Psychometric Testing? Well……

I looked up one day to see a team of people crowding into the doorway to my office, hoping to distract me from my paperwork and seek my help. They wanted to know if I could arrange for psychometric testing to be done on all the members of their team. They wanted to get this done because they thought it might help them figure out how best to utilise the talents inherent with their team. They had heard and read that psychometric profiling often helped teams understand each other better. But they were stuck comparing the pros and cons of the various profiling methods and hoped I might be able to shed some light on the subject.

I explained that I wasn’t a great fan of psychometric testing as a rule. I said this was because people already tend to put other people into ?boxes’ and „leave? them in there – inevitably stunting their growth (or at best, not promoting potential development). I knew they would hear this view as contrary to their beliefs, and said so. I also said that, as they had already been doing some upfront research, trying to weigh the pros and cons of the various schools of thought out there, I wasn’t about to say that the process couldn’t be useful sometimes.

I acknowledged how popular the process seemed to be with senior management teams – certainly in the corporate world. And I said that I wanted to respond favourably to their request because they had taken the initiative to do some up-front thinking and research on the subject. So I asked them to set aside an afternoon together and to let me know when they had done so.

The team had already decided that what they really needed to do was to learn about their strengths and weaknesses, so that they could work together with greater awareness. And I also wanted them to see themselves in an expanded light as well. So I decided I would do something for them – albeit it something they were not expecting.

We didn’t have budget or time to do the normal deep psychological analysis that many consultancies offer. Yet I wanted them to have something to reflect on together, while still focusing on their individual strengths. Plus, they’d been -through the mill? and were already predisposed to blaming each other for their collective situation.

So I came up with an intervention for a two-hour session that fully engaged them, brought humour into the frame and also revealed each other’s unique personalities in ways that helped them reflect on themselves and their interactions with others as well. This is what I did…

In advance, I asked them to tell me where they were born and at what time of day. I provided this data to a third party who produced (for each of them) a uniquely written fifteen-page report. This report was an in-depth computer-generated astrological horoscope, covering many dimensions of their life.

When I got the reports back, I collated them into collections according to the syndicate/break-out groups I planned to divide the staff into for the two-hour session. Then

I removed the front cover identifiers, handed them out and told each group that it was their job to figure out which report best reflected which person in their group.

I pre-framed the exercise by saying that ALL psychoanalytical approaches are seriously questioned by the proponents of the others, so I decided to take one that was universally in -disrepute? as the basis for the session. The truth was NOT the issue as far as I was concerned – what DID matter was that they use the reports as a CATALYST for discussion to develop mutual understanding of each others’ perceptions. They LOVED it, came to understand themselves and each other better and many bonded in a way that was only possible while having to deal with an externally -ridiculous? situation together.

What did I learn?

1.      When people bring something that is challenging to you, they may have already done their homework. So take the time to acknowledge and respect where they are coming from before launching into a solution.

2.      When people are in debate at the level of -Truth?, ask them to identify a context in which all sides of the current debate are -true? or at least equally relevant.

3.      Then ask, -Given this shared context, what is it that we will together most benefit from, if we take the right action.

4.      Once this shared benefit (within the shared context) has been collectively identified, you’ve got a shot at identifying a useful way forward.

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