Reading the Room - Tips from the Project Management Toolbox
What’s your sign? How about your love language? Which Kardashian-Jenner would you be? It’s safe to say we can infer something about other people and ourselves based on these various personality assessments.
What about for the workplace, though? Sure, you could ask your colleague which Kardashian they’d be, but there are certainly better options out there that, based on your answers, can (eerily) tell you a lot about yourself that you may or may not have known or acknowledged before.
Personality assessments come in many variations, from data-backed to completely made up and just for fun. Some of the most well-known personality assessments include the DiSC Behavior Assessment, Myers-Briggs, The Enneagram, and The Four Tendencies.
So, how can you use these types of assessments to your advantage in the workplace (virtual or not!)? For me, taking a personality assessment helped me peel back the layers of what it means to be a great project manager.
It’s more than juggling client needs, being the gatekeeper of requests, and managing project timelines. At the core, my role as a Project Manager is to make everyone’s experiences the best they can be. Whether that’s at the end-user level, ensuring a customer’s experience is flawless across channels, or during the inner workings of a project making sure my team has what they need to create awesome work. It’s that little bit of extra effort to make every touchpoint, every exchange, personalized in some way. Nebo is a human-centered agency, and tailoring my interactions with others in a way that allows them to be most successful is what being human-centered is all about.
Personality assessments can help you hone in on these soft-skills you already have, as well as flag both positive and negative tendencies you might have when it comes to the workplace. For example, are you direct or indirect in your correspondences? Do you prefer a structured plan or do you work better without it? Are you strong-willed, accommodating, free-spirited or analytical?
On the flip side, personality assessments can also help you make better informed inferences about those around you and how they receive information best. Do you chat weekend plans before starting a meeting or does your client expect to dive straight into the agenda? Is your client analytical and expect to see all the numbers before they’re comfortable making a decision?
Whether you know it or not, you probably already shift your communication style based on who you’re interacting with. But once you better understand communication styles, you can intentionally tailor your communication to the way others interact. If I know a coworker or client’s love language, if you will, is quality time, I make sure to prioritize that part of our relationship because it’s valuable to them. Ultimately, it makes our working relationship more impactful.
The even better news, especially in the year 2021, is that you can adapt this information across almost any medium — email, verbal, video or in-person.
Think about how this same principle could apply to written deliverables. If I know my client is brand new to a service area, this should be reflected in the deliverable to include a synopsis or maybe even an appendix with a glossary of key terms. If a client is well-versed in the area, fewer details in deliverables may be better received. Similarly, this could even translate to the level of visual appeal in your deliverables, depending on what you’ve inferred from your client thus far.
You don’t need to have everyone’s personality assessment on file to be able to infer this type of information, but having the experience of taking an assessment can open the door to help apply what you’ve learned from your own assessment to varying workplace scenarios.
Of course all of this comes with a few caveats. First of all, this doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and consistent practice to understand others’ personalities and how they are most efficient in the workplace. Secondly, in addition to learning certain tendencies of your own in the workplace, this could also be transferred to areas like body language, power dynamics or tone of voice, AKA one of my favorite acronyms VEGA — Voice, Energy, Gestures, Actions. Amy Cuddy does a terrific Ted Talk on this topic. Check it out here.
Ok, here’s the part you’ve been waiting for. My DiSC assessment profile is overall given a name of Humble, and is tagged with traits like “maintains composure, likes stability, fears ambiguity and emotionally-charged situations.” From my assessment results, here are some things I now know about myself in the workplace.
- I need details. All of them. I also need time to sit with and digest the material before I can confidently explain it to someone else
- I’m a perfectionist (literally, DiSC told me this). I have a habit of double and triple checking things to be sure that I know the right answer. This is the PM in me.
Personality Assessments are one component to the secret sauce that is project management, in my opinion. A secret weapon to aid in reading the room, if you will. As a PM, capitalizing on these types of skills helps me to better anticipate how I approach giving feedback, asking questions or following up, for example.
My goal as a PM is to help the client and my internal team get their best work done in a human-centered way. Tapping into how others prefer to work and catering to that allows me to be an aid in reaching this goal, not a nuisance.
What does your personality assessment say about you, and how can you use it to your advantage in your role?