Julie Mitchell's CoachNotes



Personality tests at work: Beware of dumb decisions!

Want to avoid dumb hiring decisions? Slow down and learn to read personality test signs.

Want to avoid dumb hiring decisions? Slow down. Read personality tests carefully.

A front-page Wall Street Journal article on workplace personality testing inspired today’s post. I’ve been fascinated by this topic since my first MBTI assessment, in the early 1980s.

As a big fan of learning and growth through self-awareness, I love tools designed to reveal strengths and talents! I’m also a skeptic, wary of how people jump to conclusions about test results. Today’s WSJ article addresses problems with assessments used for hiring.

In service of better hiring decisions (and an excuse for using my photo, because I found the “dumb dogs” sign irresistible), I’ll share random thoughts on intelligent and dumb usage of personality tests. Continue reading


Creating leaders? Use a flexible, diverse toolkit!

“If the only tool you have is a hammer…” (Quote by Abraham Maslow, photo by M. Rosamond)

Imagine this: You plan to remodel your office, update your home, or need an emergency roof repair.

Would you hire a contractor who only had a hammer? What if he had invented a super hammer, suitable for all shingles? What if she is the best-selling Book of Hammers author with a PhD in Malletology who promises never-seen-before nail-pounding productivity?

Any takers?

I’m being silly to make a point: Sometimes, a hammer hits the nail on the head, but other situations call for specialty tools. Master builders rely on more than a hammer to tackle complicated projects.

Why shouldn’t it be the same for consultants, coaches, human resources professionals and others claiming mastery in leadership development or talent management?

Often, organizations pound away at every “growth opportunity” with the same blunt instrument. They may be attached to a “proprietary, transformational” tool in which they have invested big bucks. Or they’ve contracted with one executive coach for years, without offering choices to leaders who may have different learning styles.

Equally often, service providers (consultants, coaches, training or talent development firms) rely too heavily on the model they learned or invented. If they are certified in a method, or licensed to sell an assessment, they may not be open to different or complementary approaches.

I’ve had significant experience with widely used psychometric profiles, assessments, models, certification programs, leadership theories, and the like. Some are very helpful in specific situations. Others are outdated, poorly designed, or reflect their authors’ lack of real-world understanding.

When asked about my model or process, here’s my reply: I use more than one! I have favorites, and like an accomplished woodworker, I know which chisel is most likely to carve out the desired result. Yet I’m always curious about gizmos and gadgets that might make me better at my craft.

It’s my business to learn about promising new tools, and it’s my responsibility to use discernment about the “latest and greatest” trends (they may over-promise and under-deliver). Also, it’s important to recognize when dull, rusty implements must be sharpened, replaced, or supplemented.

I advocate exploring options and making a wise choice for best fit. The process begins with common sense questions, e.g., what might work best for this person, in this circumstance, in this organization?

Our rapidly changing global business environment requires a sophisticated understanding of learning modalities or leadership skills development methods. Savvy professionals know a particular approach may help some of the people, some of the time, yet is unlikely to work for all. Doesn’t it make sense to offer several excellent resources rather than limiting and narrowing the growth path?

Abraham Maslow had it right: human beings are complex, evolving individuals who can’t be “fixed” with one tool. We are more likely to reach our potential with a complete toolkit. To build something great, put down your favorite hammer and learn how to use a wrench, drill, or saw!


“Walk-and-talk” meetings grow in popularity

Beach walkers meeting in southwest FL.

A friend sent me this link from the Globe and Mail. It’s worth a read.

I loved learning about how fit workplaces are being promoted in Canada, and it’s the first time I’ve seen the job title “chief exercise officer.”

It’s gratifying to witness a growing movement for more movement at work. When I started Coachwalks℠ in 2002, very few people embraced the idea, and some told me I was crazy. Fortunately, I had open-minded clients willing to take a chance on walking with me. We’re still walking!

A growing body of research confirms what inspired me to offer the walking option to leaders I coach: walking meetings boost creative thinking, teamwork, efficiency and health. The Globe and Mail article reports on how walking improves “executive control,” too, including working memory and planning/organizational ability. Great news for those of us who feel organizationally challenged. 😉

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How HR professionals can survive in a changing workplace

This post by Theresa M. Welbourne, Ph.D highlights what HR professionals should do to survive and thrive. I’ve observed how rarely HR people are viewed as respected leaders at work, despite good credentials, intentions and ideas. Welbourne advocates being a flexible, prepared problem-solver. I particularly like her suggestion that HR people find mentors outside of HR to help them navigate the workplace jungle.

Seat at the Table? Now it’s “Laws of the Jungle,” and 7 Tips for HR to Survive.

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Positivity at work: know your strengths

It’s natural for some people to focus on their weaknesses. For instance, I’m  thinking about my procrastination, and how I fell short of my goal to keep this blog up-to-date. Performance appraisals, a culture of continuous self-improvement, or a tendency toward perfectionism may reinforce the yearning to be better at our jobs, relationships, and life. I would not be in business without clients who want to be better communicators, and many people are motivated by their faults. However, I coach people through identifying what they do well, first.

It’s important to know and use your talents. I force – or gently persuade – new clients to tell me about successes, wins, accomplishments, or a time when they felt good about work. I see a lot of squirming and hesitancy. People don’t want to brag, or they’ve never given it much thought. If you’re unaware of your strengths, it may be helpful to answer one or more of these questions: Continue reading