An article in the Financial Times by Murad Ahmed about Personality Testing includes a survey which found that 64% of readers had taken a personality test at some point. On that basis, this is something which most people (those working with international companies at least) will encounter at some point in their careers.

This made me think, because the way people see themselves to be often comes up in coaching conversations…usually negatively. My experience of being on the receiving end of a psychometric test was that I came away with an overwhelming feeling that this was it! I was branded, packaged and everything I did from then on was to be seen in this context…this is how I will see myself and it’s the way others will see me as well!  This (over) reaction may be one reason why, in my coaching sessions, I like to explore how each individual person responds to the situations they encounter and when they talk about it, it’s with an open mind. We do this together by discussing what happened, how they felt, what they thought, and what action they took.

self-awarenessOften, it turns out that we respond differently depending on the situation and the context in which it takes place. This means we build a picture of self-awareness which, although it may follow a pattern, seems to me to be fluid and dynamic. I’ve heard this process described as a synthesiser effect which we can use to blend and improve our responses to achieve more helpful outcomes.

Does Consistency Matter?

Just to show that personality testing is not the be-all and end-all, try taking a couple of different (but similar) tests, answering each question honestly, and it is likely you will get different results from each one. This kind of testing is designed to give  a general idea of our personality, and they range from the fun kind to the ones used in the corporate world.

Most people are honest when completing personality tests but if we don’t agree with any of the answers and just pick one we ‘kind of’ resonate with (or we think might make us look good!)… well let’s just say it’s not going to be that precise.

We don’t all fit into one pigeonhole either, so a personality test will tend to put you in the category you ‘mostly’ fit into. That’s important to remember. These tests can be used to determine someone’s personality type to a degree, but they’re never going to be 100% accurate, so they are best used as a guideline, along with other types of testing and coaching. And don’t take the result to heart either, if it’s not what you expected.


Tests can be used to determine someone’s personality type to a degree, but they’re never going to be 100% accurate [tweet] [LinkedIn] [Facebook]


One Tool in the Box

Use personality testing as a tool in combination with other coaching methods for the best results and resist the urge to see the result as anything more than an overall look at your tendencies rather than a complete description of your character and personality. This kind of testing isn’t something where you’re going to get a pass or a fail, but rather an interesting (hopefully) glimpse into your personality of what makes you ‘tick’.


I’m not dismissive of these tests, far from it because they can shed a lot of light on how we behave in specific situations which may be a source of concern. I think it’s important though to bear in mind that personality testing is just one tool among several with which we can get a clearer picture of our management style. Let’s use the insight they give to feel better about how we are doing and aim to achieve even better results.

So if, like me, you had a less than positive  experience of personality testing in the past, consider revisiting the experience with the objective of looking at what happened, why you’re not feeling good about that and what you can do to turn that feeling around. A coach may be helpful.

Malcolm Andrews is an Executive Coach in Hong Kong.