Why Assessments Are a Critical Component of Knowing Your Team How assessments can provide an objective understanding of interpersonal needs, communication styles and drivers of trust for the individuals and teams leaders work with.
- How psychometrically validated assessments allow leaders to truly understand their teams and their employees' needs
- How interpersonal needs may affect employees
- How to enhance communication within an organization
- Issues that undermine trust in the workplace
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
In sports, a great coach knows their players' strengths and weaknesses, as well as behavior and thought patterns. Likewise, in business, leaders must be thoroughly familiar with their team members.
There are a few areas where this knowledge is critical. To start, leaders must understand the interpersonal psychological needs of their team. While humans share certain universal needs, our needs for things like being recognized, included in activities, etc., vary greatly by individual. These differences can affect how someone interacts with their team.
Additionally, leaders need a solid grasp on how people's communication styles vary. The impact of differences in communication preferences cannot be understated, as they can lead to misunderstandings and even serious conflict. Furthermore, it is imperative that leaders understand the drivers of trust within their team and be able to identify things that might erode the sense of psychological safety required for people to perform at their most innovative and creative levels.
Obtaining this insight isn't automatic because people may not wear their unique communication needs on their sleeve. It involves spending time with people on an individual level. However, regardless of how keen one's powers of observation may be, human perception is inherently biased. This makes it impossible to gain a complete and accurate view of a team based on personal experience alone.
In my experience, one of the best ways to obtain an unbiased understanding of a team involves using psychometrically validated assessments. In this article, I'll dive into how assessments can provide an objective understanding of interpersonal needs, communication styles and drivers of trust for the individuals and teams leaders work with.
Understanding how interpersonal needs may affect your team
As previously mentioned, we all have certain universal interpersonal needs related to how we interact with the people around us. According to Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation™ (FIRO Business) model, these include needs for:
This model has two categories of needs: Wanted needs, which are what someone wishes others to fulfill for them and Expressed needs, which are what people wish to fulfill for others. Recognizing the interplay of a team's interpersonal psychological needs is vital in fostering a collaborative atmosphere that unleashes the team's complete capabilities.
Assessing the psychological needs within themselves and their team members empowers leaders to pinpoint the source of interpersonal problems.
For example, if a team member with high Wanted needs for control is in a situation where they have little say over what is happening in a project that is near and dear to them, negative effects may be experienced by them and their colleagues. Once this challenge is identified, teams can collaborate on a solution that meets the psychological needs of each member and enhances the entire team. Rather than taking a knee-jerk response of giving the team member a great deal more control, they would first seek to understand how this might affect other team members with varying Wanted and Expressed needs for control. In many cases, a compromise might need to be reached between teammates.
This process isn't spontaneous, and understanding of these needs doesn't always emerge through day-to-day interaction. Teams need to actively cultivate it, and the process starts with an assessment of interpersonal needs through a psychometrically validated tool.
Efficient team communication offers numerous advantages, such as strengthening work relationships, increasing individuals' commitment to team objectives and minimizing workplace conflicts. While establishing an open and inclusive communication environment can be daunting, with careful consideration, leaders can create guidelines tailored to their team that ensure effective communication practices.
Tangible steps to enhance communication include establishing well-defined communication channels and assigning clear responsibilities to those tasked with keeping the team updated. Moreover, consistently providing respectful constructive feedback can significantly enhance communication within the organization.
However, such discussions — even when approached with good intentions — can spark negative reactions. Frequently, the root cause lies in individual variations in communication preferences based on personality. In such cases, an objective perspective can provide insight to navigate negative reactions or conflict. The psychometric assessment process can uncover communication misunderstandings rooted in personality differences.
Consider, for example, how people can come across negatively in their communications to people with varying personality types, based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) model:
Extraverted + thinking preferences: Their systematic, logical and analytical approach might come across as overly blunt, directive or condescending.
Extraverted + feeling preferences: An inclusive and supportive approach characterized by empathy and a warm communication style can sometimes be perceived as overly emphasizing harmony and consensus to the detriment of efficiency and productivity.
Extraverted + sensing preferences: Their detailed, efficient, practical approach may be viewed by others as inflexible and demanding.
Extraverted + intuitive preferences: An open-minded, curious and big-picture approach can be seen as an overwhelming stream of ideas or lacking practical detail for realistic execution.
With assessment-based insight into these potential communication pitfalls, leaders can build bridges of awareness and understanding within their teams.
Identifying issues that undermine trust
Trust describes the confidence team members have in each other's capabilities, intentions and behavior. And even on a team of highly competent members, if people aren't at ease being open and transparent, the team's effectiveness can wane. On a related note, psychological safety refers to the belief within a team that it's okay to freely express opinions and ideas without the specter of embarrassment or retribution.
This sense of trust and safety is crucial for nurturing creativity and innovation. Consequently, a lack of trust is evident when teammates hesitate to admit mistakes or seek help or when they speak ill of each other.
Leaders play perhaps the most important role in shaping psychological safety in their teams. Personality assessment can give valuable insights into how their own leadership style may be helping or hindering the team's sense of trust and safety:
Thinking + judging preferences: While they tend to express ideas clearly and lead decisively, they might overlook the impact of decisions on others and make hasty judgments without involving the team.
Thinking + perceiving preferences: While they tend to be open to new information and changing course as needed, they may not consider the impact of their analysis and decisions on the team.
Feeling + perceiving preferences: While they tend to seek others' input, they may not consider the value of taking an objective and logical perspective in team decisions.
Feeling + judging preferences: They may include team members in decisions, but their tendency to avoid addressing challenging interpersonal issues can lead to detrimental impacts on team trust.
As leaders become more self-aware of how their personality and behaviors can build or hinder trust, they can more readily begin to consider biases at play, address vulnerabilities and adapt to team member needs.
In summary, to build high-functioning teams, leaders need a thorough understanding of their teammates. However, personal experience alone is insufficient and prone to bias. Moreover, since we don't always wear our cognitive and communication differences on our sleeves, coming into this insight can be a real challenge for leaders.
An assessment-based approach provides an unbiased view of teams that supplements the understanding that leaders can gain from personal experience, allowing leaders to identify team members' diverse needs, inclinations and behavior and thought patterns.