How personality tests can help you as an entrepreneur

A very long time ago, in a far away, distant galaxy, I studied psychology in university, took Myers-Briggs tests and learned all about personality theory (am I the only one who feels like those days are lightyears away from my life now?).

Several years later, once my psychology degree began to appear fairly useless for the path my life was on, I concluded I’d never use any of this silly old personality theory again.

And then I joined a couple mastermind groups. (Crunch, chew… swallow. That’s me eating my words.)

Lo and behold, I had unwittingly returned to the land of extrovert or introvert, thinker or feeler, sensor or intuitor. It turns out personality typing is no longer just for bored undergrad university students or human resource directors at government agencies.

They’re trendy now.

It’s become hip to know if you’re an ENTJ or an ISFP, an Enneagram type 2 or 8, and what your top 5 strengths are.

I’ve been surprised over the past year at just how much knowing your personality type has come into vogue, and even how mainstream it’s becoming.

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What are personality types?

According to the almighty Google,

Personality type: a collection of personality traits that are thought to occur together consistently, especially as determined by a certain pattern of responses to a personality inventory.

The idea is that by identifying these traits, we increase our knowledge and understanding of individual people, and this is useful both for working with and helping others, but also for better knowing ourselves.

Now, in my humble opinion, every personality theory or test is limited and unable to ever fully describe the nuances of our personality, preferences, and ways of doing things. Humans are utterly complex creatures and each individual totally unique, much as we may have overlapping characteristics. I dislike stereotypes and generalities and I don’t like to reduce the why’s of human behavior down to a series of letters or numbers that we got on a test.

That said, I think personality typing can help to identify some of our core traits and make it easier to understand how people tick on a more general level.

They can even give us permission to embrace the quirks of who we are simply by calling those traits out as something legitimate. We can see that hey, we’re not the only ones who sometimes need to block out noise so that we don’t resort to crawling into a fetal position. Or who need an extreme amount of facts and information to be able to navigate the decision making process, even when decisiveness comes easily to others. It feels good to know we’re not a) weird or b) alone.

In fact, this year I’ve noticed two areas in which having a better grasp of personalities, strengths, and weaknesses has had a positive impact on my day to day life:

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They help us in marriage

Although Ryan might be known for occasionally rolling his eyes at yet another mention of personality types (right, honey?), even he would admit there is some use to being able to clearly see and name both our differences and similarities.

When it comes to Myer’s-Briggs typing, he’s an INFJ; I’m an ESTJ (with strong ENTJ leanings). So we both prefer a structured, detailed approach to life and how we take in information (that’s the J, as opposed to being more flexible and adaptable P’s). And that’s where the similarities stop.

As an extrovert, I garner a lot of energy from being with groups of people whereas he often longs to get out of large group situations, much preferring one-on-one conversations and time to refuel by himself. He has a much stronger intuition than I do, is better at reading between the lines, and finds decision making an easier, faster process. I, on the other hand, like to gather a lot of information, am extremely pragmatic and sensible, and have an annoying habit of hemming and hawing anxiously over every little decision I have to make.

And while he’s strongly analytical and has a very science and numbers-oriented brain, he’s much more empathic and aware of both his own feelings and the feelings of others, while I’m clearly a thinker who can be very responsible and productive, yet often gets stuck in my head, focused on tasks, and can’t always see people’s needs or feelings.

These disparities exist whether we know our “types” or not, and the simple fact is that in marriage, opposites tend to attract.

But there’s something about knowing what these differences are that can help us to appreciate our spouse’s strengths, have more compassion and understanding with their weaknesses, and sometimes simply recognize that neither of our ways of doing things are “right” or “wrong”, but just different.

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They help us as entrepreneurs

Although he’s not as much of an MB fan, Ryan has really been digging in lately to the Strength’s Finder test.

The concept behind this one is that they’ve identified 34 key strengths, of which each person has a handful they’re dominant in. The most common tests show your top 5 strengths, although it’s possible to pay extra and find out how you rank in the entire list of 34, from strongest to weakest.

Ryan first turned to this test to help him understand the members of our music school team. More recently, he’s been re-exploring it in his mastermind group, and then applying it to the team members that head up our Ultimate Bundle projects.

His goal is to ensure that every member of the core team is working according to their strengths as much as possible, so they’re satisfied and fulfilled by the work they do, and also to benefit the team overall by having each member working within their areas of expertise instead of struggling through tasks or roles that don’t come naturally to them.

He recently asked me to take my Strength’s Finder test again and it was fascinating to see my top 5 come out as:

  1. Input
  2. Learner
  3. Communication
  4. Significance
  5. Focus
  6. (and Achiever coming in as a close contender)

As we plan strategically and collaborate on some goal and direction-setting for our businesses, knowing each others’ strengths helps us to make better decisions, both for business growth and development, and for ensuring that our individual roles match who we are and what we’re good at.

Whether it’s for the sake of working with your team, or helping yourself narrow down options between the good and the very best, recognizing personality types, strengths, needs, struggles, and temperaments can only make us more effective in our entrepreneurial pursuits.

my notes from retreat

These is a piece of my actual (messy, scrawly) notes from the retreat.

Putting it all together

In fact, when I went away for a personal retreat the other weekend, I experienced more than ever before how very useful personality typing can be.

Though I had looked at my Myers-Briggs, Strengths Finder and Enneagram individually at times, I had never sat down to compare all three of my “types”. And can I just say, it was utterly fascinating?

I wrote out either my strengths list or the details of what my type says about me (good and bad) all on one sheet of paper.

As I filled it out and began to compare notes from the various theories, I could see the pieces of the puzzle all coming together. How the various aspects of my personality that each test highlighted made sense and complimented each other when viewed like this. It helps to fill in gaps and show me some things more clearly than before. I would highly, highly recommend walking through that process to anyone.

What came out of it was an ability to make better decisions for my personal life as well as business ambitions and goals, with this deeper understanding of myself.

It also made it easier to communicate the insights I gained with other people when I returned from my retreat, and was also crucial for Ryan and I in making decisions regarding what I would and wouldn’t focus on in this coming year, and where my strengths would be best used in our businesses.

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What are the different types of tests and how can I take them?

Every time I turn around, I feel like I hear about a new personality theory or test, but these are the ones I’ve learned the most about and have found useful in the circles that I work in.

Myers-Briggs

Here’s a good overview of what this theory is about. I like these two free tests here and here, although there are many more detailed ones that you can pay for.

Inspired to Action podcasts – Though more geared towards women, these two podcasts focus on Myers-Briggs as it relates to our parenting, and also to marriage.

How Differences With Your Spouse Can Make Your Marriage Stronger @ Michael Hyatt – This is a great post on how both the Myer-Briggs and Strengths Finder tests have helped Michael and Gail to better understand each other and strengthen their marriage.

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Enneagram

To get an overview of what Enneagram system is all about, check out this site.

Two free tests that I know of and have taken myself – here and here.

Confront Your Junk @ The Art of Simple Podcast. My good friend Tsh Oxenreider (you met here in podcast episodes #3 and #9) talks with Leigh Kramer about the Enneagram and how to make sense of it all. Very helpful.

Though I’ve taken the tests, I found they were only somewhat helpful. What solidified my type for me most was reading through descriptions of them to find which ones I identified with. I’ve heard that one way of knowing you have the correct Enneagram type is that when you read it, it’s painful, because it’s just so true.

 

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Strengths Finder

There are a couple different ways to tackle this one.

  1. I’ve found the easiest is to just take the online test here, and then choose how deep you want to go, whether you’re content to learn your top 5 strengths or willing to pay extra to access all 34 strengths and the various tools that come along with it to help you apply the test results in practical ways.
  2. The other option is to buy the book which comes with a code for taking your online test, and then you read through the book and the chapters on your particular strengths.

Michael Hyatt is a huge fan of the Strength’s Finder and either reading this post or listening to this podcast will give you a really good overview of what it is and why he finds it valuable.

And just out of curiosity…

Is this an area of interest for people? I have several friends that are very well-versed in personality theories and types, far more than myself, and I’ve thought of bringing them together for a podcast interview. If that would interest you, I’d love to know in the comments!

Are personality types and theories something you’ve explored, either in your personal life or for business purposes? How have you applied and benefited from what you’ve learned?

Image credits: Enneagram, Meyers Briggs, Strengths Finder, man’s legs, couple kissing.

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