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Training Tip

Using Assessments by Cathy Bolger

In order to help my trainees better understand themselves and others, I am always looking for inexpensive style assessments that can be self-scored. In this article, I will review three style assessments that I have used in various training classes. First I will discuss the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Inventory, then the Personal Style Inventory (PSI) and finally the Team Effectiveness Profile (TEP).

When administering a style assessment, a trainer should emphasize the following:

  • There is generally no best style.
  • Generally, we all use or have a bit of all four or five styles.
  • There is no attempt to pigeonhole anyone, but only to understand self and others better in order to improve communication and teamwork.
Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument

The Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument is a self-scoring instrument that takes no more than 20 minutes to administer. Participants answer 30 forced-choice questions. They then add columns and determine which of five conflict styles (or strategies as I prefer to call them) that they use most and least. The five styles are accommodate, compete, avoid, compromise and collaborate.

One thing I especially like about this instrument is the information in the assessment booklet. Participants can read the appropriate uses for each style. They can also read about what might happen if any style is over- or underused. In addition, there is a video narrated by Dr. Thomas that goes along nicely with use of the instrument. The video shows vignettes of different styles being used effectively and ineffectively.

I sometimes find that participants have trouble with the forced- choice questions. They say that neither choice sounds right. I just tell them to move through the assessment quickly and remind them to choose the one that is most like them.

When I am debriefing the Thomas Kilmann, I often use slightly different terminology. For instance, instead of "avoid," I often use "postpone," and instead of "compete," I use the word "enforce." To me, these terms, postpone and enforce, represent strategies that if used at the right time, can be very effective when dealing with conflict. I have written an article on conflict resolution strategies which is posted under articles on this web site.

The Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument can be purchased from Consulting Psychologists Press or by calling 800-624-1765.

The Personal Style Inventory (PSI)

Many trainers and coaches are fond of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Indeed, it is a favorite among management development specialists. I like the MBTI Step II Expanded version which includes five subscales under each set of polarities (Extroversion/Introversion, Sensing/Intuitive, Thinker/Feeler and Judging/Perceiving). I prefer to use the Step II when I am doing one-on-one coaching.

However for class situations such as communication or teambuilding, I often use the Personal Style Inventory. It is shorter than the MBTI and will reveal a four-letter temperament type similar to the MBTI.

Participants respond to 32 questions. After doing some addition, they determine their four-letter temperament type (ISTJ, ENFP etc.) It is quick and self-scoring. It comes in a booklet that explains each of the 16 types. The assessment booklet includes information on strengths and what happens if the strength is carried to excess.

The PSI can be obtained from HRDQ by calling 800-633-4533.

Team Effectiveness Profile (TEP)

One of my favorite instruments for assessment of team effectiveness is the Team Effectiveness Profile (TEP). It is a self-scoring instrument. Participants take the instrument and after some addition, determine team effectiveness in five categories: Vision, Mission, Planning, Roles, Procedures, Interpersonal relationships and Intercrop Relationships. After scoring and discussing TEP results, team members can then set goals to improve on low areas.

I especially like to give teams this instrument plus an interpersonal style assessment such as the PSI before doing an outdoor experiential teambuilding session them. It gives me as the outdoor facilitator, as well as the team, a focus during the debrief after each outdoor activity. For instance, during the maze activity, there is often a lack of clarity of roles, which is one of the categories on the TEP. This gets in the way of the team effectively accomplishing the task of completing the maze. I can relate this information to the score on the TEP and to ask how this lack of role clarity impacts their teams when they are working.

The TEP can be ordered from HRDQ by calling 800-633-4533.

Cathy Bolger, PhD, is a San Diego-based consultant specializing in, Presentation, Meeting/Facilitation, Team Building and Instructor Skills.

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