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Self-Assessment Tools

“Self-Assessment Tools”

What kind of leader are you? Taking a self-assessment test can reveal a lot about how you deal with others, how you make decisions and what your strengths and weaknesses are.


When you report to a boss, you get judged whether you like it or not. From performance reviews to pay raises, you’ll know how you’re perceived.

Entrepreneurs operate solo, however. With no one above them in the corporate hierarchy, self-assessment tools can serve as a starting point to help them learn about themselves. This process identifies strengths and weaknesses, character traits, biases and preferences, and other shadings of personality.

At its best, a self-assessment tool trains you to level with yourself. By conducting an honest self-evaluation, you begin to gain awareness of your innermost drives, desires and belief systems. This awareness can help you manage people more effectively, make wiser decisions and acknowledge areas in which you need to improve.

In this Quick-Read you will find:

  • How self-assessment tools can help you balance your business and personal life.
  • The types of information you can gain from assessment tools.
  • Some examples of self-assessment tools and how they work.


A self-assessment tool can help you identify unknown strengths and weaknesses. This in turn can help you become a better leader of your growing company.

Hiring an executive coach to analyze your leadership skills may help you understand yourself better, but real breakthroughs occur only if you treat your search for self-knowledge as a continual process.

After all, your personality isn’t static. It constantly adapts to changing personal and professional circumstances. In their first few years of running an emerging-growth business, most entrepreneurs discover dimensions of themselves that they didn’t know existed — from long-dormant enthusiasms to new creative outlets.

Self-assessment tools can shed light on your skills, abilities and talents. Better yet, they can help you maintain a sense of balance if the business threatens to overtake your life.

For instance, the head of a fast-growing aviation firm realized through a simple self-assessment test that he was devoting about 80% of his time to his business. That explained his flagging entrepreneurial spirit. As a result of the assessment, he decided to spend “only” 50% of his time on business and split the other half among his family, community involvement and personal growth. Today he’s much happier.

Self-assessment tools usually consist of formal or informal exercises. Management consultants and organizational psychologists market an assortment of such tests (often called “profiles”), including some geared for CEOs.

You can take many tests online and self-score your results, although some instruments must be administered by a certified consultant who also interprets the findings. Self-assessment tools usually focus on one or more of these areas:

  1. Values and beliefs.
  2. Personality traits.
  3. Behavior patterns.
  4. Natural abilities and competencies.
  5. Career interests and personal goals.

Most entrepreneurs use assessment tools to learn how to lead people better. They might also seek to integrate their personal values with their professional success. Beware, though, of using an assessment tool to tell you what to do. It’s not designed to produce a comprehensive action plan or offer prescriptive advice.

Its purpose is to provide clues about you in relation to the above areas. For example, you might find you’re quick to anger when you’re tense or you tend to mistrust people who talk too much.

A typical assessment tool suited for entrepreneurs is the “DISC profile,” an online test that takes about 10 minutes to complete. It produces an extensive report that relates to such areas as making decisions, solving problems and communicating effectively.

Specifically, the test measures to what extent you’re dominant and demanding versus cooperative and collaborative. It also examines whether you’re impulsive or deliberate, and analyzes your influencing skills and your attitudes about compliance.

Because you may put on a behavioral mask at work that’s different from your role at home, the DISC score attempts to identify your true behavioral style. As with Myers-Briggs and other personality tests, you need to hire an executive coach or certified counselor to administer this profile.


After running his software-development business for 11 years, Rob Daley still strives to learn and grow as a leader. Daley, president of Intelligent Banking Solutions in New London, N.H., used the DISC profile as a self-assessment tool.

After taking the short multiple-choice test, he met with his executive coach to review the results. “I got a 24-page self-analysis that was quite enlightening,” he says.

For example, Daley learned how to improve how he communicates with his employees. He now listens more attentively and asks better follow-up questions to confirm understanding.

“It used to be when an employee said, ‘I can create that sales plan by such-and-such a date,’ that lacked credibility to me,” he says. “I preferred employees who gave me more details up front so that I could have confidence in their commitments.”

Daley now realizes he may need to dig for details if an employee proclaims, “Yep, consider it done.” Rather than discount that message, he gathers more information while keeping an open mind.

DO IT [top]

  1. If you take a personality test, give honest answers. Identify what you’re really like, not what you think is the “right” answer or what you hope to be.
  2. Keep a daily log of your actions and behaviors as they relate to your personal growth. Examples include how you spend your time, think through problems, devise strategy and make decisions. Review your log every week. This alone can lead to self-knowledge.
  3. After completing a self-assessment exercise, review the data in a curious, unbiased frame of mind. Don’t rush to judge or label results as “good” or “bad.”
  4. Before hiring an executive coach or consultant to administer a personality profile or diagnostic test, make sure the coach will meet with you to interpret the results. Ask how long you can expect to debrief with the coach and what kind of written report you’ll receive. Ask for samples of other reports to evaluate the depth of the coach’s analysis.
  5. Consider offering a personality-inventory exercise to all employees. Benefits of job-oriented personality profiles include recognition of various personality types and how each should modify behavior to work with each other type most effectively, and an indication of the kinds of work and job assignments that best suit each employee. See the Resources list of the Quick-Read “Revealing the Person Behind the Resume” for sources of good personality- and skill-inventory tools.



Executive EQ: Emotional Intelligence in Leadership and Organizations by Robert K. Cooper and Ayman Sawaf (Grosset/Putnam, 1997). Appendix: “EQ Map Questionnaire: Mapping Your Emotional Intelligence.” After you complete the questionnaire, look for the EQ-Map sidebar boxes in each chapter to find discussion and tips to help you compensate for personality traits that may impede your effectiveness.

The 16 Personality Types: Descriptions for Self-Discovery by Linda V. Berens and Dario Nardi (Telos, 1999). These brief reviews of the Myers-Briggs personality types provide a convenient review for someone who has completed Myers-Briggs Type Inventory analysis.

Internet Sites

What Makes Your Colleagues — and You — Tick?Harvard Management Communication Letter (April 2000). Costs $3.

Leadership Report Using FIRO-B™ and MBTI®” (Consulting Psychologists, 1998). The kind of report to expect after an assessment session.

Personality: Character and Temperament (David M. Kiersey). www.keirsey.com The Keirsey Character Sorter, like the more famous Myers-Briggs test, sorts people into four personality types. The Web site is not leadership/management-oriented, but the profile results will provide a reliability check when compared to other profile results. You can take the 20-minute test for free.

Article Contributors

Writer: Morey Stettner