040 – I’m a WHAT?!  What’s the point of personality assessments?

040 – I’m a WHAT?! What’s the point of personality assessments?

Many organizations employ personality assessments to help their team members understand their strengths or communication styles. Are these a waste of time? Or do they have value we can leverage as PMs?

Today we are joined by Fai Mo, long time project manager and manager of project managers. Fai will share his experience in leveraging one type of assessment, Strengthfinders, and how he helps his team leverage this tool to improve their management skills.


Fai Mo is an accomplished project management and technology leader with a background in business and technology consulting. Additionally, Fai has led teams and programs in several industries including financial

services, utilities and education. Fai loves to grow and develop project managers using various techniques including the one in today’s podcast. You can find Fai’s professional profile on LinkedIn



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Check out this episode!

Show Notes

Fai Mo’s Background [3:09]

Fai just started working at Carvana, where he is part of the development and engineering team working in project management. His team helps with complex projects and integration points across different teams. Their main focus is to increase the speed of how they deliver software to create impeccable customer experience.

What got Fai into people development [3:49]

Fai has always gravitated towards leadership opportunities. At a very young age, he got himself involved with different clubs, sports, volunteer works and student government. He has always enjoyed being a part of the leadership team, and thought that as a group, people can achieve great things. He also gets a lot of fulfillment in helping people improve their
strengths and act on opportunities.

What Fai is doing when he’s not doing project management stuff [5:35]

Fai loves spending time with his family and friends. He also loves to travel to explore new cultures and try different foods. He is a fan of the University of Arizona Wildcats, and enjoys going to their games and events. Currently, Fai is training for 15k, and might be doing a marathon in two months.

The most valuable lesson Fai learned the hard way [7:14]

Some great advise that Fai got from his mentor was to trust his gut. Through his experiences, he learned that it was important to trust and verify. He admitted to being a very trusting person, and that this guides is how he leads people. Unfortunately, there was a time when he was working as a project manager and a team member committed to having the job done but Fai didn’t verify. During the kick-off meeting, what the team member promised was not delivered, and things fell apart. His gut was already telling him that there was something wrong, but he chose to trust the person instead.

Do personality assessment tools truly help employees identify who they are? [10:20]

Personality assessment tools are great because they can help you identify a little bit of who you are and how you react in certain environments. They can also give you an awareness of how your team mates work best. But the important thing is what you do with this information. Project Management is both an art and a science.

Fai’s personal story with personality assessments [11:58]

One of Fai’s previous managers said told him he couldn’t be a leader because he lacked the skills. He was shocked after hearing this, and thought
that the feedback was short-sighted. This is where he started his journey of self-awareness to understand who he was as an individual, and how his skills and talents could be successful in the right environment. Of the personality assessment tools he tried, he gravitated towards Strengthsfinder or CliftonStrengths.

What is Strengthsfinder? [13:57]

Don Clifton started researching about Strengthsfinder in the 1950s. During this time, there was a lot of studies about negative psychology, but Don gravitated to studying the positive side of things.  Through decades of work, Don and his team developed the field of positive psychology where they focused on what is right with people instead of looking at what is wrong with them.
This is how Strengthsfinder came about. Their work triggered a paradigm shift to discover and utilize talents, rather than spending valuable time focusing and trying to improve weaknesses.
You can compare your strengths to pots of flowers and your energy to cans of water. If you water your strengths, the fruit of that labor will generate much more than if you’ll try to spend time watering your weaknesses.

Don wrote a book about it in 2001 called Now, Discover Your Strengths, where he summarized his research regarding positive psychology and linked it with the assessment that he had created. This gave the opportunity for a lot of people to go online, take this assessment, and understand their strengths and talents. This was improved in 2007 by Gallup Strengthfinder 2.0. It is one of the number 1 best selling business books on Amazon. and a lot of companies have adopted this approach. It has been recently rebranded to Clifton Strengths.

What you’ll get from Strengthfinders [16:27]

Strengthfinders is a 177 question assessment, where you will be given a pair of words, and you choose the one which resonates the most with you. As you go through the questions, they’ll start to formulate patterns, and from your assessment, they’ll rank you in 1 of 34 different themes with one specific result and 5 signature themes. These are the top 5 areas you gravitate to and make the most impact.
After you take the assessment, you’ll get the results with a customized report that describes
your top 5 strengths and how those are generally applied and seen by other people,

What you can do with your top 5 strengths? [19:19]

The answer to this is represented by an acronym —EAT.
E stands for Embracing your talents and what makes you unique. These help you thrive in your life and in everything you do.
A is for Awareness. By reading the results, you become more aware of your strengths, talents, and what makes you different.
T stands for Taking responsibility. Now that you have this information, you need to take ownership of what you’re going to do with it.
Listen to the whole podcast to find out Kim and Kate’s top 5 strengths.

How do you use this strengths in a tactical strategic way to manage your team? [30:20]

You need to understand your team’s strengths and lean on them. You have to allow your team members to shine by using their talents and strengths. This will create a more positive working environment, and drive people to do better work.
Reading How Full is Your Bucket can help you discover how a positive environment impacts your team’s performance.

Key Probing Questions [38:30]

1. Does your organization endorse some type of personality assessment, and if so, how can you participate in it? If there is none, go out there and find a book or resource to have your own personal assessment- Strengthfinders 2.0 is a great place to start.
2. How can you incorporate the results to the culture of your team? If it doesn’t exist in your organization, go find something that resonates with you and incorporate it to your own life.
3. Is there value that I can get from doing the personal assessment on my own? Yes, remember our acronym EAT? You need to embrace your strengths, be aware of them, and, lastly, take responsibility. What you’ll learn from personal assessments is not just applicable at work, but in all facets of your life.

You know you’re in trouble if …

● You are too busy to incorporate personal development into your professional life.
● You have never given a thought on how you manage your team or  cultivate their strengths.
● You think you don’t have any strengths.

Principles for Success

● If the concept of StrenghtFinders or Clifton Strengths resonates with you, then look into it. If your organization does not offer this, then invest in your own personal development, and make sure to apply the results to your own life

Home Forums 040 – I’m a WHAT?! What’s the point of personality assessments?

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    Kim Essendrup

    I'm sorry, you are not authorized to view this page. Why not sign up for a membership so you can get access to this and even more content!

    Sam HollenbeckSam Hollenbeck

    I decided to try CliftonStrengths after listening to this episode. I’m pretty please with the results:


    Now to build on them….

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    Sam HollenbeckSam Hollenbeck

    The reports They give for the $20 price are pretty nice too.

    Aaron WeissnerAaron Weissner

    Several years ago I worked as a PM for a large organization and they would ask us to take personality profile tests probably twice a year.  They never talked about what they did with the results but I would always take them.  I wish I would have saved them because it would have been cool to compare them and see how I changed over the coarse of several years from getting older and more training, etc.

    Kim Essendrup

    HI Aaron,

    Same happened to me, which  was the inspiration behind this episode. I like Fai’s advice on how to get value out of these assessments – ESPECIALLY his recommendation to develop specific goals which take advantage of your strengths.

    Michael MatuteMichael Matute

    Kate I was inspired by your LinkedIn profile where you list out your Gallup Strengths.  I stole the idea and did the same.  It’s also caused me to go back and reread my Strengthsfinder report. For me the personality assessment is a helpful tool for introspection (professional if not also personal). As a PM, I find it helpful to view a personality assessment in contrast to the nature of a project, or to the dynamic of a team.  For example, I understand better that a project’s significance, not it’s budget, is more motivating to me.

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