Back in February, I wrote about the importance of personality assessments to make good career decisions. It featured an interview with Dr. Robert Hogan, co-founder of Hogan Assessment Systems and an international authority on personality, leadership and organizational effectiveness. Personality assessments identify blind spots, areas of strength and struggle, and help create a blueprint to better outcomes at work and home. Once you get your assessment results, now what?
In my experience, people are often initially unhappy with assessment results because they tend to focus on the negative aspects of their personality and ignore the positive aspects and opportunities that come with increased awareness. It reminds me of people who refuse to go to the doctor because they don’t want to be sick. It’s illogical. Regardless of whether or not you take an assessment, you still have the same traits and, if they are getting in the way and preventing you from achieving what you want, isn’t identification and a plan preferable to remaining in the dark with no hope of improvement?
With that in mind, I once again tapped Dr. Hogan for advice.
Dena Lefkowitz: Many people focus on what they perceive as negative in their personality profile. What would you say to them to redirect thinking toward managing challenges and maximizing strengths?
Robert Hogan: If people want to improve their performance at tennis or bridge or life, they will need feedback. In feedback, there is not much news in good news. To improve performance, people need to know what they are doing wrong. The Myers Briggs is popular because everyone gets good news. Hogan Assessments specializes in telling people what they need to know, not what they want to hear.
DL: Can people change what they don’t like in their profiles?
RH: People can change their behavior but doing so depends on two prior considerations: They need to know what to change; and they need to be willing to work on developing some new and strange (to them) behavior patterns.
DL: What do you suggest as a starting place for someone trying to wrap their arms and minds around the data?
RH: I would suggest focusing on the behaviors that have the biggest impact on other people, the behaviors that can potentially do the most damage to relationships. It is OK to doubt and feel bad about yourself (depression), but you have no right to make other people unhappy.
DL: What are some superstar tips for improving areas of challenge?
RH: Learn to listen more closely to what others are saying; Control your tendency to be defensive—it interferes with listening; ask trusted others for feedback on your progress.
DL: What would you say to someone whose profile shows they are not a good fit for a job they really want or already have?
RH: Time for a change. We do this all the time, and mostly people are grateful.
DL: Once people have spent time working toward better outcomes, behavior, etc., what do you suggest for maintenance?
RH: Ask trusted others for feedback.
DL: Assuming people tend to revert back to long-standing reactions, what would you recommend they do to keep what they learned at the top of the mind?
RH: Ask trusted others for feedback, ask to be reminded when undesirable behaviors erupt.
DL: Will a future assessment be different based on work the person has done to address challenges?
RH: Scores on well-developed assessments tend to be quite stable over time. To the degree that people change, they tend to become more like themselves. (Old Irish proverb).
DL: With respect to lawyers, are there any themes you commonly see in their profiles? Common pitfalls?
RH: Hard question. I would point to two themes. First, many lawyers take on more business than they can realistically handle. As a result, they are always behind, they rush into meetings unprepared and try to catch up on the fly. On the one hand, when they do this they seem disrespectful; on the other hand, when they do this they tend to make mistakes. Second, there is often a problem with arrogance, with assuming they are the smartest person in the room, causing them to be disrespectful and to miss important cues. It is the case that lawyers often must deal with liars and frauds and people who are not very bright, but lawyers should not generalize those experiences to the rest of humanity.
DL: What steps can lawyers take to address common profile challenges?
RH: First, they must be motivated to change. Second they need to listen to feedback from a career coach on their assessment results. Third, they need to ask trusted others about their progress and their inevitable lapses.
DL: Can you give some examples of Hogan profile data and measures to mitigate or manage difficult aspects of the personality? For example, if someone is low adjustment (which measures neuroticism), what has been successful as coping strategies for handling that?
RH: First, there is good news and bad news associated with high and low scores on the dimensions of the bright side, the dark side, and the inside (HPI, HDS and MVPI). Second, we have well validated developmental recommendations for every score. For example, for low adjustment, suggestions include giving yourself a break, not being so hard on yourself, taking a break when feeling panicked, etc.
I don’t know about you, but I bristled at Hogan’s use of the word “arrogant” with respect to lawyers … but at the same time I have to admit I was once criticized by a client for being “dismissive,” which amounts to the same thing. She didn’t think I was listening to her because I knew better. There were many things I did, particularly as a young lawyer, which I would not do now. One was to cover my insecurities with a veneer of false superiority that I hoped would instill confidence in my clients.
A coaching client was recently referred to me by his firm specifically because of arrogance. Clients and co-workers were complaining and, although his work was excellent and prodigious, he was difficult to manage. In our first conversation, he said “I don’t come to work to make friends. I’m here to make a good living and support my family.” My answer was a question: why not do both? Relationships are invaluable in the workplace in numerous ways. Your co-workers can be your sounding boards, thought partners, devil’s advocates, sponsors, mentors, referral sources, references, connectors, and they can improve your experience of coming to work immeasurably.
Understanding your personality, both the bright side and the dark, can improve your own appraisal of a situation and the role you play in it. If, for example, you tend to be easily irritated by others, your default response may be to judge and cast blame when something happens. But once you know it’s a function of a personality trait, you may ask yourself how that trait is impacting your evaluation, whether blame is even important in the scenario, and how you can take the next step in handling it.
Self-knowledge places a powerful tool in your hands and gives you more control to create better outcomes, so don’t be disheartened by a few negative results. Focus on your strengths and figure out a few initial steps to take on your challenges. You cannot change what you won’t admit, and once you see how to use feedback to your own advantage, anything can change for the better.
Reprinted with permission from the July 26, 2017 edition of “The Legal Intelligencer” © 2017 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. For information, contact 877-257-3382, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.almreprints.com.