We’ve discussed hiring in a startup before, here and here. Our conclusion in both posts is that creating a well-rounded team is critical to startup success. But actually building such a team can be difficult. Everyone on a team is different. Each person has different characteristics and different habits. In a startup, building that ideal team that can work together well is incredibly difficult. If you haven’t done this before and there can be a great deal of trial and error. So, a question is – can personality tests be helpful to building your team or even understanding your team better?
Disclaimer: There may be laws in your particular region about whether you can use personality tests during the interview process and/or afterwards. You also may be restricted in how you can leverage the data should you be allowed to administer the personality tests. Talk to your local employment lawyer before you go down this path to make sure that you are in compliance with all local laws. And, just to be clear – we aren’t lawyers giving legal advice on this blog! 🙂
With that out of the way, just about everybody can be typecast through deeper personality testing. The benefit of deeper psychological testing is that the entire team can learn how to better work together. Of course, you’ll want to do this with everybody’s consent and hopefully excitement to learn about each other.
There are a number of different tests that you can use including DiSC, Myers-Briggs, and Enneagram. Generally the process works by each individual taking a reasonably short test. The test often will ask questions comparing one sentence to another or one trait to another. The test makers do this in a variety of ways to check how you consistently see yourself. Of course, these are self-reported and there is a chance that how you think of yourself is very different than who you really are (or how others view you), but generally the results are quite good (the test makers have figured out these biases after all and do account for them in their test). After you’ve taken the test, your scores are tabulated and you are placed in a grouping that generally defines how you work or approach things. Often the startup team will review results together and talk about the results that made sense and those that didn’t. For some organizations it can be a bonding experience.
The real learning comes, though, in how to work better with each other given the test results. Most of these systems will provide information about how the person sees the world. Is their viewpoint grounded in data or more of a gut feel? Does the person tend to work collaboratively or individually? Are they more big picture vision oriented or great at tactical execution? While many of these traits you can figure out through observation and with working with somebody long enough, these tests end up shortening the time to learn and are more accurate. Further, these systems often will give the person and the group the roadmap on how to improve themselves and their working relationships.
One word of advice on these systems: find somebody knowledgeable on their implementation and in their analysis. These psychological profiles are just a part of the overall puzzle that makes up a person’s work life and persona. A professional that works with these tests and coaches teams on their results will be able to best guide your team on the ways to improve.
Building a high functioning team can be really hard, and maybe leveraging a personality test could be helpful to your startup. If you would like to learn more about how we think about it, grab a copy of our book: The Startup Playbook.