Personality Assessments: What About Them?

By Irene Leonard, Lawyer Coach    

Reprinted with the permission of the King County Bar Association, April 2008.

Imagine being able to influence everyone. You can help make that a reality by identifying other people's personality types and then modifying your behavior to match their behavior. People like people who think like they do. People are influenced by people they like.

You know that people are different, but have you thought about how you could use that understanding to help you in your career?

Benefits of Knowing Other People's Type

Being able to identify a person's personality type gives you an advantage in anticipating how colleagues, partners, staff and clients will behave and respond. You'll be able to better:

Personality Assessments

The concept of different personalities has been around since the early Greeks. Hippocrates first described four personality types in 400 B.C. In the last 90 years, people such as Carl Jung, William Marston, William Keirsey and others have described personality types.

Personality typing is most commonly associated with the model created by Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother, Katharine Briggs, in the early 1940s — the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI. They built on Jung's ideas and theories.

Personality assessments aim to identify aspects of a person's character that remain stable throughout that person's life. There are many different personality tests. The tests require the test taker to determine or rate the applicability of different sets of attributes or situations to their preference.

No one personality type is better than another; each personality type brings its own different approach to a situation. Although we tend to be more of one type than another, we have some of all types in us.

The MBTI consists of 16 different personality types made up by combining eight different preferences into combinations of four preferences for each type. The eight preferences are:

  1. Extraversion (E) vs. Introversion (I);
  2. Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N);
  3. Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F); and
  4. Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P).

Each of these represents dichotomous ways of performing, on a sliding scale. Each of us is more comfortable with one of the two preferences, although we can learn to modify our preferences. Examples of MBTI types are INTJ, ENTJ, ISFP and ESFP.

Larry Richard (a lawyer and management consultant certified to administer the MBTI) did a study of 3,014 ABA members using MBTI in the early 1990s and found, among other things, that 57% of lawyers prefer Introversion, while 75% of all adults prefer Extraversion, and that 57% of lawyers prefer iNtuition, while 70% of the general population prefer Sensing.1 What does that tell you about the likely differences between you and your clients?

Another widely used personality assessment tool is DISC. It's a four-quadrant behavioral model based on the work of psychologist William Moulton Marston. DISC is an acronym for:

High "D" people are described as demanding, forceful, driven, ambitious, etc. A person may be a combination of traits: for example, they might be a high "D" with strong "I" traits.

There are many other personality assessment tools. Law firms utilize these personality assessments by hiring consultants certified in personality assessments tools to evaluate partners, associates and staff. Consider using personality testing for litigation profiling, witness examination and jury selection.

Take a Personality Test

To influence others by knowing their personality type, it's important to first determine your own personality type. Whatever method of assessment you use will give you insights into your personality and behavior preferences. You can take a free test at www.humanmeterics.com. This test is based on the MBTI typology approach.

When you know what personality type you are, you can make more satisfying career choices by more easily choosing your ideal practice area and environment. Personality assessments also can help you find out what stands in your way of understanding others. The Art of Speed Reading People, by Paul D. Tieger & Barbara Barron-Tieger, can help you identify other people's personality preferences based on the MBTI.

Different Types of People

Personality assessments help us describe people's behaviors and appreciate how they are different. While some people make quick, decisive decisions, others need more time and thought. Some people like details and facts, while others prefer to think in broader, more imaginative ways. Some people need control, while others wish to be spontaneous and to keep their options open.

You can get in your own way by clinging to your habitual way of thinking and thereby preventing you from seeing other people's points of view. In relationships with others at work and at home, you need to recognize rather than criticize the other's way of thinking. Additionally, by combining different points of view you can achieve better, all-encompassing results and decisions. If necessary, modify your behavior to match the perceiver's preference and stay open to options.

The person with the greatest flexibility in ways of thinking, responding and interacting is the person with the most influence. How do you want to use personality typing in your law practice?

-----

©Irene Leonard has been an executive business coach for lawyers and other professionals for the past 10 years after practicing law for 18 years. She is an ENTJ in the Meyers Briggs type. She can be reached at 206-723-9900 or through her Web site, www.CoachingForChange.com.

1 "The Lawyer Types," Larry Richard, ABA Journal, July 1993.