Have you ever had the feeling one of your colleagues just didn’t like you? You might have thought, “That person just doesn’t understand me. If they truly took the time to get to know me, I think they would like me.”
That’s exactly what happened to me three years ago when I accepted my current position as HR Director, leading a team that had been working together for many years. They knew each other well due to shared experiences and observations over time. But they didn’t know me at all—and I didn’t know them. One of them, in particular, didn’t like me and had no desire to attempt to get to know me … or, so I thought.
She and I struggled greatly for the first few months. We butt heads over trivial matters and misunderstood each other’s intentions over basic things—from email greetings to complicated issues, like legal processes. It wasn’t so much a communication gap as it was a communication chasm. It got to the point where we avoided each other daily. The tension in the office was a constant and palpable reminder that our team had trust issues—and this eroded our ability to be effective.
Fast forward a few months to when the decision was made to evaluate our recruitment process and potentially add a behavioral assessment option. We analyzed and compared several different assessments, ultimately making the choice to purchase The Predictive Index® (PI).
Each member of my team completed the PI Behavioral Assessment™, and while the results resonated deeply with each of us, we had no idea the power this data would have when it came to breaking down the invisible walls of disappointment and discord we were experiencing.
Let me paint a picture for you, from the perspective of hindsight: My PI behavioral pattern consists of a high level of extraversion (desire to work with and through others) and low formality (informal and flexible approach to work). The person on my HR team I struggled with has a very high level of formality (desire to conform to rules and structure) and low extraversion (desire to work alone). Do you see the issue here? She needs structure and is slower to connect and trust people. However, I enjoy a little anarchy and desire instant and lasting connections with those around me.
I had interpreted her introspective and cautious nature as a personal attack on my character. I assumed she didn’t like me, and so kept my distance and matched her skepticism and reservation about me with contempt and a quiet disdain.
However, once we had our behavioral assessment results in hand—and discussed them as a team—that burdensome weight of unmet expectations was lifted. I was able to see her behavior as a reflection of her unique drives and motivating needs, rather than a personal assault. With the help of our PI report and data, we talked at length about how we are different and what predictable traits we can expect to see from each other based on our innate and unique personalities.
Now, I don’t want to mislead anyone and pretend like PI was an instant fix and we never had any issues after that day. Building the trust our team needs to thrive is a constant commitment that requires intentional nurture and attention. In the spirit of transparency, I’d like to share a few ways we honor that commitment within our organization by using PI to promote team transparency.
Why is transparency in teams important?
Every team has the same general goal—to produce results. Though somewhat vague, no matter what organizational team we are measuring and no matter which industry they work in, the concept of results remains simple and straightforward.
In order for any team to consistently and sustainably achieve results, there must be an established foundation of trust and transparency.
Here are the three steps we follow at my organization that allows us to use the PI Behavioral Assessment to promote team transparency:
Step One: Start from the beginning. Hire the right people.
It all starts during the recruitment process. Don’t just rely on the information you glean from resumes, phone interviews, or face-to-face interviews to make your hiring decisions. Consider adding other sources of data, like behavioral and cognitive assessments, and reference checks to ensure you’re making a well-rounded and educated decision about whether this person is the right fit for the job, the team, and the company.
Once you’ve secured the right person, help them understand the results of their assessments. I can’t tell you how many employees have shared how this simple step made them feel instantly connected and cared for by the company. Most people aren’t used to the company taking time to invest in affirming who they are as a person and sharing the value we see in that information from day one.
Another way to promote team transparency is to share PI results with the new employee’s direct supervisor and the other team members they’ll be working with most closely. In order to prevent the swollen egos and the inevitable conflict surrounding misunderstood personalities, review each person’s results with your new hire so they can be aware and take this data into consideration from day one.
Unrealized expectations about how others should act or behave based on your own perspective can be dangerous and produce toxic results. You’d be surprised how these little insights into people’s driving needs and predictable behaviors can support the transition into a new environment.
Step Two: Conduct periodic team-building activities using the team’s PI results as a focal point.
The goal with this step is to create a fact-based and data-driven understanding of the unique personalities, drives, and behaviors of each team member. This can be formal or informal, depending on the receptivity of the team leader and the time constraints of the workplace.
For example, our accounting team is very structured and works within tight deadlines. We designed a more formal activity to meet their needs. We sent the PI Behavioral Assessment to each member of the accounting team, along with an email explaining the purpose of collecting this data. Once we received all the results, we asked them to join us for a pizza party over lunch where we discussed our results. We had each person stand in a corner of the room that represented where they fell on the pattern for each particular drive, then discussed that drive by giving real-life examples of how that behavior might be perceived by someone on the other side of the room. We laughed about our misunderstandings of each other’s personalities, and we enjoyed owning and taking pride in being accepted for who we are.
An example of a more informal activity would be what we did for our team of service technicians. We gathered them and handed out a copy of their PI Placard, pictured below. The placard displays a person’s PI behavioral pattern, with key characteristics the individual is likely to demonstrate in the workplace. We briefly discussed what each factor meant, but we didn’t ask anyone to share their results yet. We split them into two groups and gave each group the exact same puzzle, telling them to work together to get it assembled. We added that the first team to complete the puzzle accurately would win a prize.
Once the activity was complete and the prizes were handed out, we asked each person to look at their PI behavioral pattern and give us some examples of ways those behaviors became apparent during this activity. Those with a high dominance drive instantly identified with taking the reins. The lower dominance folks laughed at the more supportive and observational role they played in the activity. The higher formality patterns started with the corner pieces, while those with lower formality found themselves looking at the other teams’ results for the answers. Each person was able to identify the link between how they were expected to behave based on the PI data and the actual behavior that was revealed during the activity.
Step Three: Give the team something tangible and actionable they can use in their day-to-day interactions with their team in order to foster transparency.
The goal is to help our teams understand the impact of their own behavioral pattern on the team, but also to acknowledge that there’s no right or wrong pattern. That each person has a unique quality that makes them valuable to the team and the organization as a whole.
One way we’ve chosen to accomplish this is by requesting that each individual in the team display their PI placard somewhere near their workstation. We’ve already seen evidence of this sparking interesting conversations that ultimately leads to a level of organic trust and transparency based on a shared understanding of what makes others tick.
We’ve also started using PI as a talking point during conflict resolution meetings. We try to establish common ground between those in conflict. We then take time to work through their differences so we can move away from unhealthy conflict—which focuses on divisive personal attacks—to the healthy conflict that focuses on clarifying the true source of conflict and working on the shared responsibility to find a solution.
Whether you’re new to PI or you’ve been using it for years, the data you receive is only as impactful as you allow it to be. Empower your people to use PI to build trust and transparency in their team and throughout the organization.