14 MIN READ
Personality tests are designed to help you understand yourself, create a cohesive team environment, and grow both personally and professionally. Many small businesses use personality tests in some capacity, and I’m always impressed by the results. Financial planners, in particular, can benefit from personality tests.
As a solo practitioner, different test results can help you hone your client-facing skills and understand your best work patterns or where you might be able to outsource work to someone who is better suited to the task. If you’re running a larger financial planning practice, personality tests can help you manage your team, make hiring decisions, and so much more.
What Are the Benefits of Personality Testing?
Personality tests do so much more than give you a glimpse into how you act during the day-to-day. They help you get a stronger grasp of who you are, and that means digging deeper to discover your workplace preferences, work habits, energy cycles, interpersonal skills, strengths, and weaknesses. These tests can also help you learn how you react under pressure, or to evaluate the best career path within the financial planning profession that matches your values and interest.
Personality testing has value for both solo shops and for larger teams, but I find that teams tend to get more value out of personality tests when focused on how they work best together, and solo practitioners are going to get the most information about how they work with clients.
For Solo Practitioners
I love encouraging clients who are solo practitioners to get introspective. The more you understand yourself, the better you’ll be able to grow a business that energizes and fulfills you. You’ll also be better able to serve your ideal clients if you understand how you best interact with others, respond to criticism, or communicate. You might even look to give your clients a personality test, or a values assessment, that helps you to discern who they are, what their goals are, and how your relationship with them will best meet their needs.
Managing a team of advisors can be challenging. Any time you put multiple personality types in a room, you open yourself up to the possibility of conflict. Conflict is normal, and as long as it’s constructive I have no issues with it. However, minimizing destructive conflict, miscommunication, or workplace tension is something that every financial planning team can get on board with. Personality tests can help.
When you have your team complete a personality test as a unit, then discuss your results, you’re starting a conversation. Together, you can learn:
- Who every team member is
- What their strengths are
- What they need to do to recharge (and how often they need to do it)
- Their strengths in the workplace
- How they communicate
- How they prefer to be communicated with
- What they expect out of interactions with their coworkers
- What they expect out of themselves in their professional role
- What they value
- How they respond to conflict and criticism
And so much more.
These types of discussions do a few things. First, they validate how everyone on your team feels about themselves. They also encourage each member of your practice to look inward and learn more about themselves, what they want, and how they want to continually contribute to the team in a meaningful way.
Second, personality test activities lead to improved understanding among your team members. Knowing more about who everyone is, what they do best, and what their weaknesses are creates room for more grace in professional interactions or workplace conflict, and allows for deeper connections to be made. That means more productivity, and more positive workplace interactions.
Which Personality Test Should You Use?
It feels like there are a billion different personality tests floating around out there, and every time I look up there’s some new program touting how unique and wonderful it is. Honestly, I feel pretty confident that most of these tests are good. But, for the sake of certainty, let’s go over a few that I’ve taken, seen used in the financial planning profession, or have heard rave reviews about.
Insights Discovery is currently my favorite personality test out there, so much so that I recently got certified to help conduct it with businesses! Insights Discovery focuses on a simple equation:
Understanding + Application = Breakthrough
The creators of this personality test believe that promoting self-awareness on your team and applying what you’ve learned to your work environment will lead to a more productive, efficient, and positive team atmosphere. Their assessment focuses on helping build stronger interpersonal interactions within your business as soon as possible, which I love. I’m not a fan of personality tests when we only take them and then forget about them—they’re meant to be applied!
Test takers who participate in Insights Discovery will learn more about:
- Their energy
- How they make decisions
- How they give and receive communication
- The best way to connect with team members utilizing all of this new information
Insights Discovery provides a fantastic, in-depth exploration that’s ideal for teams that want to elevate their communication and efficiency for maximum productivity and impact. I love it as both a leadership development tool and a way to facilitate a better team environment (even with contract employees!) because it’s so comprehensive and geared toward the workplace.
This test also really focuses on the fact that self-awareness and growth aren’t a one-and-done phenomenon, which is where I think a lot of other personality tests fall short. Insights Discovery encourages ongoing application and adjustments to continually push your business (and your team members) to reach their full potential. They work to help you, as a business leader, simplify programs and adapt your processes to best meet the strengths of your team members; and they encourage your team members to suggest changes and build the work environment that best supports their success. All in all, it’s an amazing program.
The DISC assessment is based on gaining an understanding of people’s behavioral makeup. It tends to work well in teams because it focuses on how to adapt your skillset to work well with others, and how to monitor your own behavior in the workplace.
A few things DISC covers are:
- How you respond to conflict
- What motivates you
- What causes you stress
- How you solve problems
- How to facilitate better communication
- How to recognize the behavioral needs of others to improve your team environment
DISC is very team-oriented. That being said, I think it could still work for a solo practitioner. Instead of focusing on how you work with others on your team, you’d be focusing on how your behaviors impact your freelance or contract workers and your clients. The information is still valuable, but the assessment is definitely more geared toward larger workplace teams.
The assessment is made up of four primary personality types: Dominant, Inspiring, Supportive, and Cautious. Some assessment companies rename these a litte. For example, “dominant” might be “directing.” Either way, the behaviors that match those personality types are typically the same across the board. Each personality type is assigned a handful of descriptive terms, like outgoing, people-oriented, reserved, or task-oriented. This is one of the reasons it can be a helpful tool for financial planning practices who employ a full team. Understanding the way each team member behaves can go a long way in any given situation.
Kolbe A Index
The Kolbe A Index is a bit more in-depth than some of the other personality tests you can take, but it’s also very geared toward the workplace, which can be handy. Kolbe Corp believes that once you take the test, your results will never change because at your core, you are who you are.
When you take the Kolbe A Index, you’ll learn:
- How you make decisions
- What your natural strengths and instincts are
- How to reduce stress
- What your “action mode” is
- How you solve problems best
The action modes are what draw most people to The Kolbe A Index, and for good reason. The four action modes are Fact Finder, Follow Through, Quick Start, and Implementer. The index records what level you are within each action mode, which helps you understand whether you counteract, react, or initiate action. The strengths attached to each action mode are explain, maintain, innovate, and restore.
The beauty of The Kolbe A Index is that it’s a great balance between self-reflection and an outward team focus. Knowing how you best act in any given situation is helpful, and understanding how your coworkers act in those same situations is equally helpful.
For example, if you have someone on your team who scores highly as someone who implements tasks and ideas well, and another team member who scores highly as someone who innovates well, those two could potentially complement each other nicely. On the other hand, if your entire team is comprised of people who love to innovate and hate to maintain or implement, you may have a problem on your hands.
It’s also worth looking into The Kolbe B Index and The Kolbe C Index. These two programs are available to teams looking to take things to the next level. The Kolbe B Index can be used with teams to detect their perception of their job responsibilities. This can identify areas of miscommunication and tension in the workplace.
The Kolbe C Index was created specifically for business leaders or supervisors to identify what they believe a specific job entails, which can be helpful when creating job descriptions, or comparing someone’s natural tendencies with what your job expectations are as their boss.
StrengthFinders (Now CliftonStrengths)
CliftonStrengths is a Gallup assessment designed to be a comprehensive personality test. It’s based on a total of 34 themes, and highlights your top five. Each theme focuses on a personality trait that comes naturally to you, like responsibility, thinking strategically, achieving results, or learning.
CliftonStrengths focuses on:
- Uncovering who you are
- Identifying your strengths
- Giving you a deeper understanding of your weaknesses
- Learning how to maximize your potential
- Focusing in on what makes you unique
- Taking action to improve your performance
CliftonStrengths goes above and beyond by offering up a list of action items for test-takers to go and implement. The assessment is structured to not just offer up insight, but to push people to seek self-improvement and to take action. At the end of the day, that’s what you want out of a personality test: action. Introspection and personal growth are both important, but not all that helpful if you just sit on the information you’ve gained about yourself without taking the next steps to improve!
I feel pretty strongly that both solo practitioners and team practices can benefit from CliftonStrengths. Although it may seem like it’s geared toward helping teams improve their communication and focus on their strengths, it provides such a detailed assessment for each individual that it would still be useful for a solo advisor.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test is one of the original psychometric tests. With a total of 16 personality tests, it’s completely focused on what makes you you. This means that it’s not as aggressively geared toward businesses or workplace teams, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable.
The MBTI looks at:
- Your behaviors
- What you prefer to focus on (outer world or inner world)
- How you process information
- How you make decisions
- How you deal with the outside world and communicate with others
While the MBTI is fantastic, it also has a few drawbacks. It’s entirely based on honest self-reporting, and how people view themselves, which can skew the results. It’s also not a perfect tool, meaning that you could get a personality type that doesn’t exactly match the real you. Still, if you’re dipping your toe into the world of personality tests for you or your team, this one is definitely worth a look.
Picking Your Test
There are so many personality tests available that it can make your head spin. There are benefits to each of them, and you’re going to get some level of value out of the process regardless of which one you go with. However, to maximize your experience, it makes sense to get clear on why you want to take the assessment in the first place. If you’re a solo practitioner looking to understand your stressors and communication style, you’re looking for something different than a large financial planning team who’s learning how to work better together and leverage their strengths.
Alternatively, as a business owner, you can use a personality test in several different ways and you might be looking for different things each time. If you’re using a personality test within your existing team, you’re likely hoping to increase communication and performance. If you’re using it as a hiring tool, you’re likely trying to better understand your candidates and how they’ll fit in your existing team.
Once you have a clearly defined why you want to use a personality test in your business, you’ll be better able to pick a personality test that gives you the type of information you’re looking for and the depth of exploration you need.
Decide When to Use Them
So, you’re onboard with the whole personality test idea. That’s great! Self-discovery is an excellent way to improve your quality of work and your quality of life. Many financial planners I talk to understand the value of introspection and using personality type tests to improve their team’s communication or create deeper relationships with their partners. But there are so many different ways you can use a personality test in your financial planning practice, and I want to make sure you’re not missing out! If you have the resource to use, you might as well get the most bang for your buck.
When You’re Hiring
Personality tests play an amazing role in the hiring process. Knowing a candidate’s strengths, weaknesses, and workplace preferences right out of the gate can help you make the best choice for your team.
On the other side of the coin, personality tests also help you learn whether or not your job will be a fit for the candidate. If you know the tasks required are going to leave your candidate unfulfilled, it can be helpful to point them in a different direction (within your practice or not) that might be a better fit and make for a happier employee.
A word of caution: if you pick a personality test that’s a little lengthier, maybe hold off on sending it to applicants until they’re farther into the interviewing process. You don’t want to scare away quality applicants because you’re making them jump through too many hoops too soon after finding your job posting. It’s also important to research whether or not your personality test of choice is recommended for the hiring process. Insights Discovery, for example, specifies that workplace preferences don’t always equate to workplace performance, and they don’t want to be used for hiring purposes.
During Team Building
Team building sessions that center on personality tests are, in my experience, incredibly fun. Not only do your employees get to learn more about themselves, they also get to learn more about the people they work alongside every single day. Together, they’re able to create unique solutions, build out processes that highlight everyone’s strengths, and align themselves in a way that moves them all toward the same goal—the success of the practice. It’s pretty cool to see team members respond to one another by respecting their needs, shifting their communication pattern, or even just practicing the necessary self-care that helps them show up and perform their best every day.
I love personality tests as a method of leadership training. The up-and-comers in your practice who might be looking at becoming a partner, or managing team members, can all benefit from learning more about themselves, their communication, and their management style. They can also use the personality test activity to understand how other personalities might interact, which will make them a stronger manager in the long run.
To Spark Conversation
You know what a new employee hates? Telling you how they’d like to work. Whether you have full-time staff or you work with a variety of 1099 contractors, new team members rarely speak up about what they want their workplace world to look like. The uncomfortable boss-employee dynamic can get in the way, and they might be worried about complaining too much when they’ve just gotten started. This always bums me out because, truth be told, the more you know about what your team wants, the better practice you can build.
Enter: the personality test solution. Many personality tests that are focused on workplace performance help employees explore and communicate what their ideal work environment looks like. Personality tests can also empower them to understand their own strengths, what tasks they perform best, and where they need to improve.
Using personality tests with new hires can help to bridge the awkward knowledge gap and help them open up about what they want out of their new role within your practice. You can also use personality tests to spark conversation during performance reviews to start a conversation about what’s going well, or what’s not going well, with the performance of your team members.
The Downsides of Personality Testing
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about a few of the downsides to personality testing here. More specifically, I need to make sure you understand how not to use personality tests in your practice. First and foremost, you don’t get to use personality tests to discriminate in any way. Period.
Second, you need to be careful about how you use personality tests in your practice. Although they can do wonders for helping you understand your own worth and where you fall down, and they can help your team connect and improve together, they can also be polarizing and problematic. Let’s walk through a few scenarios where personality test usage went wrong.
Scenario One: The Irritated Coworker
You want a team building personality test exercise to encourage growth and improvement, not finger-pointing and guilt. If your team is struggling to work in a cohesive way, they may need more regimented guidance when it comes to implementing new knowledge gained through personality testing. We don’t want Advisor 1 blaming Advisor 2 for always being an innovator when Advisor 1 is stuck doing all the ongoing management and heavy lifting.
Scenario Two: Homogenizing Your Hiring
The last thing you want to do is to turn away quality candidates just because their personality type wasn’t a close match, or even a highly compatible match, with yours. You don’t want to hire a room full of yous. Financial planning practices benefit from having a diverse range of opinions and ideas. That means hiring a diverse range of personality types for your team and giving them the tools to work together well.Scenario Three: Stagnation
If you’re a solo practitioner, you don’t want to hit a wall after learning more about your personality and work style. As a business owner, you don’t want your team to start blaming their actions on their personality assessment: I just don’t follow through very well. I’m sorry, I’m just a very direct communicator. I don’t mean to offend literally everyone in the office.
This can be viewed as labeling, and it’s something you want to avoid. We don’t get to use the results of a personality test as labels, or as a crutch. Instead, they should be used as clues to help you adjust and connect, not diagnose someone’s identity and refuse to adjust your own as a result. We’re more than just the results of a personality test! Even if you’re decidedly one “type” of person, you may only lead with those traits. There’s always more beneath the surface.
The point of using personality tests in your financial planning practice is to encourage development and professional progress. Although it’s tempting to think that comes naturally after learning so much about yourself and how you work, that isn’t always the case.
Personality tests can help you and your team accomplish amazing things. But they aren’t a magic wand that will fix communication problems, deepen your relationships, and improve your financial planning practice. Personality tests are just the first step in the process—they need to be part of a larger strategy.
Take the time to develop an implementation plan, and get the whole team in on it. Even if you’re a solo practitioner who is working with contract employees, talk to them about the results of your test and how you plan to shift behaviors or work styles to maximize your performance. Having a clear vision of how you want a personality test to change a process, alter behavior, or shift relationships can be key to making sure you get the most out of this fantastic tool.
About Arlene Moss, Executive Coach
Arlene gets a kick out of helping financial advisors get over being overwhelmed and take on their frustrations so their businesses soar. Arlene works to ensure XYPN members are able to help their clients prosper while creating a sustainable business model. Through XYPN Academy and one-on-one coaching, members get the support they need to grow their businesses and overcome the challenges that come their way.