IT Management Blog: my thoughts about putting the "i" in IT

Personality profiling, Part 1 – The process and the journey

Recently our team did a group session facilitated by Team Management Systems in relation to our Team Management Profile. Central to this session stands the Personal Team Management Profile which is created through 60-item questionnaire. Many people are usually rather sceptical towards these kinds of profiling, but I have learned to enjoy it. Not that I belief that the results are always that correct, but the process and discussion gives you tools to think about yourself and others within the work environment. It is the process that you go through in which I see the value, not so much the profile as the outcome of the questionnaire.

There are a lot of issues with these profiling tools but when I did the session the first time with other managers in our organisation, I was enthusiastic and contacted our HR department to have this organised for our IT team as well.

I expected a bit of resistance from our team. In the end, IT people are not supposed to be too interested in these “soft” aspects of work. But in the end I was pleasantly surprised how people collaborated in the session.

The value for me was simply the fact that you talk with your colleagues about certain work aspects and personal preferences. Subjects that otherwise are difficult to bring on the table. I was surprised how open the team discussed the profile outcomes with each other. Obviously there is no right and wrong and I also think that most people accept that the profile does not give a true representation of your work preferences. The tool itself already accepts an 80%-20% rule on its accuracy, but I feel that in some cases the variation can be significantly more.

As a result of the session we created a next level of openness and team bonding and hopefully some further insight in our strengths and weaknesses as a team.

The outcome for our team was not surprising as our CTO concluded. We identified a gap in the Maintenance preference, but I am not too worried about that. We all do it as part of our job and sometimes quite a lot and also very well, it’s just not our preference. The other weaknesses in our preferences were the Advisor and Promoter roles. Again, not surprising and also areas where we are active.

When using a profiling tool like TMS, it is important to keep the following in mind:

The profile gives your preferences, not what you do
As I already explained above, the fact that a team might not have preferences for a certain role, it does not mean it is not done and that it is not done well.

Answers might be focussed on the current role, not your abilities and preferences
Some people will answer the questions based upon their current role and not their personal overarching preferences. This can give a skewed profile in relation to their abilities and preferences. A second note is to say that the tool aims at your preferences and not your abilities though it must be noted that you usually are (get) better in what you like best.

Your mindset at the time of answering will influence the result
For example, take an axis of “creative” versus “practical” . If you basically are a bit halfway this axis with a  slight preference for “creative”, you can be very consistent in answering all the questions in this direction and therefore score as “extremely creative”.  The next time you answer it, you might chose to vary the answers a bit and score nicely halfway the axis.

You can stigmatise yourself to be a certain type of person
We know other people can put a stigma on you, but you can do this to yourself as well. Due to the many comments you might have received from your environment, for example your parents, you might see yourself as a very rational person. Therefore you started your career in IT, because logic and rationale are important in IT. Words like “emotion” and “ideas” get a lower ranking with you. However, if you spend more time looking at yourself you might discover that there is actually a large creative part in you and that many of your important decisions have been made based upon emotions.

On the other hand it is all about interpretation of the questions and specifically if there are only a few questions (60 as part of this survey), than a small variation in your thinking can give a huge difference in the outcome of the profile. I personally never like those multiple choice questions. Quite often they do upset me because they seem to me illogical. For example, the questionnaire made you make a choice between “ideas” and “reality” (see next blog post). For me these are two different aspects of the same thing.

But even though there is much you can criticise about profiling tools, I think they are valuable when used in combination with a facilitated workshop or training. It is about the discovery process; learning about yourself and your team. If the tool says that there is too much green and not enough red, you need to ask yourself “how come that there is so much green” and “what does it mean that there is not enough red”. And if you have obtained insight, you might want to take some actions.

But with actions you must be cautious. Changing yourself does not come overnight; it can easily take years and much more sessions of introspection. Changing a team does not happen overnight either. If you identified that you need to define the blue roles better and ideally get some blue people for that, it simply does not mean you start firing existing red staff and hiring some blue people. There is more to it.

I am happy enough with a thinking process of who you are (team of individual), even if there are no direct ideas or plans to change things.