Don’t guess, assess! Easy way to help with change

by | Nov 30, 2010 | Blog | 4 comments

When you need to act quickly to get leadership and teams on board and gelling in times of change, what are you going to do?

Consider assessments to help you kick start the process.

But what if you’re dealing with people who resist change and also hate tests? Well I feel their pain, at least around tests.

As a student, I hated tests and went to great lengths to avoid them.

(My Northwestern University classmates were amazed and impressed that this kid from Sands Springs, Oklahoma figured out fall semester freshman year how to avoid exams. By enrolling in small seminar classes, I could write lengthy papers instead. I didn’t experience a blue book exam until I was an upperclassman. I did get outwitted in my graduate program at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism when I had to take a final exam in exchange for my diploma.)

Assessments though are completely different. As an adult who’s a lifelong learner, I love these types of evaluations. They’re easy to take with no right or wrong answers. No pass/fail pressure. Instead, they’re short, provide custom insights, and give you actionable data.

With assessments, you can immediately apply what you learn from the instrument and start to get results. For example, assessments are great tools to help increase self-awareness, collaborate more effectively on teams, and improve coaching and consulting skills.

Three assessments that I’ve recently found valuable in these respects are:

1. What’s My Communication Style? by HRDQ. Through either an online or print test, this proven training assessment quickly identifies an individual’s preferred communication style and the communication behaviors associated with it. The four styles are Direct, Spirited, Considerate and Systematic.

I’ve used this assessment in my Fall Strategic Communications Action Group. Participants agree with me that the assessment provides helpful insights into one’s own preferred communication style. Plus, the knowledge we’ve gained helps us better interpret the behavior of others—bosses, other leaders, staff members, and peers. As a result, we’re better equipped to figure out more effective ways to understand and influence them.

2. The Energy Audit, which is part of Tony Schwartz’s The Energy Project. This 20-question free audit measures how effectively you’re managing your four core energy needs: physical, emotional, mental, and human spirit. (Keep mind that a low rating is desirable. If you score toward the top of the scale, you’re experiencing a personal energy crisis.)

Schwartz’s point is that many of us are operating as if we’re computers or other machines—running at high speeds continuously for long periods of time without rest. Humans—and the human brain—don’t work optimally under these conditions. Taking this test gives you a quick snapshot to check how well you’re balancing energy expenditure with energy renewal.

3. The 5 Dynamics measures your natural energy in terms of how you prefer to learn, get things done, and collaborate. This assessment differs from others in that it engages your brain on an unconscious level about how you prefer to work, rather than studying your personality or your natural strengths.

The 5 dynamics are explore, excite, examine, execute and evaluate. They represent the different aspects required in job roles and projects.

(As a quick explanation of the dynamics: explore is determining strategy and developing creative ideas; excite is promoting the idea to get others behind you and the idea; examine is developing the detailed plan; and execute is following through. Evaluate—which is not measured on the individual level but instead advocated as necessary to make the model work—is reflecting on how well you’re doing at each stage and as a whole.)

The tool is advantageous for both individuals and teams, especially for identifying any blind spots. Once you take it, you can quickly validate the state of affairs—including where you and your team might need some additional juice if you’re imbalanced.

For example, if a team is low in “execute,” don’t be surprised if they neglect to follow through on all of their commitments. They’re much more interested in refining their vision, getting everyone excited about it, and planning the next steps.

The 5 Dynamics training I took from Pat Newmann of Partner in Change and Barbara Miller of Artemis Management provided additional insights to my assessment. (By the way Barb does a monthly webinar on 5 Dynamics. The next one is Friday, Dec. 10 at 9 am PT.)

Assessments also play another important role: your own, personal jerk detector. Or, at a minimum, you can start to recognize that your behavior could be annoying to others. As Don Rockwell, the Leadership Freak, writes: “You may not know how irritating you are.”

And when it comes to working with others, you’re better off being a lovable star or fool—preferably with some self-insight— than a competent jerk, as this Harvard Business Review article explains.

So what assessments are you using? And what’s the value they’re adding?

P.S. If you’re curious about the results of my own assessments, just ask. I’ve got nothing to hide. As a considerate communicator, though, I didn’t want to take up any more space.


  1. Samantha Hartley

    Liz, I still remember the first big assessment that my team and I took, the MBTI, and how dramatically it shifted my experience of my co-workers. Assessments are key to understanding why people do what they do and how we can be more understanding and effective in communicating and collaborating with them.

  2. Andy

    Liz – I loved “You May Not Know How Irritating You Are.” That sounds like just the type of assessment we all need to take every once in awhile! It reminds me of an article I was reading yesterday in a German magazine, where they studied school bullies, and came to the conclusion that 20% of the victims of bullying were also bullies themselves – and many did not realize it.

  3. Dan - Leadership Freak


    Thanks for including a link to one of my articles.

    Keep up the good work!


  4. Steve Hendon

    I really enjoyed this post Liz. I think you are spot on that some people are afraid of assessments or at the very least intimidated. A good assessment used in the right way should be a very enlightening and helpful experience.

    You’ve introduced me to some new assessments here that look very interesting.

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