I've probably taken at least a dozen personality assessments. Some told me what kind of animal I was. (In one, I was a shark, another a turtle. Not sure how that happened.) Another said I was conscientiously influential. Another said I was an ENTJ. (But after a couple of decades of not leading people and only leading myself, I've definitely become an "I.")
Most were interesting. Some sparked a few moments of "Hmm..."
Yet none were particularly practical, especially since the people I worked for tended to focus on ways I could benefit from changing aspects of my personality. Like becoming less conflict-averse. Or more of a (professional) risk taker. Or letting my emotions guide more of my decisions. To be, in retrospect, more like them.
Which is obviously a problem. I could definitely learn to do certain things differently. But becoming a person who naturally did those things? Unlikely.
Add it all up, and while taking personality assessments was kind of fun, I didn't get much out of them.
Then I took the free PrinciplesYou personality assessment, the brainchild of hedge fund manager Ray Dalio, Adam Grant, and doctors Brian Little and John Golden. The goal of the tool isn't to help you change who you are. The goal is to help you better understand yourself, better understand the people around you, and use that knowledge to work better together -- and, as a result, accomplish a lot more.
"Twenty-five years ago, I kept wondering why some of the people around me saw things so differently. It just didn't seem plausible," Dalio tells Inc. "So we had 150 managers take the Myers-Briggs and I realized that from their perspective, I was the one who saw things differently. That's when it started to click for us -- because we learned how to better work together."
Which should be the point of any personality assessment. Knowing how to better interact with others, how to better lead, how to better follow, how to build better relationships -- that's the true value.
Both personally and in business. "When you better understand yourself, and understand the people around you, you can create better teams," Dalio says. "You can understand what to expect of people. You can better determine which jobs they will thrive in. And you'll spark conversations, and have some laughs along the way."
Dalio went on to add other personality assessments to his team-building toolkit at Bridgewater. But he still wasn't satisfied. That's why he built the new, more robust tool.
Granted, "robust" also means long. The PrinciplesYou assessment takes a while to complete. And it's a little repetitive. But for a reason: The tool assesses how you think, how you approach challenges, how you interact with others, how you act in various situations, and, of course, your leadership style.
Turns out I'm a Peacekeeper, someone who seeks harmony, compromise, and cooperation. I tend to be empathetic, agreeable, agile, and diplomatic. (Which sounds good, although sometimes I can be a bit of a jerk, too. But, hey, no assessment tool is perfect.) I also have the attributes of a Helper, and also a Campaigner, someone who rallies others around ideas, positions, and solutions, and achieving practical results.
What I'm not is a Shaper. That's Dalio's primary archetype, and actually would make us a good professional fit. (Feel free to call me back, Ray.)
"I could be too strong, too abrasive," Dalio says. "Every Shaper needs a Peacekeeper. Just like Peacekeepers need Shapers."
Which is the real benefit of PrinciplesYou. You can invite others -- employees, colleagues, friends, family, etc. -- to take the assessment and then compare your results. (Which Dalio and I agreed would make for a fun dinner party exercise.)
"Self- and other-discovery is so important for individuals and their relationships," Dalio says. "Quite honestly, it's been invaluable in whatever success I've managed to create."
That's why the assessment doesn't focus on how you should change certain aspects of your personality. Or, as my bosses did, on using it as a "developmental" tool.
"Your nature brings pluses and minuses," Dalio says. "There's great power in knowing where you're not strong, and what you need help with. You don't have to change everything about yourself. Life is a journey in which you have to know what you're like, what your inclinations are ... and then find the right fits for you: in relationships, in teams, in jobs ... in everything."
Like understanding not to push for instant agreement if the other person's personality makes that unlikely. Or asking for thought and reflection if the other person loves to make quick decisions and move on.
Like not thinking about what you want, or how you want other people to respond. Instead, thinking about how they work best. What makes them most comfortable. What makes them feel valued, respected, and included.
To build relationships where the rising tide floats all boats. Not just yours.
"You can't really change your nature," Dalio says. "So why try? Whatever you're missing, you can get from someone else. But to do that, you first have to better know yourself -- and better know the people around you."
Because ultimately we're all on teams. Which means our success -- however we choose to define success -- is based on being a part of the right teams.
And being able to "work" together, whether professionally or personally, in the best way possible for one another.