If, like me, you enjoy sinking your teeth into reality TV, then you’ve been devotedly watching the new series of Love Island. I’m obsessed and can’t wait for my daily fix when I get home at night.
Surely I’m not alone in getting enjoyment out of analysing and unpacking the personalities or projected personalities of the contestants? In fact, I can see it in the contestants themselves as they try to understand each other! I don’t want to sound overly critical, but they tend to revert to classic stereotypes and descriptions like “Laura is like a really cool surfer type”. I think we can all agreed that this isn’t the most accurate form of personality profiling!
Before I go too far down this rabbit hole and lose most of you, by watching these shows I have been reminded of something important; it’s really difficult to understand people. You may think that my background in psychology makes this easy for me, but it doesn’t. I don’t believe that being a psychologist makes me inherently good at unpacking the behavioural attributes of the contestants. In fact, I’ve only become relatively good at this since using the Saville Wave. I used to be fairly confident in my ability to pick up on different personality traits, but in hindsight, I wasn’t that good at it. I would often put people into boxes like extravert, introvert, social, unsocial, type a, type b etc.
I realise that back then my vocabulary for describing personality was so limited compared to how it is now.
It wasn’t until I started using the Professional Styles Wave Expert Report that I actually started to see how complex people were. People can behave in ways that often seem contradictory. They can be analytical, but not focused on actually finding solutions to problems. They can be confident in social settings, but terrified giving presentations to people. They can be extremely good at finding errors in work, but hopeless at following simple procedures.
Whilst understanding these nuances is helpful for understanding contestants on reality tv, the real value lies in understanding team members, clients and personal relationships. Throughout my career, I haven’t seen any other questionnaire provide the same level of detail and insight. There are 108 unique facets of personality measured in Wave! Think about that for a second, 108 unique things to understand about a person, their work, and personal style.
I know that 108 different things can seem overwhelming, and life was easier and simpler when all I knew were the simple categories. But what’s scarier is people making recruitment and development judgements based on a 4-box model. It’s one thing to put a reality show contestant into a 4-box grid, which has relatively no repercussions. But wouldn’t you want to know the intricacies of the person you were hiring? Get to know them properly, give them a truly tailored onboarding or development experience, and retain that great talent you worked so hard to attract?
With the knowledge I now have, I can’t help but cringe when I speak to friends and they think they’re now specialists in personality because they’ve attended a team building session using the latest 4-box profiler. It’s great that they are on board with how interesting personality is, but they’ve only just scratched the surface. People are really hard to understand, there is more to each of us than four letters/boxes, and to think you can hire someone based on that is outrageous! We all deserve better.
We receive very contradictory messages when it comes to personality. On one hand, we’re told that we’re all unique individuals with our own experiences, characteristics and that we should embrace our differences. On the other, we see organisations using four boxes to categorise people, Adam is dominant, Samantha is intuitive, Brian is Type A and Sally is introverted. This just doesn’t make sense to me. For an organisation to say that they care about their staff and recognise their individuality, yet will not invest in getting to know more about them is not “walking the talk”.
As a collective, we need to address this. While we all believe we are great judges of character and personality, we need to check ourselves (and our biases). I am still learning about personality and will continue to do so throughout my career! We have to strive to find out more about the individual, and really get to understand them before we can recruit or develop them. Otherwise, we might as well be screening for the “cool surfer type”.
Posted by Amanda Krulis