress

Cool blues are cautious and thoughtful, and they like to plan in advance. Therefore, they are stressed by situations where there is a lack of structure for them to work within, or where they are missing important information which they need to do their job. They hate to turn in work that is of low quality, so they do not like to be rushed and will be unhappy if they feel their work is not up to par. They also value efficiency and exactness, so they will feel frustrated by wasting time.

A manager can tell when a cool blue is stressed because they will nitpick over details and question the worth or efficiency of a process. They may become obstinate and dig in their heels if they feel they do not have the information that they need to complete a task. If they feel they are not getting the support they need, they can stop communicating and start making decisions without approval from higher ups. This stress can be managed by getting feedback from them along the course of a project, making sure they have the information that they need, and working with them to analyze inefficiencies in processes.

Earth Greens and Stress

Earth greens care most of all about fairness and positive interpersonal relationships, so they will feel stressed when they perceive there is unfair or impersonal treatment of themselves or others. They care deeply about their ethical values so asking them to bend the rules is another cause of stress for them. They also value a calm and supportive atmosphere so they may become stressed by loud environments, frequent interruptions, or feeling that they are under excessive time pressure.

When an earth green is feeling stressed they will tend to withdraw into themselves and become overly cautious. They may be personally hurt by the unfair treatment of someone else, even if it does not directly affect them, and this hurt can be expressed in a judgmental way. They may see themselves as the only one who cares about their values.

To manage a stressed earth green, a manager needs to take time to support them in person. There should be plenty of face-to-face contact, and the manger should reiterate that they understand the earth green reacts this way out of a sincere desire for fairness. Where necessary, a manager should be transparent and acknowledge that decisions are not always perfectly fair. But they should then convey that this needs to be kept in perspective – overall, management cares about being fair and takes steps to implement this value as much as possible.

Sunshine Yellows and Stress

Sunshine yellows are sociable and outgoing, so they become stressed and unhappy when they have no opportunities for personal interactions or for fun. While seeing co-workers joking around might seem like a waste of their time, these moments of joviality are essential for the job satisfaction of a sunshine yellow. They can also feel stressed by rigidity and a lack of flexibility, and they can become hurt by what they perceive as personal rejection from co-workers.

The warning signs of stress from a sunshine yellow are that they become overly emotional, even melodramatic. They may become opinionated and argumentative when they feel that they are being excluded from the group. To mitigate this, a manager should allow as much flexibility as possible so the sunshine yellow can prioritize and organize their own tasks. If they become overly fixated on a feeling of exclusion, a manger can re-direct their energies onto a new task which can be an effective distraction. Sunshine yellows highly value approval so they should be allowed to save face and maintain their reputation wherever possible.

Fiery Reds and Stress

Fiery reds care about action and decisiveness, so they are stressed by a lack of focus and a lack of control. Waffling, u-turns, and indecision are frustrating to them because they throw themselves fully into a project and they do not like having to readjust their goals. When a fiery red is stressed they will double down on their decisive and confident traits, and they can become aggressive, demanding, and overbearing. They can become snappy or rude to co-workers and they will be visibly impatient when they think a decision is taking too long.

To handle a stressed-out fiery red, a manager can take two different approaches. The first is to allow the fiery red to take control of the project or process, and trust that they will push forward until a decision is made. This is a good approach for an experienced and trusted fiery red. The alternative approach, if the manager is not confident in the fiery red’s ability to lead yet, is to get them to take time out away from the project. Now might be a good time to send them on a training course or to learn a process from another department. Or they could be directed to a different aspect of the project which requires immediate action, which will give them something to do while further decisions are being made.

To learn more about how personality assessments can benefit managers and employees, visit www.discoveryourself.com.

Discover Yourself – Interacting With Our Opposite Types

Personality assessments are useful not only for participants to understand themselves better, but also to understand the other people around them. Interacting with people with very different views and priorities can be challenging, but Insights Discovery can suggest ways for people who are opposite types to work together more smoothly and effectively.

Fiery Red Interacting with Earth Green

Fiery reds are action driven, confident, and focused on their goals. Their opposite type are earth greens, who are calm, supportive, and ethical. A fiery red can see earth greens as docile, inactive, resistant, or stubborn. The methodical, careful progress of the earth green can feel frustrating and plodding to the active fiery red type.

To get the most from interactions with earth greens and to avoid losing their temper, fiery reds should practice patience and try to hold back from jumping in to every task head first. There can be great value in pausing to think an idea through before getting caught up in the action, and earth green can help to provide this balance.

A skill that earth greens can offer to fiery reds is the ability to see other’s points of view and to foster consensus. While a fiery red would likely try to resolve a dispute between members by imposing a rule or view onto the whole team, an earth green will try to find a compromise where everyone is happy and where every member of the team feels respected.

As fiery reds are often natural leaders, they motivate and push their team to achieve more. But they also benefit greatly from having an earth green as a fellow manager who can soothe team members and support them when they are stressed. Fiery reds should learn to see the value in this more caring, empathetic approach and learn when to deploy an earth green to smooth over difficult social situations.

Earth Green Interacting with Fiery Red

The patient and caring earth greens can find the forward and assertive fiery red type to be aggressive, controlling, and overbearing. The tendency of fiery reds to take charge and to push others towards goals can chafe the earth green who wants everyone to feel respected and understood. It will help earth greens to remember that democratic relationships are indeed important, but sometimes it is necessary for someone to lead decisively.

If an earth green feels like they or others are being steamrolled by the fiery red, then they can try raising these concerns outside of a high-pressure group meeting situation. A fiery red will be much more receptive if the earth green can voice their issues in terms of impediments to action as opposed to personal feelings.

An earth green can benefit from the push that a fiery red provides, as this can prevent them from overthinking and compel them to action. Also, there may be situations where it is not possible for everyone to be happy, and a fiery red will push for an acceptable solution where an earth green can be paralyzed by indecision.

Sunshine Yellow Interacting with Cool Blue

Sunshine yellows are sociable, creative, and love to dream about the future. Their opposite type is cool blues, who are methodical, analytical, and precise. Sunshine yellows can perceive cool blues to be cold and reserved, and find it strange that they are more focused on rules or data than on people. To a highly people-focused sunshine yellow, it may be almost inconceivable that anyone would not think primarily in terms of social interactions. Therefore, when interacting with cool blues, it can help sunshine yellows to remember that focusing on data over interpersonal relations does not mean a lack of care for other people – rather, cool blues want to be fair to all people, and they express that care in a data-driven way.

A cool blue can make a strong partnership with a sunshine yellow. The sunshine yellow person can imagine great concepts for the future and raise enthusiasm for the project among other people, while the cool blue can come up with the realistic ways to achieve those concepts in the real world. The pragmatism of a cool blue can be an essential reality check on the dreamy nature of a sunshine yellow, as long as the sunshine yellow doesn’t take this pragmatism personally. They should remember that when a cool blue expresses skepticism about an idea, they are not trying to be negative – they are searching for a way that the idea can realistically be achieved.

Cool Blue Interacting with Sunshine Yellow

Conversely, when analytical and logical cool blues have to interact with excitable and dynamic sunshine yellows, they can find them to be hasty and imprudent, or even disorganized and a “head in the clouds” type. It will help cool blues to remember that, unlike themselves who tend to think through an idea carefully before voicing it, other personality types like to think out loud in a discursive manner.

Just because someone says something that is not totally logical or they share an idea which is not fully thought through, it does not mean that the person is silly or vacuous. They should understand that people use discussion as part of their thinking process and try not to judge excited sunshine yellows when they take an idea and run with it.

A sunshine yellow can help a cool blue in tasks like drumming up support for a project. For example, if a cool blue finds a way to make a system more efficient, then they may push for their new system to be adopted and be surprised when they are met with a lukewarm reception. To the cool blue, if the new system is more logical then obviously everyone should support it. But a sunshine yellow knows that they need to sell people on the new system with enthusiasm and a sense of fun, which can be far more persuasive than logic. A cool blue who comes up with a concept and a sunshine yellow who gets everyone on board with the concept can make a great team.

To learn more about Insights Discovery and how it can help colleagues understand themselves and each other, visit www.discoveryourself.com.

Discover Yourself – Managing the Color Energies

Understanding the different personality types of a team is important for managers not only so that they can build an effective team, but also so that they can gain insights into how to manage each person. Today I’ll be discussing tips and techniques for managing each of the color energies in the Insights Discovery system.

Managing Cool Blues

People who are cool blue in temperament are thoughtful and like to plan out events and activities in advance. Typically, they will be organized and know their processes very well, following instructions exactly. But one challenge in managing them is they are not the most adaptable of people; they need to be given time to consider and process new information and ideas. If a new concept or model is introduced to a cool blue, they may not be particularly enthusiastic about the change straight away. This does not mean that they are rejecting the change or that they will be unable to cope with it, but they may require a few days to adapt to the new mindset required of them.

One practical tip on managing cool blues is to give them a heads up (wherever possible) of new issues that may arise in the future. A manager who can let their cool blue team members know in advance that changes will be forthcoming – for example, that this year an annual process will be changing, or that brainstorming sessions will be moving from regular small meetings to occasional large meetings – will find that the cool blue person has planned and anticipated the change and is more ready for it. This gives two advantages: firstly, the blue person will be able to contribute useful ideas as they have had time to consider and aren’t being forced to respond off the cuff, and secondly, they will be more positive about adapting to change when they know to expect it.

Managing Earth Greens

Earth green people are driven by their values, which often focus around sharing, harmony, and fairness. This means that in order for a manager to win the loyalty of an earth green person, they must explicitly demonstrate their even-handedness and explain their reasoning. For example, if a manger is planning to end a contract with a vendor and to move to another vendor, it would be wise to let the earth green members of their team know about why they are making this change. Even when it is not strictly required for the green person to know about the reasoning to perform their job, they will be more supportive and enthusiastic if they see that their manager has good reasons for making this choice.

This is because earth green people care deeply about personal relationships with co-workers. If the green person perceives their organization as being capricious or opaque about their motives, they will not trust them and will not perform well. And this interest is not self-centered: a green can perceive a colleague being treated badly by a manager to be as damaging as if it were happening to them. To build the best relationship with an earth green, a manager should be as fair as possible and be transparent about that fairness.

Managing Sunshine Yellows

The highly sociable sunshine yellow type is passionate, enthusiastic, and has a strong vision of the future. If a manager wants to sell their team on a new concept or process, then getting the sunshine yellow members of the team on board is key. These people will then cheerlead for the idea and get everyone else in the team to accept and embrace the new concept too. If a person who can drum up energy and get everyone involved is required, then the sunshine yellow is the type to turn to.

However, sunshine yellow types can be distractible and disorganized. When managing such a person, it is important to clearly lay out the essential requirements of a task and not let the person focus only on the “fun” parts of a job. Also, sunshine yellows can have a tendency to overwhelm other less outgoing team members, especially if there are a high proportion of yellows on a team and their visions are closely aligned. In this case, encourage sunshine yellows to pull back sometimes to allow space for others to express their ideas.

Managing Fiery Reds

Fiery reds are active and hands-on, and they like to find the most efficient way of performing their tasks. This means that they can be very adaptable and amenable to change, as long as their manager can demonstrate to them how the new system will create a better outcome than the old system. Unlike cool blues, fiery reds are not interested in considering every small change in depth – they would rather learn by doing and are focused on the present moment rather than ruminating about the past or future. If a fiery red needs to learn a new skill, it is best to hand them the tools and let them puzzle through the challenge for themselves rather than trying to teach them everything in advance.

One useful but occasionally frustrating aspect of managing a fiery red is their pragmatism. They are not the type to be swept up by great oratory or to embrace an idea because it sounds new and exciting. Instead, they want to see a clear and realistic vision with concrete steps outlined that will achieve that vision. When trying to motivate a fiery red, do not focus on abstract concepts or too much big picture talk – instead, give them grounded, actionable steps which they can follow to achieve the desired goal.

This is just scratching the surface of the ways that psychometric testing can help managers interact with and motivate their team. For more information on this topic, visit www.discoveryourself.com.

Discover Yourself – Adapting to the Style of Others

One of the advantages of knowing one’s own personality type and being aware of the other personality types that might be encountered is evident in a business setting. Those in management positions have the most authority to force others to adapt to their own style – but to get the best from their workers, it actually benefits managers to adapt to others to some extent. For a productive team and a harmonious environment, it is a good idea for leaders to learn techniques to accommodate the preferences and personality types of those around them.

Today I’ll be sharing some practical tips on how managers can adapt to the style of others.

Communication Method

One big differentiator between various personality types in a work setting is their preferred method of communication. Introverted people often prefer to communicate through email, as it allows them time and space to process information and formulate a cogent response in their own time. Extroverted people, especially those who like to think out loud in a collaborative way, will often prefer to stop by someone else’s office in order to discuss an issue and get input on it. People who are highly skilled at multitasking may prefer talking on the phone so that they can accomplish some other small tasks while discussing a topic.

Of course, business necessities will always trump personal preferences. If a manager needs an answer immediately, then they are going to drop by others’ offices or call them to save time. If employees work remotely, then email will be the default. However, outside of these necessities, it is advisable for managers to be flexible. If they know that a given employee will give their best response to a query via email, then it makes sense to allow them to use that communication method where possible.

Communication Style

Another related issue is the complexities of communication style. This is an issue in which many people lack self-awareness, which is why it is important for managers to be proactive in addressing this topic. Some people, particularly those who are strongly focused on tasks, will want to know only the essential information that they require in order to complete their job. Giving these people more detail when communicating will only confuse or frustrate them. Other people, particularly those who are focused on relationships, will want to understand the part that their role plays in the bigger picture. Therefore, they will appreciate being furnished with all of the details of a situation even if it doesn’t directly affect them.

Managers who take note of the personality types of their employees can communicate with them more clearly by giving the appropriate level of detail for that personality type. A manager might choose to give a few key bullet points versus explaining an issue in depth, for example, depending on the preferences of the people they are addressing. When a manager needs to address a number of people, such as when emailing a group, then for maximum clarity they can include both: have bullet points with the essential information at the top, and then a section with additional information at the bottom. This way, the readers of the email can pick the appropriate level of communication for themselves.

Meetings

A challenge of the modern office is the dreaded meeting. Meetings are essential for conducting many aspects of business successfully, but they can be draining and are rarely enjoyed by all of the participants. When looked at in terms of personality type, this dislike of meetings is unsurprising. With multiple different personality types in one room trying to make progress all together, it is almost inevitable that there will be difficulties.

Managers have the chance to set the expectations and tone for meetings, and to moderate to make them more productive and helpful for everyone involved. The first step to a more productive meeting is to set goals clearly: is the purpose of the meeting to brainstorm, to plan, or to troubleshoot? Knowing the goal will help keep participants on track and allow different personality types to approach the topic in their own way. Also, is a meeting actually required? If the purpose of the meeting is purely to update others, for example, then this is best accomplished by sending out an email instead of gathering everyone together.

The second step is to send out an agenda for the meeting in advance. This will allow introverts to plan what they want to say, rather than forcing them to make off-the-cuff comments. The third step can be accomplished as a part of the agenda or as an in-person introduction, and that is to have a clear structure for the meeting. For example, first go around in a circle to share ideas or opinions without interruptions, and then have a free-for-all discussion session. This structure will help the more rigid team members know when to give input, and the more go-with-the-flow team members can thrive in the free discussion session.

Presenting, Teaching, and Workshopping

When it comes to presenting to a group, being aware of other personality styles can be a challenge. There are distinctly different learning styles as well as personality styles to consider, but a presenter will not always have a lot of information about a group’s styles before talking to them. Learning styles can include a preference for auditory material, written material, group discussion, or active engagement for best learning.

However, this needn’t be an insurmountable problem. Presenters already tend to use different teaching modalities – i.e. they talk to the group which is ideal for auditory learners, and they use slides which are good for visual learners. To make a presentation more accessible for other learning styles, presenters can set aside some time for group work and for practical hands-on work as well. These two new modalities will help those who learn best by talking an issue through with others or who learn by doing. Combining this approach to presenting and teaching with a personality-based approach for communication and meetings can enable managers to get the most from their employees.

To learn more about personality styles and how knowledge about them can benefit managers, visit www.discoveryourself.com.

Discover Yourself – Self-aware leadership

Thinking of the most important skills for a leader to have, most people will suggest qualities such as vision, charisma, determination, or discipline. But there’s one quality which rarely gets acknowledged in discussions about leadership but that is absolutely crucial, and that is self-awareness.

The concept of self-awareness covers two related aspects of personality: internal self-awareness, meaning how accurately a person perceives their own values, strengths, passions, and so on, and external self-awareness, meaning the degree to which a person knows how they are perceived by others around them. Both of these aspects are essential for effective leadership.

The importance of self-awareness in business

A recent article in the MIT Sloan Management Review was written on the basis of interviews with more than 2000 international executives, and it found that self-awareness was crucial for leadership. In fact, the authors Ginka Toegel and Jean-Louis Barsoux argued that self-awareness is the single most important capability for a leader to develop. This is because to be successful, a leader needs to know about their own limitations and idiosyncrasies in order to allow for these factors when making decisions.

Self-aware leadership isn’t just important as an executive skill – it can affect a company’s bottom line too. A study by the Korn Ferry Institute found that in companies with employees who scored well on measures of self-awareness, there were significantly higher rates of return of stock when compared to companies with employees that had more blind spots about their own performance. Another study found that a high score in self-awareness was the strongest predictor of overall success. So self-awareness is more than just a useful add-on skill: it is an essential part of getting results in business.

Blind spots

The same Korn Ferry Institute study mentioned previously also found that 79% of the participants had at least one blind spot in their self-awareness – meaning that 79% of people had a skill that they considered to be a strength but that their co-workers considered to be a weakness of theirs. This shows just how hard it is to be truly self-aware at work.

As we’ve discussed before, people are generally pretty poor at assessing their own performance. The problem is that in order for a person to know if they are a skilled performer in, say, communication, they have to know a lot about the topic already and know enough about what makes a person a good communicator. If someone lacks this knowledge, they are likely to overvalue their own performance because they don’t know what they don’t know.

When trying to cultivate self-aware leadership, it is not enough for a leader to think about their own perceptions of their strengths and weaknesses. They need to gather feedback from co-workers too.

Perception is reality

These difficulties with self-assessment are why receiving feedback is so key for self-aware leadership. Often, feedback from co-workers can differ markedly from how managers perceive themselves. For example, managers want to be seen as open to new ideas and attentive to their employees, so they will often rate themselves highly in these skill areas. But employees might disagree – they might find that the manager is dismissive of issues they raise, or is overly rigid in their approach.

The important thing for leaders to realize is that when it comes to skills assessment, perception is reality. If underlings feel that their manager does not take them seriously, then this is the reality – no matter what the manager thinks about their own skills. Real world examples show how even a leader who believes that they are doing everything right, and who is getting good results for the company, can be perceived as a problem by co-workers.

Achieving self-awareness

Given how crucial self-awareness is for leadership, it is notable that it is rare for the topic to be covered in MBA courses or other forms of business education. Leaders can’t rely on their existing knowledge to achieve self-awareness – it requires active and ongoing examination and practice. Some of the ways that leaders can improve their self-awareness include gaining information by soliciting and listening to feedback, taking leadership coaching, and by taking personality assessments. To get the most from these information sources, leaders need to train themselves and promote the concept of effective listening: not just nodding along while others talk but actively engaging with them to understand their perspective. The more a leader listens, the more informed they will be about how they are perceived and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Other changes can help to encourage a self-aware leadership style too, such as adopting daily mindfulness practice to improve awareness of one’s own state and emotional responses, and taking regular breaks so that decisions are contemplated carefully instead of being made on autopilot.

The makings of a good leader

It’s worth remembering that self-awareness is a key skill for a leader, but that doesn’t mean that there is only one way to lead effectively. For example, a leader might be conflict averse and struggle with giving negative feedback – but as long as they are aware of this, they can get support from other members of their leadership team when they need to have a tough conversation. Conversely, if a leader has a very direct communication style and has a tendency to come across as harsh, then they can call on more diplomatic communicators from their team to help them make a good impression in meetings. In either case, the leader has some strengths and some weaknesses, but by being aware of these and surrounding themselves with people with complementary skill sets, a more effective team can be formed.

To learn more about how personality assessments can help to develop self-awareness, visit www.discoveryourself.com, and check back to our blog soon for more articles like this one.

Discover Yourself – Jungian Psychology for Teams

In the past I’ve talked about the basics of Jungian psychology and how psychometric testing can benefit businesses. Today I’ll dig more into this topic to show the practical ways that Jungian psychology can help to form, manage, and motivate a team at work.

Expressing Preferences

One of the most valuable ways that personality testing can benefit a team is by giving team members space to express their preferences on matters such as favored methods of communication, feedback style, motivation, and so on. In the typical workplace, there are processes that are followed and methods that are used across entire departments or companies. But it can help to tweak these processes in recognition of the fact that individual workers have different habits and styles which allow them to work mostly effectively. For instance, maybe one person prefers to always be kept in the loop about a project, even including the small details that don’t directly affect them, so that they can understand the overall project. Other people could find constant updates that they don’t need to be annoying or distracting.

In this way, both performing personality assessments and the process of discussing personality test results with a team are opportunities for team members to express their ideal working situation and setup. A manager might not necessarily be able to meet all of these preferences  for example, if a team member indicates that they prefer to communicate via email over communicating by phone, there might still be a weekly meeting with a client which needs to be done over the phone. But often, preferences can be taken into consideration with no loss of productivity or achievement. In fact, letting people choose the manner and style in which they work can be beneficial to both morale and results.

Different Strengths of Different Team Members

Some people think that in order to be successful, a team needs to be made up of members with similar personality types. It’s common, especially among new managers, to think that a team with similar temperaments will work together more efficiently. However, a team made up of a mixture of personality types is usually more effective. For example, it can help to have one team member who is outgoing and social, who can build bonds with other teams; one member who is detail oriented and will check all work for mistakes; one team member who takes a leadership role and corrals and motivates the others, and so on.

For this reason, it’s good to have a team that is diverse in terms of personality type. What a Jungian style personality assessment can describe is the strengths and weaknesses of each team member, so that tasks can be assigned accordingly. Of course, tasks can also be assigned to someone who is not specifically typed to be good at them. For example, if a team member has a role that requires communicating with customers then they will need to develop strong social skills, even if they are naturally more introverted. It is not impossible for an introverted person to perform this task well, but they may need more coaching and support in this area than a person who is naturally more outgoing and sociable.

Understanding Interpersonal Relations

Another useful way to apply personality data to teams is using it to understand interpersonal conflicts. Even on the most professional teams, there will still be times when the needs or priorities of team members conflict. When this happens, a work issue can quickly become personal and team members can feel bullied, undervalued, or unhappy.

Understanding personality types can help throw light onto these conflicts. For example, it might be that one person values direct, forthright discussions, but another person perceives this communication style as brusque or rude. By educating each person about the other’s perspective, these team members can identify the source of their conflict and adapt to the needs of the other. Or if someone is anxious because they feel they are being left out of the loop, it will help other team members to understand not only that they ought to update the person more often, but also the reason for this action (that the person is someone who likes to keep an eye on the big picture and therefore wants to stay informed).

Using Personality Data to Build a Team

There are many ways that psychology insights can be used to build a team. One of the most common uses of personality assessments is during recruitment, where candidates are given personality assessments as part of the hiring process. These assessments can be a great source of information, but they should be used carefully. Too often, a hiring manager has an idea of what type of person that they want on their team  for example, that they want a new hire to be of a similar age and background to other team members, with similar interests and experience. This can lead to an overly narrow focus in which excellent candidates are passed over because they do not fit the narrow scope of what the hiring manager is looking for.

Like the concept of “company culture,” personality assessments can be used in a way that is discriminatory if they are not approached with care. A personality assessment should give information about the potential strengths, weaknesses, and preferences of a candidate, but hiring managers should remember that a diversity of personality types on a team is a key to success. Managers should not be afraid to hire a great candidate with relevant experience just because they are not the “right” personality type.

More Ways to Use Personality Data

Other ways that learning about personality types can benefit a team include as part of team building exercises so that team members can learn more about each other and how to interact, in personal and professional development such as identifying current weaknesses, or mentoring and coaching to improve on those weaknesses. But perhaps the most valuable use of personality information is the creation of a space in which a team’s communications, processes and brainstorming can be improved.

In the next post I’ll discuss how to effectively lead a team with a post on self-aware leadership, so come back soon for that!

Discover Yourself – Cultural Implications on Personality Types

Personality Assessments and Culture
One important issue in the area of personality research is how universal personality traits are. Is it really true that people from Germany are more organized than most, or that people from Canada are more polite? Are US Americans naturally better leaders? These questions are part of a field called cross-cultural psychology, which is about examining how universal personality constructs are. For those interested in personality testing, it’s worth learning about the degree to which information from personality tests can be applied to people from other cultures as well as our own.

Personality Assessments and Culture

Most personality tests are developed in Northern America or Western Europe, and this affects how questions are conceptualized and framed. It might seem like a personality test should work equally well for different people across different cultures, but sometimes that is not the case. The first step in applying a personality test across cultures is to translate the test into another language, but this is already a challenge. The exact translation of particular words can cause difficulties, such as trying to decide how exactly to translate a question about happiness – which could refer to contentment, joviality, positive outlook, or overall life satisfaction. Depending on how exactly the word is translated, it affects how people answer the question. This means it is often hard to compare results of personality tests across cultures, even when the same test is used. This can be done correctly, however, if approached very carefully.

A further problem is with the way that personality tests refer to certain conditions or experiences. If a test asks someone whether they “feel under the weather”, for example, this idiom will not be equally understood everywhere and will be interpreted differently by people of different cultures. Therefore, personality tests are designed to be as clear as possible while still capturing the essential features of experience that are relevant to personality.

Cultural Limitations of Personality Tests

More recently, personality assessment tools from other cultures have been developed and shared internationally, such as the Chinese Personality Assessment Inventory which was developed in Hong Kong in the 1990s. This test is specifically aimed at assessing personality among Chinese people by referring to specific constructs which are important in Chinese culture but are not addressed by Western personality tests, such as harmony, modernization, graciousness versus meanness, and face.

In clinical terms, one construct that is present in the CPAI but absent in most Western scales is somatization, which refers to the tendency to manifest psychological symptoms through physical pains, ailments, or disabilities. Somatization is a fairly rare symptom in Western psychiatry and psychology and so is often not included on clinical scales, while it is relatively common in China and so an important factor to measure when looking at personality in this culture.

The reason that we find different expressions of personality, and especially different expressions of mental illness and distress, in different cultures is due to social norms around the expression of emotions and experiences. In China, there is still a degree of stigmatization of mental illness and a general aversion to describing negative psychological experiences. Therefore, when people feel bad they are more likely to say that they have a headache or that they are tired.

In Western cultures, where there is more of an emphasis on psychological self-examination and sharing, people would be more likely to describe themselves as depressed or unhappy. This means that the same experience (such as low mood, lack of motivation, lack of energy) might be described as a physical affliction by a Chinese person (“I have a headache”) but as a psychological issue by a US American person (“I am feeling depressed”). This shows that personality can’t be studied as removed from culture – because culture has a huge impact on not only the formation of our personalities but also the way that we talk about our experiences.

How Culture Affects Personality Tests

Beyond the methods and wording of personality assessments, there can also be big cultural differences in personality types. For example, consider the question: “Do you prefer to work on your own or as part of a group?” In cultures which emphasize individualism, such as the US, people will be more likely to answer that they like to work on their own. In cultures which emphasize collectivism, such as Japan, people will be more likely to answer that they like to work as part of a group. This is both because norms of each culture suggest that one answer is more appropriate than the other, and because people will likely have more experience in working in a style which is concordant with their culture.

This gets at part of the fundamental issue with personality testing, in that it may be true that more US Americans like to work independently and more Japanese people like to work in a group. However, this doesn’t mean that there is something inherent in being born in a particular place which means that a person will develop a certain personality type. Rather, it means that culture affects personality by making some choices more common and acceptable than others.

All Personality Types Can Be Found In All Cultures

Another important thing to realize about personality differences across cultures is that this refers to trends, not exclusive categories. For example, the people in one country may tend more towards introversion and the people in another country may tend more towards extroversion. This means that there will be a higher percentage of either introverts or extroverts in a given country – however, there will always be a mix of both personality styles in any large enough group. Similarly, there are some differences between the distribution of personality traits between men and women – but we could never say that “all men are like this” or “all women are like that”. When working with personality data, we are identifying traits, not rules.

To learn more about how personality assessments can help at work and elsewhere in life, and how the Insights Discovery profile has addressed these cultural assessment issues, visit www.discoveryourself.com. And next time I’ll be discussing how to use insights from Jungian psychology to work more effectively as a team, so check back soon for that!

Discover Yourself – Effective Listening

management and psychology
In business, learning to listen to others is a crucial skill, especially when working in management. Whether we’re speaking with our employees, our clients, or with the upper management team, we must strive to hone our communication skills in terms of both conveying information and taking information in.

Today we’re going to discuss an approach called effective listening, also known as active listening. We’ll also share some practical tips to improve active listening skills.

Do we really listen?

Most people think that they are a good listener. A study by William Haney from the 1970s asked over 13,000 people from various organizations to compare their listening skills with others who they worked with. The results showed that virtually every person thought that they communicated as well as or better than almost everyone else in their organization. Of course, this is not how averages work! In reality, a study by Husman and colleagues from the 1980s found that most people listen at just 25% efficiency. Other studies since then have found that we only take in about 25 – 50% of what we hear.

There’s obviously a big gap between us judging ourselves to be excellent listeners and the reality that we hear less than half of what is said to us. We tend to overestimate our listening skills in part because communication takes place between at least two people, making it difficult to gauge whether we are communicating effectively without input from the other party. Another issue is the lack of clear objective criteria for assessing whether communication has been successful. Overall, this ubiquitous overestimation suggests that while we all agree that listening is important, we also don’t generally feel a need to improve our own listening skills.

Why effective listening matters

This gap between how we perceive our listening skills to be and how our listening skills actually are can cause serious issues in the workplace and elsewhere. Managers should strive to understand the employee perspective as well as the information being shared, even if the method used to convey this information is somewhat less than crystal clear.

Effective listening not only helps to diffuse conflicts and deal with problems, it also helps foster a greater understanding between managers and employees. It allows us to hone in on the subtle cues that help us assess a person’s strengths and weaknesses, thereby allowing us to formulate positive responses that will be most effective in encouraging and motivating them.

What is effective listening?

What exactly is effective listening, and how is it different from regular listening? A study in the Harvard Business Review analyzed the behavior of nearly 3,500 participants and found common patterns of behavior among the most effective listeners:

  • Effective listening requires active engagement, not just silence. Asking questions establishes a two-way dialogue with the speaker. If we sit in silence, it is hard for the speaker to know if they are being heard. But if we engage and asks for clarification or for more information, that demonstrates to the speaker that their message is clearly understood.
  • Effective listening makes the speaker feel positive. When a person feels listened to in a positive way, their self-esteem rises. In effective listening, we should be supportive and convey confidence in the speaker, even when we don’t necessarily agree with what is being said. The aim of effective listening is not to challenge the speaker or their ideas, but to understand their perspective through the creation of a safe environment.
  • Effective listening is cooperative. While it’s important to not listen in silence, it is equally crucial to pose questions in a way that is not combative or interrogative. We’re not trying to win an argument, but to cooperate in building a consensus of mutual understanding, even when there is disagreement between ourselves and the speaker.
  • Effective listening is proactive. The fact that effective listening is cooperative and not combative doesn’t mean that we can’t provide feedback. In fact, one of the hallmarks of effective listening is providing suggestions to the speaker. When we feel listened to and respected, we become more receptive to suggestions than when those suggestions come from someone who has been combative or argumentative.

In summary, the HBR study found that effective listening is about more than passively absorbing information – it is about letting the speaker bounce their ideas off of us and creating an environment of mutual respect and cooperation.

Methods to listen effectively

Let’s take a look at some practical tips we can use to improve our effective listening while bearing the above points in mind:

  • Maintain good eye contact. Doing so allows us to signal to the speaker that they have our undivided attention.
  • Don’t interrupt. Let the speaker explain in their own time without jumping in while they are talking.
  • Don’t just wait for the next opening to talk. It’s very common to become preoccupied with looking for the next opportunity to speak. Instead, we should always focus on the present and what’s being said.
  • Don’t judge or require justifications. It’s okay to ask clarifying questions, be we should be careful to avoid putting the speaker on the spot to defend their position or otherwise suggest we need to be persuaded to listen further.
  • Use open body language. Maintain forward-facing posture towards the speaker, nod as they speak, use confirmation words like “uh huh,” and smile.
  • Repeat back to the speaker. One popular management technique is to confirm with the speaker. When they have finished, we can say “So if I’m understanding you, you’re saying that…”

Effective listening is critical for becoming a better manager. By implementing these techniques in our everyday communication, we can foster a more productive working environment among our employees, clients and peers.

Learn more about how using Insights Discovery can help you become a better listener, at www.discoveryourself.com

Check back soon for more posts on psychology and management!

Verbal Versus Non-Verbal Communication


You may not have heard of Albert Mehrabian, an Armenian-Iranian professor of psychology at UCLA, but you’ve almost certainly heard of his work. He studied human communication, and he performed experiments in the 1960s on the relative importance of words, tone, and physiology in verbal communication.

What is the most important part of speech as communication? It seems obvious that the answers would be the words that the communicator speaks, as they convey information most consistently. But according to Mehrabian, tone and physiology are even more important than words. Put another way: body language speaks volumes louder than words ever can!

Mehrabian’s experiments

Mehrabian was interested in how humans communicate, and whether verbal or non-verbal cues play a more vital role in conveying messages to one another. The idea behind the experiments he came up with was to judge the relative impact of three different factors on verbal communication:

  1. Words spoken (i.e. what is said)
  2. Tone of voice (i.e. how the voice sounds)
  3. Physiology (e.g. body language, facial expressions, etc.)

Mehrabian aimed to compare the relative importance of verbal and non-verbal communication in face-to-face conversations. In the first experiment he ran, participants observed a person saying a single word and then judged whether that word was meant in a positive or negative way. The experimenters varied the communication so that sometimes both the word and the tone was positive (e.g. the word “dear” delivered with a smile), sometimes both were negative, and sometimes the word and tone were incongruent (i.e. the word was positive, but the delivery was negative). From the judgement of the participants over whether the communication was overall positive or negative, Mehrabian worked out how much of the judgement was due to the tone versus the word.

The second experiment compared photos of facial expressions and vocal tone captured on a tape recording. Participants had to judge whether the overall effect of the communication was positive or negative based on the combination of facial expressions and tone. From combining the results of these two studies, Mehrabian found:

  • 7% of meaning came from the words used
  • 38% of meaning came from the tone of voice
  • 55% of meaning came from physiological cues like facial expressions

Over-interpretation

The problem with Mehrabian’s work is that it is frequently over-interpreted and used to make claims that are not actually supported. You’ll hear people claim that “body language makes up 55% of all communication” or that “non-verbal communication is more important than verbal communication.” In fact, this isn’t the case for several reasons.

First, remember that the experiments were performed with the participants listening to single, isolated words without context, which is not at all how humans typically experience communication. Secondly, the physiology factors that were consider were facial expressions, not body language as is commonly claimed. Most importantly, the experimental findings applied only to incongruent situations. This means that when physiological cues and verbal cues do not match, people disproportionately base their judgements on non-verbal rather than verbal communication. The same thing is not necessarily true in other situations.

The real takeaway lesson from these studies should not be “non-verbal communication is more important than verbal communication,” it should be “for clear communication, verbal and non-verbal cues need to match”. So, if you want to convey excitement about a project when you’re presenting, then your tone and body language should be positive as well as the words that you are using.

A final key factor that often goes completely overlooked is that these experiments equated communication to each speaker’s feelings and attitudes. In other words, Mehrabian’s speakers weren’t talking about facts or objective information, but instead their own subjective likes and dislikes.

Think of it this way: if you were at a party and you asked someone if they were having a good time, and they said yes while using a flat tone of voice and not making eye contact, then you’d naturally assume that they were not really having a good time. But if someone tried to tell you that the Earth was flat, it wouldn’t matter how upbeat they sounded or how excited they were, you still wouldn’t believe them. That’s because the person at the party was talking about their feelings, where non-verbal cues are important for your judgements, but the flat earth enthusiast was talking about facts, where you are more focused on the content of their speech.

Other body language studies

Of course, none of this is meant to refute that body language and other non-verbal cues are important in communication. It’s just that Mehrabian’s studies don’t really show what they are often claimed to show. But there have been many other studies over the years that have looked at verbal and non-verbal communication.

A notable example by Argyle and colleagues from 1970 used video tapes to show participants communicators who were either dominant or submissive, and it found that non-verbal cues and especially body posture contributed 4.3 times more to their judgements than did verbal cues.

On the other hand, a 1992 study by Hsee and colleagues analyzed how clinicians make judgements about the emotional states of their clients. They found that participants made judgements about another person’s emotional state based more on that person’s self-report and facial expressions than on their tone of voice. This could be because clinicians are trained to listen more than most people and are very attentive to subtle cues like facial expressions.

So what does all of this mean in practice? Essentially, effective communication requires a combination of words, tone, and physiology that are all in harmony. When you share information, especially if you are talking about your personal feelings, you needn’t be stiff and formal. In fact, you’ll communicate more clearly if you allow your body posture and your tone of voice to convey the same meaning as your words.

Next week we’re going to talk about the reverse of communicating effective – how to listen effectively. Come back soon for that!