Portrait of happy young Indian business womanEvery individual develops his own personality over the course of his lifetime. Some develop more fully than others and some are more conscious of their development, while others remain less aware. We judge others on the basis of their conduct too, making conclusions about certain personality characteristics they may possess. This simplifies our day-to-day life and helps us order individuals more quickly. Personality models attempt to structure individual personalities, representing them by means of a model. Use of such models most frequently involves examining characteristics, behavior or even physical features and ascribing them to different categories.

Personality models are an invitation for people to find new perspectives on themselves, to discover and think more about their own personality, as well as to increase their abilities in metacognition and reflection and to obtain feedback on themselves. Such models help us learn to use our skills and competences as resources in individual development. Experience has shown that when a person’s strengths are not aligned to the demands of a specific situation, that person will begin to falter, frictional losses arise and resources are wasted. The better people know themselves and others, and are aware of personal strengths and weaknesses, the better they can bring about optimal development in themselves and others.

Personality models: a centuries-old discovery

Systematic representation of different individuals’ personalities is not a modern discovery, but one popular ages ago. Theophrast von Hohenheim, otherwise known as Paracelsus, was one of the first who attempted classification by typology. However, the true father of the personality models as we know them today was none other than Hippocrates. He described in his theories of temperament the relationship between bodily fluids and temperament, thus laying the foundation for typologies which combine physiological and psychological characteristics. Another well-known method was popularized by Tübing psychiatrist Ernst Kretschmer (1888-1964). He developed a theory of constitution that combined personality and body type.

There is a broad range of personality tests available today based on many different models and used in different areas: personality development, recruiting and even sales training. Most models focus on knowing oneself better, enhancing self-perception and improving one’s knowledge of others. To what end? For instance, as a salesperson, to enable you to better address customers’ needs. Or as a manager, to lead staff as effectively as possible and based on employees’ personality type. What information is important to your counterpart? If you sell cars, you might be boring your customer with numbers, dates and facts when all he really wants is your assurance that the new car model you are offering is in line with current trends. As a manager, your employee may need a lot more detailed information to perform a task, whereas you just wish to provide the absolute minimum to enable him to remain in control. Some personality models are simple to understand, easy to use and applicable to everyday life. They are not aimed at putting people into categories or pigeon-holes, since each person is a distinct individual. However such models do serve as a kind of orientation which can simplify cooperation and communication. Using such a model can, to a certain extent, enable you to more easily address your conversational partner.

Personality tests are generally divided into two distinct types: objective and projective. The objective or psychometric type test is conducted and assessed according to fixed rules, with results compared to a representative sample. Such tests normally include a catalogue of questions which the test-taker must answer by checking the box next to his desired answer or the box corresponding to what most frequently or least frequently applies in his case.

In projective tests, the test-taker is presented with what are called “stimuli”, such as abstract images, drawings or photos that are so ambiguous they allow completely different interpretations. In interpreting or responding to these stimuli, the test-taker reveals himself, his inner feelings, prior experiences and/or similar aspects of his personal development. With such tests, the tester then interprets and analyzes the subject’s responses and associations. Thus the test results may also be affected by the person conducting the test, since total objectivity can, of course, not be ensured in the evaluation procedure. The most popular test of this type is the Rorschach test. Projective assessment is scarcely used in human resources in Germany.

The persolog® Personality Factor Model approach

Today the persolog® Personality Factor Model is considered as a situational theoretical approach. This approach is distinguished from the trait/dispositional theory approach in that persolog’s objective is not to identify and describe distinct personality traits but to describe behaviour in certain situations.

Personality models should not be considered dogmatic. They should not be used to stereotype people but as models. And models never reflect all aspects of reality; they systemically depict differences and commonalities instead. Models should be practical, easy to understand, communicable and respectfully treat the subject under examination – the individual.

Three requirements for successfully implementing personality models in personality development

How can we utilize personality models to our advantage? A few basic requirements must first be met:

Be prepared for change
If the same types of behaviour involving the same actions were always repeatedly shown this would also yield the same results over and over. Creative processes, innovation and growth would not be possible. Consequently, there is no progress without change. This means leaving one’s own comfort zone if possible and stepping out into unknown and challenging territory.

Have the desire to perceive skills
Building up skills and the respective knowledge base can sometimes be a stressful experience. Being unprepared throughout one’s life while capable of further development at the same time also creates pressure. Skills and competences are assessed and serve as the relevant basis for further steps in continued professional life and pursuit of a career. Skills are resources that help people master their day-to-day work. Personality models are an invitation to self-development and fulfilment.

The will to participate
It’s possible that people might not enjoy the consequences of change. The path may not be an easy one. Success may take more time than one had hoped. Without people really wanting change, the game is often “over” in these aspects. Even if a personality model is utilized, people have to want change themselves. Personality models can only serve as an aid to people confiding in, experimenting with and rediscovering themselves. The decision to participate lies with each individual.