Episode: The Power of Personality

Larry Wilson: So, my question is…Where did this come from? How did this develop in you? Where did you land on these tools? How did you get here?

Michael Hyatt: My very first executive coach was Daniel Harkavy, who has since become a dear friend and is the coauthor with me of the book Living Forward. Daniel had me take the DISC test as part of my very first coaching session with him. Each one of those letters stands for a personality axis in that system. I found that so helpful that I promptly had all my team take that test, because it was helpful for me for self-awareness, but then I was just naturally curious to find out what everybody else’s profile was so I could better understand them, better serve them, better lead them.

Since that time, I discovered the Myers-Briggs test, and then when I was in the publishing business I published Marcus Buckingham, and he’s the StrengthsFinder guy, and then Sally Hogshead, the Fascination thing she does. There are a gazillion tests out there, but I am always a sucker for a new personality test. There’s some aspect of my personality I want to understand, the missing key. I’ve found that people love these things. People love finding out more about themselves. They try to understand what makes them tick, and these things have the promise of helping you explore that.

Hi, I’m Michael Hyatt.

Megan Hyatt Miller: And I’m Megan Hyatt Miller.

Michael:  And this is Lead to Win, the weekly podcast to help you win at work and succeed at life. In this episode, we’re talking about understanding how your team members think, feel, and work. The idea is pretty simple. If you want to lead people, you have to understand people. Megan, I know you love this topic. Why?

Megan: It’s an area of serious geekery for me. I think sometimes our team is probably secretly rolling their eyes behind the scenes because I talk about it so much. I love it for a couple of reasons. First of all, I think self-awareness is really important but really challenging. These tests, for leaders, help us to understand ourselves and where we’re going to get in our own way and where we have natural opportunity built into our hardwiring. So, from the perspective of self-awareness, they’re really helpful.

Also, as a leader, you can’t just stop with your own self-awareness. You have to be emotionally intelligent in your dealings with other people, particularly those you’re leading. It’s easy to kind of sell people short or put them in a box without a more thorough way of understanding them. These assessments help me, as a leader, and I think you too, Dad, to understand our team, appreciate them, coach them in a more sophisticated, nuanced way, and really bring out the best in their performance and contribution to the company.

Michael: Yep, I agree. I’m eager to dive into this at a little deeper level. We’ve brought back Larry Wilson, our senior writer, to lead us through this conversation because he has done such a great job. So, Larry, take it away.

Larry: Thank you. Personality assessments and the tools we’re going to talk about today, three tools that help you understand your teammates, are a full-blown thing at Michael Hyatt & Company.

Megan: Like, basically a religion.

Larry: Not quite, but it’s close to that.

Michael: Not quite, but one click back.

Megan: Only one.

Larry: We’re going to talk about three of the personality profile tools we use here at Michael Hyatt & Company. Let’s get into the first one, which is the StrengthsFinder profile. Some people may be familiar with this due to the book you mentioned you published, Michael.

Michael: Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham.

Larry: Some people may not know it. What is the StrengthsFinder?

Michael: I should also say there’s a newer version called StrengthsFinder 2.0, which is the book we tend to use. Basically, the tool is designed to find out where you’re strong. The first time I heard this from Marcus I thought, “What?” My experience in the corporate world up until that point was that every employee review, all of our focus on people development was help people overcome their weaknesses.

Help them identify their weaknesses, identify… We used to call these, euphemistically, opportunities for improvement, which meant, “Here’s my criticism of your performance, and I want you to fix this.” What Marcus said is that when people focus on their weaknesses they can only make marginal improvement. When people focus on their strengths they can make major contributions.

Megan: That’s a big paradigm shift.

Michael: That’s a big paradigm shift. What I did is I went from expecting everybody to be well rounded and good at everything to saying, “Forget that. No one, including me, is going to be good at everything. There are only a few things I can be strong at, and that’s where the focus of my effort needs to be.” This helps us before we hire somebody, but it also helps us in developing people: to find out what they naturally are strong at, to focus on that, and give them opportunities to express that strength within the workplace. Then we’re a stronger company.

Megan: It also gives people permission to think of their job as making their greatest contribution in their area of strength within our company. We also see this with our clients. When we’re encouraging people to delegate, for example, this strengths-based mindset is really the foundation for giving yourself permission to delegate, because there’s no point in doing things where you’re not naturally strong if you have the option. It’s going to take far more effort. You’re probably not going to be very good at it. That’s kind of how we operate within our company. We want people focused on making their contribution through their strengths, not through improving their weaknesses.

Larry: So, the StrengthsFinder profile helps you identify your strengths. You guys obviously have taken the profile, so, Michael, what are your strengths?

Michael: Well, first of all, there are 34 strengths you get tested for when you take the StrengthsFinder test, and then they deliver back to you the standard test. The one that comes in the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 gives you your top five strengths. I really recommend, and you can do this on the Gallup site (Gallup owns this test)…

Larry: We’ll put a link in the show notes to that.

Michael: Yes. I would encourage people who can afford it to pop for the full test. I think it’s less than $100.

Megan: I think it’s like $79.

Michael: It gives you all 34 of these, including your bottom five.

Megan: And that’s very illuminating.

Michael: That’s very illuminating. My top five are Achiever (people who know me aren’t surprised by that), Intellection (which means I have the ability to think in mental frameworks and models and trying to reduce things to make them simple to understand), Strategic (how we get from here to there), Futuristic (it’s very easy for me to put myself in the future and envision a different reality), and then (I love this one; this one has saved me numerous times) Relater. I naturally like people and relate to people, and relationships are really important to me.

Larry: Do you happen to recall or do you want to share your bottom five?

Michael: Well, I can tell you my very bottom one, which is Adaptability, which is kind of funny, but it explains a lot. What’s really funny about it is it’s in Gail’s top five strengths. Her top one is Positivity. She’s happy to throw plans out the window and just do something completely different. When I’m on a course, do not try to change my plans. I can become very rigid in that. Part of my spiritual discipline over the last 35 years having a family, particularly five girls, has been to get more flexible and get more adaptable.

Megan: Kids have a way of doing this to you whether you want to or not.

Michael: They do. It’s just not naturally my bent. I know Megan has the same issue. It’s one of her greatest weaknesses too.

Megan: It’s my last one also.

Larry: Let’s start with your strengths, Megan.

Megan: In the spirit of this episode, that’s right. My number-one strength is Futuristic. My dad and I share a lot of these in common. Second for me is Relater, third for me is Strategic, fourth is Activator, which means I like to just take action, take action, take action, and then fifth is Achiever.

Michael: We share four of five.

Megan: That’s right, and probably more than that in our top 10. My bottom ones are… My very last one, #34, is Adaptability; #33 is Includer, which means I’m not always looking for the people on the fringes and trying to pull them in. My mom is really good at that. That’s not me. Harmony, also not something I’m great at. I don’t mind causing conflict to get to a good solution.

Michael: I’ve noticed this about you.

Megan: Right. Context. I don’t need all of the details. Again, I want to activate. Then WOO, somebody who’s just super, super, super charismatic. That’s my #30 strength. So, those are my lower ones.

Larry: Let me ask you a question about using this in a work context. You know your top strengths. You know or have access to everyone’s top strengths. In fact, we put this on the website for the team, so we all know each other’s strengths. Is there a danger of pigeonholing people here?

Megan: I don’t think so with the StrengthsFinder test, in particular, because none of these are necessarily better or worse for anything. It’s just kind of like shades of color. It helps to give dimension to people, but it’s not predictive of their performance, necessarily, or anything like that. It just tells you some things about them that are helpful in terms of where their strengths are.

Michael: I think it’s also helpful when you’re building an organization to make sure you’re including diversity at this level, diversity of strengths. We literally map these in a spreadsheet so we know whether we’re getting too heavy. If you had an organization of all Achievers, you would have an organization that is exhausted, that’s trying to do too much, that just wears everybody out.

Megan: For example, three out of five of our executive team members have Achiever in their top five strengths, but two don’t.

Michael: Right. So we don’t need to be hiring somebody else with that in the top five, or at least we should consider it carefully before we do that. For example, Communication is one of the strengths. Suzie on our team has that as one of her top strengths.

Megan: She’s our director of operations.

Michael: It may be her top one.

Megan: It is her number one.

Larry: Would you define communication in this context? This as a strength may mean something different than what people think.

Megan: She has a unique ability to communicate vision, to align people, to get everybody on the same page, to effectively articulate ideas to others. Part of her role in operations, working for me, is that she’s charged with our communication strategy internally…how that works cross-functionally, how people communicate with one another, what the barriers she needs to overcome are. She naturally is gifted at seeing those kinds of solutions.

Michael: The interesting thing is she started as my executive assistant, and one of the things that was difficult for me in turning over my email inbox was I thought nobody could respond as well as I could respond, that whoever I delegate this to won’t be able to understand the nuances of communication, when to be firm, when to be generous, when to be kind. I took a leap of faith, and then I started reading Suzie’s responses to people, and I said, “Oh my gosh! She’s saying it so much better than I would have said it.”

Megan: She’s super emotionally intelligent. That’s a good example with Suzie of how knowing somebody’s top five strengths enables us to position them to make their greatest contribution to the company and also to have the greatest satisfaction in their role. Suzie loves figuring out communication for Michael Hyatt & Company because she’s so darn good at it naturally.

Michael: In fact, we’re having a team retreat next week, and we’re going to be communicating some things about our vision for this year and what it is we’re out to do this year to our entire team and their spouses, and Suzie is in charge of putting together at least the initial part of that communiqué, the slide deck and everything else we’re going to be using.

Larry: So, as a leader, if you’re going to lead people, you have to understand people. One tool for doing that is the StrengthsFinder profile. A second tool is the Enneagram. What is it?

Michael: Enneagram comes from two Greek words which mean, basically, nine words or nine sayings. There are nine archetypes in this system. Type One is what’s often referred to as the Reformer, sometimes pejoratively referred to as a perfectionist. This is the person who likes to have all things in order and as close to perfect as possible.

Type Two is called the Helper. This is the person who naturally sees what needs to be done, loves to pitch in, loves to help other people, loves to love people. Type Three is the Achiever. That’s what I am, the person who naturally likes to be productive, likes to achieve things, likes to check off lists. Then there’s Four, sometimes called the Individualist or the Romantic or the Artist. Megan, you are a Four, so is there anything you want to say about that?

Megan: I think the Idealist is a good way to think of it too. You’re constantly thinking about what’s missing, the romantic ideal of things, very concerned with aesthetics, beauty, literature, those sorts of things.

Michael: Then Five, which your husband Joel is, the Investigator. These are people who love to learn, love a lot of input, love arranging intellectual ideas, and so forth. Six, the Loyalist, and this is a person who is very loyal, somebody who oftentimes doesn’t want to take a leadership role but has a lot of friends and is there to defend their friends when they get into trouble. Seven is the Enthusiast. I think Gail has finally settled on this as her type. This is somebody who does have a positive outlook on life and who generally loves adventure.

Eight is the Challenger. Martin Luther King Jr. is a good example of that, somebody who stands for justice, wants fairness, and is looking out for the well being of other people. Then Nine is called the Peacemaker. This is the person who doesn’t like conflict, loves to create harmony and organization, and is generally the person everybody else wants to be like because they’re so darn likable.

Larry: I just want to point out for people who are listening to the program, none of these top strengths for the StrengthsFinder, the Enneagram profile… You don’t have these written down in front of you. You just know this.

Michael: We know it.

Megan: We do.

Larry: You know yourselves and each other and people who work in the organization.

Megan: Right. I try to know, at least with pretty good accuracy, what the top five strengths are of each of my direct reports, and really, a lot of other people in the organization I’m working with regularly, as well as their Enneagram type and what that means, and then some other things we’ll get into later. I think that’s really helpful.

Larry: Talk about that. How does it help you in being a leader?

Megan: One of the things leaders know how to do or need to know how to do is speak to specific audiences. I know if I’m talking to Chad, who’s our chief marketing officer, whose number-one strength is competition and is an Eight on the Enneagram, which is the Challenger, that there are ways I need to speak so he’ll hear me about opportunities or things I want him to focus on to really get him engaged that would be different from how I would speak to Justin, who’s our CFO, who’s a Nine on the Enneagram, and I think Harmony is his number-one strength.

He’s really concerned with avoiding conflict, keeping the peace, being a steady hand. He wants everybody to be on the same page. So if I want to motivate him or talk about an issue with him, I’m going to frame that so differently if I’m talking to Justin versus Chad, because they’re so different. If I don’t know that, I’m not going to be very effective as a leader.

Michael: You could say, for example, something to Chad that would crush Justin’s spirit. Conversely, you could say something to Chad in a way that you would speak to Justin that wouldn’t even make him notice. He’d forget about it.

Megan: This is really important to say. There are no right or wrong personalities or strengths or any other profile. They’re all equally valuable. They’re just different. I think being able to adjust your approach as a leader is greatly informed by this information.

Michael: One metaphor that might help here… I see myself as a leader as like a symphony conductor. I want to make sure I know who the violins are, who the saxophone players are, all of those different instruments, because it takes all that to make a beautiful symphony and to create a beautiful concert. My job is to call them up at the appropriate time, whatever fits the situation, but I can’t do that if I don’t know what the strengths are and the color and the tone, and all of that, of those different instruments. I have to be informed as a conductor.

Larry: It’s interesting to hear how you use the Enneagram and other tests. I had a chance to talk with Ian Cron, who’s the author of the book The Road Back to You.

Megan: Our favorite resource on this topic, by the way.

Larry: Yes, fantastic book, and pretty much required reading here at Michael Hyatt & Company, with good reason. I asked him about mistakes people may make in using the kind of information you get from these profiles, especially the Enneagram. Here’s what he said:

Ian Cron: The most common mistake people make when they’re using the Enneagram is to assume that if you know someone’s type you actually know them. That’s not true. No personality assessment can account for the mystery and the depth of a human being. I actually have a list of what I call Enneagram ethics.

First, you never want to weaponize your knowledge of another person’s type to dismiss or ridicule them. You want to create a safe environment where people can be known but where that knowledge isn’t being turned against them. You never want to hear in a team setting things like, “Oh, stop acting like such a Four or Six.” That’s weaponizing information about other people that makes for an unsafe work environment.

Secondly, don’t use your type as an excuse for bad behavior or to justify resistance to growing beyond its limitations. Sometimes you’ll hear someone say something like, “I can’t help being overly blunt. I’m an Eight. Just deal with it.” That’s an unhealthy or unhelpful way to use the Enneagram in a corporate setting or a leadership setting.

Never tell another person what type they are. I would say also never use your knowledge of someone’s type to manipulate or exploit them, which could happen in some settings. So, I think there are mistakes all of us can make when we use personality assessments, and we have to be on guard, as leaders, to make sure the knowledge we’ve gleaned about ourselves and others isn’t misused.

Megan: I love what Ian had to say, because we certainly try to practice those ethics of how we apply personality information within our company. An important distinctive with the Enneagram is this is not a tool we particularly use in hiring. That can be a way you really can pigeonhole people that’s damaging and unhelpful. What we tend to do is use it as a means of personal and professional development after people are on our team as a way of understanding each other, as a way of growing individually, but it’s not something we focus on during the hiring process.

Sometimes people know this is a test we use a lot, so they’ll volunteer that information when they apply for a position. We just take that with a grain of salt, because the truth is any number can be successful in any position. There are not certain numbers that are sort of prequalified for executive roles, for example. There can be great success and diversity within that kind of a position, so we don’t want to let that color our judgment.

Michael: One of the things I want to speak to is the whole idea of empathy. One of the great benefits of the Enneagram, from my perspective, is it helps me understand why people do what they do and creates empathy for them. Rather than dismissing them or ridiculing them, as Ian was talking about, it makes me think, “Oh! They have a different perspective. They have a different way they’re wired, and that’s good, because it expands my perspective.” I think it’s not only for the people development, but I think there’s a net gain for the organization when we all understand those numbers, because we can appreciate. You can’t appreciate what you don’t understand.

Megan: Totally agree.

Larry: To lead people you need to understand people, and one tool for that is the StrengthsFinder profile. A second is the Enneagram, and that’s going to bring us to our third tool, which is the Kolbe A Index. This one is probably the least well known of the ones we’re talking about here today. I had a chance to visit with Amy Bruske, who is the president of Kolbe Corporation, and ask her a little bit about the Kolbe A Index. It really has to do with helping people understand how they work and how to get things done. Let’s listen to part of what she had to say.

Amy Bruske: The reason really smart people and very capable people don’t get much done is that there’s so much more to productivity than just your ability to do something. It’s not all about how smart you are. There are really three different dimensions to people being productive. There’s what you are capable of, which falls under this thinking part of the mind. What are your skills and your knowledge and your intelligence? What can you do?

The next dimension of the mind is all about what you want to do. It’s this personality side of you or the feeling part that’s about what you value, what you care about, and what you are motivated to do. This third dimension is about doing. It is really how you most naturally get things done. We find that where all three of these play together, that’s where someone has a sweet spot and is most productive.

Just being capable, if you don’t really care about what it is and you’re not motivated, it’s not going to happen. The same is true if your “doing” part of you has a specific move to do things in a certain way and you’re not able to operate that way. We find, long term, you’re going to be stressed out, you’re going to burn out in your role, so there has to be a fit there too.

Larry: We’ve talked a little bit about the head part (what you’re good at) and the heart part (who you are as a person). The Kolbe A Index is really about the hands, how you actually do things. So, tell us a little bit more about this index and how it works.

Megan: The Kolbe Index measures how you initiate work. So, if you think about getting started on a project, how are you going to get started? You may not have ever thought about that before, because it’s so innate that whatever way you initiate seems universal, but it’s not. There are actually four different indices that someone can initiate work.

First is Fact Finder. That’s the person who is going to initiate work by researching. Then there’s Follow Thru, which is someone who’s going to initiate work by planning. Then there’s Quick Start, which is someone who’s going to initiate work by taking action and figuring that out along the way. Finally, there’s Implementor, which is all about physically touching something and initiating work through an orientation through your physical senses.

Larry: Tell me a little bit about how this helps you to lead people.

Michael: I think different roles require different ways of initiating work. For example, I’m a Quick Start. My Kolbe profile is such that Quick Start is my highest or, as Kolbe calls it, the longest number. I’m an 8 in that, which means I like risk and I like getting started. I like to say my motto is “Ready, fire, aim.” So, do something. Get the car in motion, and then we’ll steer it and figure out where we’re going to go.

What I need is not more Quick Starts around me. Particularly people like my executive assistant Jim is not long on Quick Start. He’s long on Follow Thru. He’s able to take what I delegate to him and make sure it actually gets done. I don’t have a lot of energy around staying with a project to completion. I’m great at starting. I’m not great at finishing, but if I build my organization in a way that I have people around me who are good at finishing, then projects get done.

This is where you have to be intelligent in using Kolbe in building your organization and bringing the right people in. One of the things we’ve discovered is that it’s a great predictor of whether or not somebody is going to be successful in a role. In fact, I’m going to ask you, Megan, to explain the Kolbe RightFit program, because you’re right in the middle of this right now with a couple of candidates.

Megan: I love this profile so much. In fact, this is the only assessment I know of that has some kind of a predictive algorithm attached to it. Essentially, as a hiring manager, you would take a test on yourself so you know what your score is and how you like to initiate work. Then you would fill out one based on the job description of a position you want to hire, so, what you think a new position is going to require. This is all done through multiple-choice assessment. It’s not descriptive. It’s scoring itself automatically.

Then the candidates you’re considering will also take an assessment on themselves. Then what happens is all of those three assessments get sent to Kolbe, and they run it through an algorithm that they call a RightFit. There is an ideal range of success, they call it, for a position that’s based on the Kolbe profile of the hiring manager and the profile of the position they’ve done. So you automatically know what you’re looking for in someone.

Then when you get candidates who apply… We usually do this in the middle of our hiring process. We’ve gone from the initial screening interview to where we’re ready to meet this person. We want to know before we meet someone in person if they are a potential RightFit. So we send their results to Kolbe, which, again, through the algorithm will tell you whether or not they’re a RightFit or, what they call, within that range of success. They give them a letter grade. Generally speaking, we don’t interview anyone past that initial stage of hiring who is not at least an A. You can be an A-, an A, an A+.

The reason for that is we want people for roles who are naturally hardwired to have the energy they need to succeed in those roles. I think your example of Jim, your executive assistant… My executive assistant Jamie is very similar to Jim in this way. They both initiate action through Follow Thru. They’re good at details and planning and being thorough. You and I are not good at that. That’s not where we have natural energy. We can do it, but it’s exhausting. So when you match someone who has natural energy for a role with a position, you have someone who is, from the get-go, hardwired to succeed, and that’s a win for you and them.

Michael: Have you ever hired somebody contrary to the RightFit recommendation, and what have the results been? I kind of know the answer to this.

Megan: Yes, I have, a few times. One spectacular case when I absolutely went in the opposite direction of the Kolbe because I thought I was smarter. I thought my own algorithm in my head knew what this position needed, even though it was contrary to that ideal range of success, and it was a disaster. It was unfortunate, because not only was the person we put in the position unable to succeed, but it was really a setup to fail from the beginning.

He was just not naturally equipped to do the kind of work we needed in that role, which involved taking a lot of risk, kind of forging ahead, pioneering into uncharted territory. He was a person who really liked to have a plan and have it really well thought out, and that was just not going to happen in that role, so it was a setup to fail from the beginning.

Michael: A book on this, Larry, that I want to recommend… Kathy Kolbe, who invented this assessment, has a book called Striving Zones. In that book she explains what all this means. That’s a great resource. An interesting fact, too, is her father, I believe, developed the Wonderlic assessment, which is the one that measures intelligence, an IQ test, so she comes from a lineage there. Self-assessments are kind of in her DNA.

Larry: What was the subtitle to that book, Michael? Do you remember it?

Michael: Yeah, the subtitle to Striving Zones is How People Act When Free to Be Themselves.

Larry: And the title of Ian Cron’s book about the Enneagram is The Road Back to You. So much what we talked about here today is about helping people thrive in the ways that they are naturally gifted and equipped and not putting square pegs into round holes and expecting a good result from that.

Michael: I believe (this is a fundamental presupposition for me) that God has designed everybody in a unique way. Everybody has certain strengths, certain talents, certain natural instincts that if we can sort of unpack and begin to understand that design, we have a much higher probability of putting them in a place where they can win, both for themselves and for the organization. A large part of my role, as a leader, is to deploy these people who, frankly, I believe God has given to us and I have to be a steward of…to deploy them in a way that lets them shine and lets them be really fulfilled and lets them have the greatest chance of succeeding.

Larry: As a team member, I can tell you it’s a great thing to get paid for what you want to do anyway.

Megan: That’s what we hope.

Larry: Well, today we’ve learned that if you want to lead people you need to understand people, and there are three simple personality assessments you can use to understand how your team thinks and feels and initiates work. They are the StrengthsFinder, the Enneagram, and the Kolbe A Index. Any final thoughts today, guys?

Megan: As a leader, if you’re looking to take your self-awareness and your emotional intelligence to the next level, that can often be daunting, because it’s sort of like what do you do to grow in those areas. Doing these assessments first on yourself and then on your team and exploring how you can apply them with nuance and care and sophistication is a great practical way to grow in these areas.

Michael: The only thing I would say is that as enthusiastic as I am about these… People who are prone to action who are listening to this may want to roll out all three in their organization. I think that’s a quick way to get bogged down and create a lot of confusion, so I would do these one at a time. When we’ve done it, we’ve associated them with team training so our team understands what they are.

We brought in the head of Kolbe, for example. We’ve brought in Ian Cron, but not at the same time. These were like a quarter apart. So I would get some facility with the particular one you’re going to start with, and I would learn that and then bring in another one. If I were going to start anywhere, I’d probably start with Kolbe. Megan, you may disagree with this.

Megan: I agree with you. That’s the most practical.

Michael: I’d start with Kolbe, and then probably I’d go to StrengthsFinder and then to Enneagram. Enneagram is going to be the most in depth. By the way, you can read all of these for yourself at the same time, but I just wouldn’t deploy them in your organization all at the same time.

Megan: That’s a good word.

Larry: Very good thoughts. Thank you, Michael. Thank you, Megan.

Megan: Thank you.

Michael: Thank you, Larry. And thank you guys for joining us on Lead to Win. Join us next week when we’re going to talk about every leader’s least favorite subject, which is how to fire underperforming team members. Until then, lead to win.



Megan: If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, you can get the show notes, including a link to the Michael Hyatt magazine and a full transcript, at

Michael: Thanks again for joining us on Lead to Win. Also, please tell your friends and colleagues about it and subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or wherever you listen. We invite you to join us next week… Until then, lead to win.