People are obsessed with personality profiles and behavioral assessments. 

Sit in enough coffee shops or scroll through enough social media posts and you’ll find people explaining behavior they’ve seen with comments like “It’s because she’s a 7”, “Well that’s a High D for you”, or “I’ll bet he’s an INTJ”.

We humans are odd creatures. We often hate to be “put in a box” and labeled, but we love to label others and put them into different boxes to understand them.

Why do we do this?

It’s how our brains are designed to work. We automatically and subconsciously (sometimes consciously) categorize everything we see to make sense of the world.

Assigning labels to what we see helps us understand it and create associations to other things we understand. We generally do this to predict outcomes. If we find ourselves in an environment we don’t understand, we operate under increased levels of stress and fear (whether we identify it as fear or not).

Take a minute to think about a new employee. They’re often in this state, paired with excitement and a desire to prove their value to you. If you understand this about them, you can help put them at ease and avoid exacerbating their stress by overreacting to mistakes made out of fear and rigidity.

It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen in an agency, so understanding what’s expected of them and what they can expect can make the difference between succumbing to the stress and burning out or thriving in the high-energy environment.

People are often the hardest element to understand and predict, and agencies are full of people helping other people. With so many relationships of varying degrees of complexity, it’s no wonder that marketing agencies are so chaotic.

I imagine the reason these assessments are so popular is because they give us a sense of security.

If we can understand people, we have a much deeper level of certainty about what to expect and how to behave. Behavioral profiles give us guidelines for how people should behave and how we can interact with them. This, in turn, gives us confidence when communicating and working with people we otherwise would not have understood.

When I worked with OMG Commerce, they brought in a specialist to administer behavioral assessments. 

We all had a lot of fun going through the assessments and comparing profiles, but the effort had a much more practical benefit.

I, for example, was serving as an account manager at the time, but my behavioral style was not well suited for the work at all. 

If my behavioral profile was at the center of who I was, I was operating about 5 feet away from my center. That was uncomfortable and stressful for me. I was constantly second-guessing my work and falling behind on my to-do list. I was great with clients, but struggled with juggling the tasks I needed to do for the whole client load.

They found, however, that I was very well suited for a role in sales and strategy.

They set up a meeting to discuss their findings with me and offered to transition me to a new role. I accepted and crushed it in the new role. I was happier, less stressed, more productive, and still able to handle a few key client relationships alongside the sales work.

Beyond increasing productivity and morale, understanding behavioral styles helped me when communicating with clients. I had some that were very sharp in their emails and on calls and I took it personally until I understood that they were just focused on getting results and completing tasks. I then cut my emails and calls down to the core facts and the client was happier (because I wasn’t wasting so much of his time with my wordiness).

I was happier and did better work, clients were happier, everybody won.

The agency was also able to create target profiles for every role in the agency so that when they hired new team members they could use the assessment to filter applicants, which saved time and prevented them from wasting time and money hiring people who were not a good fit for the role.

The benefits go on and on.

Behavioral Styles are not perfect, but they do give us a foundational model from which to predict how someone will behave. They help us understand our own behaviors, to be more mindful of them, and to correct them if needed. 

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re a useful tool when working with people.

And there are few environments that have you working with people quite like a marketing agency.