Confusion instead of clarity - why type tests are misleading

Executive coach Dorette Segschneider explains why type tests cause more confusion than benefit.

Are you also blue? Or rather red? Which type are you? Or have you not yet taken a type test by colour? "That's a good thing because type tests usually cause more confusion than benefit," says executive coach Dorette Segschneider, and backs up her statement with a study on type tests that was published in Nature Human Behaviour in 2018 and then revised. The basis was the evaluation of data from several hundred thousand people. Initially, the authors of the study were convinced that they had demonstrated four stable personality types. In the meantime, Prof. Dr Ziegler and his colleagues have analysed the data set a second time and have come to a completely different conclusion: "We paid special attention to whether each person can be assigned to one of the four personality types and, if so, how certain this assignment is. The result this time: only 42 per cent of the people could be assigned to one of the four types. "The certainty of this assignment was about as likely as the outcome of a coin toss. Thus, our commentary shows that so-called personality types cannot be reliably detected in individual persons even with the most modern methods and huge data sets," says the psychologist. For important decisions - for example, in the area of human resources - it is therefore not advisable to rely on type tests because the typing is highly unlikely to be correct.

"Many companies still swear by type tests," says Dorette Segschneider and continues: "The colour tests, for example, offer simple solutions. That is very welcome, especially in these complex times. But these tests are called type tests because they do not capture the complexity of personality, but promise quick, simple solutions and fuel a pigeonhole thinking that does not do justice to the personalities working in the company at all." Type tests negate the findings of modern personality psychology. Unlike the Big Five, the world's most validated personality model. "In my executive coaching sessions, I work with the LINC-Personality Profiler developed by the LINC_Institute (a spin-off of Leuphana University L√ľneburg). It captures the Big Five of personality holistically - i.e. motives, character traits and competencies:

  1. The motifs clarify the questions "Why?" and "What?". So, what drives me? Why do I behave in this way? What do I direct my behaviour towards?
  2. The character traits are then responsible for how someone, for example, fills a position once he/she has arrived there. They clarify the question "How do I typically behave?" and are responsible for the personal style, i.e. the style of work, communication or conflict. There is no better or worse. Each pole has strengths, and each can learn something from its opposite pole!
  3. The question remains: "How well can I do something? In other words, how competently does the person do what he or she does. This is expressed in his personal competencies.

"Personality develops over the years and usually remains stable. On the other hand, behaviour is flexible, and new behavioural patterns can be developed relatively easily - for example, in executive coaching," Segschneider continues. The character traits in the form of the BIG FIVE represent broad basic dimensions that are quite stable over time. The BIG FIVE are formed from their facets, which the LINC Personality Profiler also records. "From the facets emerge the individual behaviours and thought patterns that are ideally suited for executive coaching work, as they are much easier to change than the BIG FIVE per se."

The added value of LLP coaching is, above all, to get a better understanding of one's own personality and to be able to better classify human behaviour as a whole - including that of colleagues/employees. "In executive coaching, I then discuss the LPP based on a concrete topic/issue. The client identifies an area in her leadership behaviour where she sees a need for action and then formulates a concrete goal. The more concrete the topic, the more concrete the recommendations for action that we can develop in executive coaching. Relevant questions are: What exactly do I want to achieve? Do I have something where I think 'I want to be better?"

With the results from the personality test at hand, the client then has several options:

  • Behaviour change: adopt new behaviours, develop new behavioural strategies.
  • Inform: Inform others actively and transparently about one's own behaviour, thinking and feeling without changing it.
  • Compensate: compensate for one's own personality-related learning areas with particular other strengths.
  • Accepting: accepting one's own personality-related learning areas without changing them.

"Especially if you want to implement competent leadership development based on personality, you need well-founded alternatives like the LPP," Segschneider is convinced. "The LINC Personality Profiler is an optimal alternative. I not only use it to solve personality issues in individual coaching. With great success, I also use the Partner Check Business in tandem solutions, the 360 Degree Feedback or the Candidate Check. These are all very valuable and effective tools for the development of managers in companies. The LPP Personality Profiler Check is the optimal introduction to my executive coaching programme."