Personality testing tips

Burnout is affecting younger people

A recent study by the Dutch organization TNO showed that 15% of workers are suffering from burnout symptoms. In the Netherlands, alone, that’s more than a million people.

I was not surprised by that finding, the vast majority of people who take the Octogram test are looking for ways to get out from under the crushing weight of their “Career”. They can see that work doesn’t *have* to suck, everyone has at least a few friends who actually like their job, so they know it’s possible to have a better career.

The surprising part of the study highlighted the age distribution of the respondents. Burnout isn’t just a risk for people in the middle of their careers, they were showing a relatively high level of problems for younger people in the 25 to 35 year old range.

Traditionally, people were to focused on spending their younger years trying to get ahead in their career without really thinking about whether or not they were in the right kind of career. That’s changing because millennials are looking for meaning and purpose in their work right out of the gate. I have been seeing some negative commentary and stereotyping about this in HR and Management discussion boards. It’s easy to minimize someone’s complaint by calling them ‘whiners’ or some such.

But the millenials are not just complaining that work is ‘too hard’, they are complaining when their work has no meaning. Everyone comes to that realization at some time during their career, they want to have work that is fulfilling and worth something. Millenials just seem to be figuring this out earlier than my own Generation X. We just rebelled without knowing what we were complaining about, Millenials just seem to be ahead of the curve.

Damn whipper-snappers!

The TNO study results are summarized here: (Dutch)

Mind Expansion 101

There are two places I go when I am looking for a mind expansion fix. For me, it’s just depressing to sit and stare without something in my mind to turn over and think about. I am a pretty creative person, so my subconscious usually has no problem keeping me occupied. But every now and then, there’s no ‘there’ there. I need some more thinking fuel and I wanted to share two of these with you, because I like you.

The first is a web site with plenty of thought-provoking articles on ethics, science, philosophy and critical thinking. It is a blog put together by the Foundational Research Institute and has a group of engaging bloggers that do a great job of breaking down concepts and putting them together again in a thoughtful and interesting way:

The second place is a podcast and a blog and a couple of books by Daniel McRaney, so I can get my fix in lots of different formats if I don’t happen to be sitting in front of a computer. Daniel takes the latest information and let’s you know, in no uncertain terms, how you are fooling yourself and that you are not so smart:

I might update this in the future with some of my other go-to links, but these will keep you occupied for DAYS of thinking and contemplation. The kind of thinking that makes you feel good and mentally stronger and healthier. Go get some!

Putting Humans in HCM

Human Capital Management is a catch-all term for anything touching on moving, hiring, promoting or dealing with all those messy humans that populate so many companies. On the technology side, there seems to be a definite drift toward reducing humans, who are infinitely complex and entirely unique, into a set of numbers and checkboxes.

  • Was the correct paperwork completed?
  • Are we in compliance?
  • Did the right person get the right pay raise at the right time?

All of these are important questions, I don’t dispute that for a minute. But in the vast majority of the technology offerings I see in the market, and in more than a few of the HCM consultancy companies, the focus is very much on high level, strategic, considerations and not very much on the people in the organization. The focus is on “which direction the organization needs to move”  without spending time learning if the people that need to implement these plans are on board or capable of moving in that direction.

Without a deep understanding of the people in an organization, these strategies are severely handicapped before they even begin. This would be the same as trying to drive a race car without knowing that it tends to drift to the left at low speeds and third gear is missing. You need to know the people in your organization, your grand strategic plan will not, cannot, succeed without this information.

So here are some steps you can take to put Humans back in Human Capital Management.

1. Learn to talk about people

As with any complex discipline, you need to have a vocabulary for talking about your subject matter. The easiest models I have seen is the Competing Values Framework, but almost any model is better than no model at all (except the MBTI, don’t even get me started). See the article I wrote on how to select a good personality test: 8 simple rules for choosing a Personality Test.

You need to have a model to give you a vocabulary. You need the vocabulary to talk about these issues in your strategy and  communicate this to all levels of the organization (management, operations, HR, etc). A cornerstone of strategy is making sure everyone knows what the strategy is.

2. Consider Culture

Organizational culture might feel like an indefinite, ephemeral construct, but it is very real. Ignoring it will very definitely bite you on the butt. The culture of your company is how people are promoted, how managers deal with employees, the relationships between employees and the organization, the actions that are encouraged, the behaviors that are discouraged, etc. Culture is a web that touches and connects every part of your organization together. You need to know what the culture of your organization is before you make strategic plans.

Again, I gotta recommend the Competing Values Framework for this. Here is an article that talks about the OCAI model, I highly recommend that you read that. Luckily, the model is well known and you can find lots of providers in the marketplace.

3. Think about Values

You can hire people that will do the work and get them all moving in the correct direction and implementing your strategic vision. This is a recipe for success and is the bare minimum that HCM should be doing.

Here is what will take your organization to the next level: passion. Passion (the term of art right now is “engagement”, but I prefer “passion”) happens when the values of employees match up with the values of the organization. Our vocabulary for talking about value is the Schein model of Career Anchors. I made a video about this:


And there you have it. Three not-so-simple, but very important steps for putting Humans back into Human Capital Management. Your comments and feedback are welcome!

Building an Effective Team

The Octogram test results can be used on three levels:

  1. Personal
  2. Team
  3. Organizational

On a personal level, the Octogram Talent Profile gives you plenty of insights into how you operate as an individual. At the team level, the Octogram gives you an effective way to put everyone in roles that play to their unique strengths and compensate for the weaknesses of other team members. At the organizational level, the Octogram allows you to see where key skills need to be developed and who can be promoted into or hired into the organization to fill those needs. In this article, I’m going to focus on using the test results to put together a team.

First off, you need to watch the video I made that describes how the traits of the Octogram relate to how people communicate.

The most essential element of building a team is clear and effective communication

So, right from the beginning, you can use the Octogram to help everyone understand how to communicate more effectively. By understanding your own style (how you appear to other people) and the communication styles of the other members of the team, you will be able to pull back or amplify different aspects of your own behavior to make interactions flow more smoothly and keep everyone moving together. This will also help everyone understand how to moderate or flex their own styles when communicating with other members of the team.

Next, the Octogram helps you place each member of the team in the roles that most suit their work style. Put your best Anchor in the role of proofreading, details, planning and paperwork. Put your strongest Networker in roles that require communications and messaging to everyone outside your group. Put your strongest Achiever in the role that most suits her competitive attitude and high energy. By taking the time to identify each individuals’ strengths and preferences, you dramatically increase your chances of success by making sure everyone is doing what they do best.

But how will this work in a practical sense?

First off, have everyone in the group take the Octogram test. The Talent Profile available on this site gives an extremely detailed view of each person (including the section titled “As a Member of a Team“), but there is a research version of the test available at for free. You also have the option of contacting one of our partnering psychological agencies for extra services like group reporting expert help on interpreting the results.

20150819_105159Next, get everyone to print out their Octogram graphic, you are going to sit down with them as a group to let everyone see who they are and to see who everyone else is. This meeting serves several purposes,

  1. it teaches everyone how to talk in terms of work styles and communication styles, it also gives them a vocabulary for this discussion
  2. it gives everyone some clues and insights into how other people in the team prefer to work and communicate, it also shares your own styles with the group
  3. it allows you to walk, with the team, through the roles and tasks that the group needs to perform and place people in positions that fit them best

That last point is the critical one, everyone can see why each person is doing what they do. How many times have you seen groups fall apart through lack of understanding in how to talk out problems or what other people are supposed to do? This also gives the group some insight into what kind of manager you will be and what they can expect from you. This sets expectations where they should be and avoids conversations 6 weeks or 6 months in the future about what they thought you were going to be like.


There are different ways to talk about culture. For example, the Octogram grew up out of an organizational culture model. But this paragraph is more about societal culture. The process I have described above works best in a societal culture that does not have a significant power difference between management and labor. In societies with a big power difference, it is usually difficult to speak about differences and conflicts between employees and employers. If you are in one of these society cultures, this process will still work, but you need to walk into this meeting with an open mind and work to make sure everyone knows that open communication and honesty are not only best, they are essential to the success of the group.

Communication and working together require understanding. The Octogram test is the best method I have found for making work styles understandable and for talking about these important issues in an open and honest way.

8 Simple Rules for Choosing an online Personality Test

Psychometric test development is a combination of intuition, inspiration, vocabulary and statistics. A test developer needs to have the intuition to see patterns in human behavior. They need to have the inspiration for seeing the underlying sources of those patterns. They need to have the vocabulary for defining those patterns in tests (through several revisions!). And they need the mathematical background to check the validity of their instruments. The thing is, if you don’t know how any of those steps work, you can make bad purchasing decisions.

Judging the quality of any particular personality test is difficult if you don’t have the right background information. Without that information, you cannot tell the real medicine from the colored sugar water. The normal signals for quality (adoption rates, attractive design, pricing, etc) are almost totally useless in this arena. I have seen tests online that look like they were designed in 1995 that were high-quality and valid instruments. I have also seen very slick web sites and reports that were not much more valuable than a horoscope.

So, how can you, the normal human being who just wants to use a personality test but not spend 6 months becoming an expert, tell a good test from a bad test? This is where I am going to save your bacon, your sanity and quite possibly the future of your company with a few 8 Simple Rules for Choosing an online Personality Test. Read the description of the test and poke around the publisher’s web site. After doing that, let’s look at the following Rules.

Warning sign: Avoid the Woo-Woo

If the ‘inspiration’ for the test came from a hermit on a mountain top, discard.

If, at any point, the description points to some form of “Ancient Wisdom”, discard.

If they try to connect the “magical powers” of numbers (or any magical powers at all) to personality, discard.

Any use of the word “Mystical”? Discard.


You have read the description of the test and what it is measuring. Can you explain it to someone else in just a few minutes? I have noticed a trend in ‘bad’ test developers to try to baffle the reader with overblown terminology and contradictory claims. A test should be measuring something specific and what it is specifically measuring should be easy to formulate into a few sentences and explain to someone else. If you cannot explain it to someone else, how are you going to explain it to the candidate, your customer or yourself?

The purpose of personality testing is to take something very complex (human behavior) and explain it in a simpler framework so that it is understandable. If the description or test results are not doing this, discard.


You know how the horoscopes you read in the newspaper are super bland and can be applied to just about anyone? How the claims are so general that if you handed the same one out to 10 different people, 9 of them would say that it was written especially for them? This is a sure sign that the test is, if not wrong, is useless.

The official word for this is ‘Discrimination’, telling people apart. It’s really easy to try this out. If three people take the test and you remove the names from the reports. Can people who know them tell which report is for which candidate? If they can’t, then the test is failing its basic function of describing a person accurately.

If the report reads like a fortune cookie. Discard this test. In bed.

Not even wrong

This is a subclass of the Horoscope kind of report. Every statement in a report can be absolutely true, but totally meaningless.

Here is an example of a statement that is true and meaningless at the same time, “You need to breath air.”

I class these types of tests and reports as not even wrong.

A good test should tell you something meaningful and useful that directly relates to your question.

Too much milk from the cow

The description of the test should describe what the test measures in clear terms and a good exercise is to count up all the things a test measures (x). Look at how long the test is, count up the number of items (y).

If 4x>y, discard.

Just kidding. I won’t make you do math.

Keep in mind that a single test measures one area of human behavior. As soon as someone starts claiming their test measures 5 or 6 different areas and intelligence and your shoe size and your political affiliation and your whatever, discard.

I once saw a publisher offering a 90 page report based on a test with only 4 questions. It made me want to cry, it really did. People base their careers on these results! Real people’s lives are really affected by this information and seeing someone put an instrument out there like that just really upsets me.


A personality test must be based on a model of human behavior. This is the theory or pattern that the test is trying to measure.

The model needs to be understandable and explainable and related to your question. A model is also quite generic, there might be several tests that are based on the same model of behavior. This is a good thing. Having a lot of tests based on your model is not the sole criterion of quality, but having no other tests based on a model is a red flag.

New models are proposed all the time, but it usually takes at least 5 years for it to be fleshed out, challenged, refined and justified/refuted.

A web of relationships

Test publishers publish and they pay attention to what is going on with other publishers. Tests are not created out of thin air, they are usually evolutions of earlier tests and models. There should be a trail explaining where the test came from and what earlier research was referenced. There is not much of a line between “totally unique” and “made up”.

New tests are validated by using other, validated tests. People take the new test and the old test. The model predicts certain relationships between these two tests. If the experimental data doesn’t show those relationships, then there is a problem with the test or the model.

A test should have some documentation describing how it relates to other, high quality, tests. If it’s not published on the web site and the publisher won’t provide that information, discard.

Black and White

Nobody puts Baby in a corner and nobody should try to put you in one, either.

People are variable and when a test tries to force you into a box, red flags should be raised. You are not a binary yes|no bit, you are on a bell curve, just like every other biological system.

So, when the results of a test try to express the totality of you by pointing to one of a few boxes, just say, “Discard”.


Behind all of this personality and theory and models and tests, there are a bunch of numbers. I’m not saying that you need to know what all of the numbers mean, but you should know that there are different numbers and a test that puts all of its claims on just one of them is probably hiding the numbers that aren’t so good.

If they don’t have the numbers on the web site, ask for them.

“Can you please share the results of your validity research on test X with me? For example, I am interested in the Cronbach’s Alpha for the traits measured. ”

If they so no, red flag.

If they don’t know what you are talking about, run away!

I hope you have found this information helpful. If you have any questions or suggestions for improving this list, I would love to hear from you richard at



The MBTI is bad business

I speak to career coaches, trainers, professors and human resource professionals on a daily basis. My work as System Architect at Online Talent Manager had me working closely with research psychologists and test developers and all manner of smart people who work with psychometric instruments on a day-to-day basis. I enjoy talking to new people about personality testing, I know a lot about it and I am an enthusiastic proponent of using these tools to help improve lives in meaningful ways.

But as soon as I hear a new acquaintance say that they use the MBTI, well … a part of me dies, just a little, on the inside.hd-sad-puppy-face-images_small

It’s on par with someone saying that a specific behavior is caused by their astrological sign.

It’s just creepy.

The MBTI is not useful in a business context. At. All.

If a manager comes to you waving his MBTI results from an online survey site and demanding that this be used by everyone in the department, please send him to this page. Here are some of the best, most clearly written articles I have found that thoroughly explain why using the MBTI for hiring, promotion, recruitment or really ANYTHING AT ALL in the workplace is a bad idea.

Professor Adam Grant wrote a lovely piece in 2013 for Psychology Today called, “Goodbye to MBTI, the Fad That Won’t Die: MBTI, I’m breaking up with you. It’s not me. It’s you.” This article does a great job of explaining why the MBTI does not work as well as giving many links to further research on the subject.

Dean Burnett, writing for The Guardian, published “Nothing personal: The questionable Myers-Briggs test” This article gives real world examples of how the MBTI is used and abused in the workplace. Ugh. I get so frustrated when I read some of those personal stories. It’s like seeing stories of people who were treated with blood letting.

For factual, no-nonsense reviews of the MBTI, I would recommend articles from the Straight Dope and Skeptoid. My favorite line from the Straight Dope article: “Does your MBTI type tell your boss what kind of job you’d be best at? I wouldn’t go that far, and any boss who uses it to make such judgements is a fool.” The Skeptoid article really dives into the nuts and bolts of psychometric testing, good stuff!

Now I am going to pivot.

You might already know all of this stuff. You might be asking yourself, “How can I take what I know about the MBTI and apply it to the Competing Values Framework?”

I’m glad you asked that question, because I wrote an article about it a while back and I am going to share it with you here:

The Talent Profile is based on the Octogram test results.

My own results in the Octogram test, just to show you where the traits are in the graphic.

First off, I have to give a caveat. The correlation data I am basing the following article on was gathered from candidates who completed the Octogram (R) and a test we wrote based on the MBTI model. The following information is based on correlations from 1,278 candidate test sessions.

E or I – Extraversion and Introversion

EIAre not exactly the same as that measured by other models like the Big5, hence the strange spelling of ‘extroversion’. The extravert’s flow is directed outward toward people and objects, and the introvert’s is directed inward toward concepts and ideas. When I look at the correlation data between the MBTI model and the Competing Values Framework of the Octogram test, I see the following:

“Introversion” = Analyst, Anchor
“Extraversion” = Pioneer, Networker, and Achiever

S or N – Sensing and Intuition

SNIf you are more tuned in to your intuition and rely on that for decision making purposes, that comes out in the Pioneer and Networker work styles. Both of these are driven by ideas and feelings. Sensing is more about facts and figures and fits in with the Anchor and Analyst roles.

“Intuition” = Pioneer, Networker
“Sensing” = Anchor, Analyst

T or F – Thinking and Feeling

FTThinking and feeling are the decision-making (judging) functions. The thinking and feeling functions are both used to make rational decisions, based on the data received from their information-gathering functions (sensing or intuition). Those who prefer thinking tend to decide things from a more detached standpoint, measuring the decision by what seems reasonable, logical, causal, consistent, and matching a given set of rules. Those who prefer feeling tend to come to decisions by associating or empathizing with the situation, looking at it ‘from the inside’ and weighing the situation to achieve, on balance, the greatest harmony, consensus and fit, considering the needs of the people involved.
This dichotomy has a close relationship with the upper and lower halves of the Octogram. Candidates with the majority of their strong roles in the upper half of the Octogram tend to be more personable and warm. Candidates with the majority of their scores in the lower half are convergent thinkers and do tend to try to take emotion out of decisions.

“Thinking” = Achiever, Strategist, Anchor, Analyst
“Feeling” = Pioneer, Networker, Team Player, Helper

J or P – Judging or Perceiving

JPAccording to Myers, judging types like to “have matters settled” and perceptive types prefer to “keep decisions open”. This lies along the ‘Pioneer-Anchor’ axis of the Octogram. Pioneers want flexibility and freedom, Anchors want things set down correctly and orderly on the page.

“Judging” = Anchor
“Perception” = Pioneer, Networker

What makes the MBTI impractical to use for the workplace is that it is measuring personality at a pretty deep level. It’s difficult to predict how those differences actually play out in real life, day-to-day behavior. This is why I like the Competing Values Framework, it really is measuring one slice of life (work) in a way that is easy to understand, recognize, and apply.

The Talent Profile is available on the website.

Burning Out : The 7 Stagnation Indicators

Burnout syndrome and work-related stress can impair a person’s physical and mental well-being and 27.6 percent of a 2012 study of American workers reported having burnout symptoms. This is a serious problem and the affects of burnout role over from work into personal lives and can cause a cascade of knock-on problems for your employees and their families.

This cheap nba jerseys is a serious problem and the affects of burnout role over from work into personal lives and can cause a cascade of knock-on problems for your employees and their families.

Burnout is usually only recognized after the fact, after work is missed, after the screaming match in the office, after productivity has been in a steady decline for months, if not years. Early diagnosis of Burnout can make the difference and this is the goal of this article.

You should understand that Burnout is the result of an underlying mismatch between the person and the position. An extreme mismatch between the person and the position will require an extreme amount of effort from the employee. This long term erosion of a person’s mental and physical reserves ends in Burnout.

The symptoms listed in this article do not necessarily occur in any particular order. The symptoms are welches highly correlated with each other, if one is present, others are likely to be present as well.

Symptom 1 :  Rigidity

Flexibility is key to a healthy work environment, being able to adapt to changing conditions in the workplace. This means that an employee can solve problems, reach fixed goals, but be fluid in how they reach those goals. When a person becomes too rigid, fixed and unchanging, “There’s only one way to do this!” even in the face of evidence that they are wrong, watch out. That’s a visible symptom of someone who is becoming brittle and breakable.

Symptom 2 : Isolation

Withdrawing from interactions with colleagues, isolating themselves from others. Not listening or talking with others, not communicating, is text a warning sign for burnout. We are social creatures, one of the most severe punishments we can inflict on another person is isolation. When you notice a person stepping away from interactions, cutting off communications, your Burnout radar should start pinging.

Symptom 3 : Cartography

When someone starts carefully drawing lines around their responsibilities and duties. When someone starts mapping out what they will do and what they will not do. When a person loses the will or drive Top or ability to occasionally stretch beyond their borders, beware.

Symptom 4 : Boredom

When a person stops caring, when they are not passionate or even really interested in the job. When they stop coming up with ideas, when enthusiasm dries up, when the thrill is gone, Burnout is on the horizon. People were not meant to spend big swathes of time being bored, it is almost as punishing as isolation.

Symptom 5 : Ich über alles

When the first question is, “How does this affect me?” and not, “How does this affect the organization?”, it is an indicator that someone is disengaging and wholesale jerseys turning into a Burnout risk. A person who puts themselves first, who’s ambitions and values are not aligned with the company’s is generating a lot of turmoil both for themselves and for everyone around them.

Symptom 6 : Weakest link

A person might like their job, their surroundings, the values of the organization, their boss and everything else and just not be able to do the job. Competency at a task makes a person feel confident and valuable, incompetency does just the opposite. Those feelings of insecurity build up and eat away at a person’s core belief in their own value. So 缓存系列3:缓存相关算法 pay attention! Train up employees who are falling behind or help them find positions more suited to their level of skill.

Symptom 7 : Statuary

People need to feel like they are growing, expanding, wholesale jerseys learning and gaining in ability or skill. thinking People are alive and living things grow, there are lots of words to describe non-growing things, and none of them should be applied to a career. When an employee feels like they are standing still, that’s the same feeling as being trapped and watching the walls close in. Keep people engaged by helping them grow into better people,

That’s it, those are the 7 symptoms you need to watch out Grand for in your employees and in yourself. If you see them, you need to be aware that ignoring the problem will not make it go away, will probably make it worse and might very well lead to a Burnout.

That’s bad.

Okay, what can you DO to prevent Burnout?

Step 1 : Knowing is half the battle. Apply the list of symptoms to your employees and to yourself. The solutions are part of the descriptions.

Step 2 : Understand that, at the core, all of these symptoms start from the same place; a mismatch between a person and a position. There are the lots of self-awareness tools on the market and you should try to find the one that fits your needs.

Step 3 : Talk about Burnout. Open up the lines of communication in your workplace. Awareness really IS important (see Step 1 above)


Based on Stagnation research of Ron van de Water, the owner of the Dutch consultancy firm Learnworks B.V.

The Talent Profile is available on the website.

an axe
Why thinking about your career is important

I usually don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my career. It’s something that just sort of happens as we move from job to job over time. It might mean a new company, a move, a new position or new challenges and skills to learn. A career is something that you are just involved in, it happens whether we want it to happen Villa or not. If you are working or being creative or doing anything at all, that’s a career.

The whole concept of a ‘career’ only comes up during year-end reviews or other rare events. But a career isn’t something you are just IN, it is something you cheap jerseys should be working ON.

“Working on how you work”, feels very meta, I know, but let me give you a story that my father shared with me when I was a young man:

Two wholesale jerseys men, Bob and Jack, are wood cutters. In the morning, they head off into the woods and start their work cutting down trees and importa? stacking logs. Bob notices that Jack takes lots of breaks. Every 30 minutes or so, Jack stops chopping wood and sits down to rest for 15 or 20 minutes. Bob is very frustrated by this and thinks that Jack is being lazy.

At the end of the day, they are counting up their results and Bob is astonished to see that Jack has been more productive. Bob cannot understand what has happened, Bob did not take breaks, Bob Staff worked hard straight through the day. How can lazy Jack have been more productive?

On the way home, Bob cannot help himself and confronts Jack. “How did you cut more wood when you took so many breaks and were so lazy?”

Jack replies, “When I sat down, I was sharpening my axe.”

I want you to think of this web site as a place to sharpen your mind and Birthday goals. To think about your career so that you can be cheap jerseys China more productive, more successful and happier in your life.

The first step is always the hardest, so I am working to make it the easiest part of the online career coaching process.

The Talent Profile is available on the website.