How Effective are Psychometric Profiling Tools?

Psychometric profiling tools have long been popular in the workplace.  But for leaders, how effective are they for improving leaders’ performance, especially communication?  Are they just self-awareness tools with little productive impact?

Learning how to influence others in an authentic way is a journey not everyone is prepared to make in our experience.

The Psychometric Jungle

Over the last 25 years psychometric models and related tools have flooded the commercial marketplace – MBTi, MMPi, PAI, PAPI, DiSC to name but a few. Executive teams, aspiring leaders and those in client-facing roles have all been subjected to online questionnaires that produce surprisingly detailed reports on their communication style. Participants’ potential strengths and limitations are laid bare and with subsequent self-analysis and reflection, the ‘coaching’ tips proffered should in principle lead to significant flexibility and improvements in interpersonal effectiveness. Or do they?

The Self-Awareness Illusion

Ever since the 1980s the presumption has been that knowing ourselves better and recognising our idiosyncrasies is the sure path to determining and choosing more appropriate behavioural choices in the struggle to influence and motivate others.

This sounds logical but success is highly dependent on the individual’s capacity to perceive and accept their limitations, assess the specific effects of their communication style, and forge a communication plan to significantly improve future interactions.

The reality is often inconsistent results coupled with intangible measures based mainly on hearsay.  This has led to the self-management expectation losing its appeal.  Some organisations have attempted to address this “implementation deficit“ with communication skills training, providing practical advice and methodologies, supported by a relevant, well-respected, psychometric.  Still very low levels of implementation are reported, with little tangible change.

The Knowledge Conundrum

Personality theories and models explain how we use behaviour and develop ‘preferences’ that reflect our ‘style’. Training courses on communication espouse the use of psychometric tools and models to enable greater understanding of the needs and goals behind these preferences and with a view to enhancing our capability with the behavioural choices we make.  However, three factors came into play.

  • The false assumption that understanding the model in more detail in some way automatically facilitates greater adaptability and proficiency in handling the different styles people commonly adopt. Participants on management courses may convince themselves that with such self-knowledge they naturally implement any new approaches seamlessly.
  • When we do make changes or add greater variety to our preferred style it can create confusion. We can temporarily lose our sense of who we are and how we like to operate. This in turn can create a crisis of confidence, which when coupled with inconsistent behaviour and sub-optimal outcomes encourages a relapse. Surely better to rely on our preferred style, be grounded in the comfort of learned automatic responses we reason, and in doing so maintain our credibility?
  • To compound the lack of improvement is the eternal tension existing in most organisations between the imperative for business-as-usual productivity, and assimilating new learning to facilitate staying ahead of the competition. The pressures of time, budgetary constraints and competing developmental priorities often limits the follow-through.

The Solution

A number of aspects need to be addressed:

  • The psychometric tool of choice must be practical and suitable for both commercial and everyday application. It should reflect the complexity of how we operate yet allow for a straightforward means of adoption and implementation.
  • Training content should include creative skills development that focuses on explaining and practising congruency in communication while also sharpening the person’s antennae to identify different types of behaviour, and quickly process ‘best’ alternative responses.
  • Participants need to set specific and viable communication goals and plans.

Typically we may recommend a minimum of 3 separate group training events, with coaching calls in between, probably over 2-3 months to ensure:

  • Quality feedback on personal psychometric reports
  • Transference of knowledge and understanding
  • Skills development and confidence building
  • Goal setting and application,
  • Review, coaching and re-direction

Is this enough to guarantee success?


The benefits of aligning training to specific business imperatives, initiatives and outcomes are substantial. Where business leaders are championing desired results and providing additional supportive coaching, the environment for change and successful implementation is notably enhanced. New behaviours can become properly entrenched as success encourages repetition and the dedication to continuous improvement.

With the right coaching and training experience, an individual’s competence, confidence and credibility can be properly managed and fostered through the use of  the right tool, raising their emotional intelligence as they seek to connect with others more effectively and forge more trusting and productive business relationships.

For further information contact Mike Gale on 01306 621600 or [email protected].

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