Self Assessments & Behavioral Inventories Can Limit Potential Achievement & Growth

by Doris Helge, Ph.D. (c) 2011


Self assessments and personality indicators like Myers-Briggs and the DISC behavioral model assessment can be helpful tools for personal and professional growth. Psychometric inventories and assessments can also create limited thinking about our potential growth, achievement, flexibility and success. Self-discovery with a certified coach is a proven way to leap out of the self-assessment limitation box.

Integrating coaching with assessment tools is a win-win strategy. Employers and individuals such as entrepreneurs and employees can use assessments in the most advantageous ways without being trapped by their inherent limitations. See the related article, “Proof: Coaching is an Excellent Investment . . . Discover the return on investment (ROI) of coaching” on this web site. You’ll see statistics about the proven results of working with a certified coach. You’ll discover internal as well as external resources to propel your success.


How many times have you heard someone say something like, “According to the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator, I’m an introvert (or extrovert) so I can’t _____”? When you hear that, it’s almost like the person is saying, “Do not expect me to be flexible, change, learn or grow. Act like I just arrived in a rigid box with a label like, ‘Authoritarian extrovert. Do not attempt to manipulate the contents of this box’.”

A client once said to me, “Pat’s a brute. Pat just can’t change. According to the DISC behavioral model assessment, this person will always be aggressive and demanding.” This is a serious misinterpretation of how personality indicators and behavioral model assessments were designed to be used. A tendency is not the total person. Neither is a behavioral preference. Plus, we all change, depending on circumstances, self-awareness, intentions and other factors, including whether or not we hire a coach.

Another client recently sent me four digital printouts of assessments about himself. The client’s request was disturbing. “Please review these before our coaching session. I want to plan a new life. I’m trying to interpret all of these assessment models about my personality and strengths. The harder I try, the more lost I feel. Help me out. I really want to know who I am. I need to know what I can achieve.”

Even though the instruments were reputable and had been conducted by professional service providers, the results were peppered with contradictions. The client had been labeled as power-oriented, compassionate, authoritarian, excellent in relating to others, introverted, extroverted, conscientious, patient, impatient, lacking follow-through and unmotivated.

With so many conflicting conclusions, you can see why he began his coaching session with a moan, “How can I be labeled authoritarian and power-oriented and also excellent in relating to other people? My brain is on tilt and my gut is a mess.”

You can imagine his relief when I said, “These assessments can provide value but they’re kind of like an MRI scan. They produce a snapshot in time. Who do you want to be?”

We then spent his valuable time clarifying his values, life purpose, vision and goals. Our rationale? We used coaching self-assessment tools as jumping-off points for developing passionate motivation. We emphasized his strengths, discovered hidden abilities and planned to compensate for his weaknesses.

After prioritizing his top five values, his vision became crystal clear. We developed a step-by-step plan he was excited about following because the course he set for himself was aligned with his core beliefs, competencies, values and vision. He became one of my most successful clients.


Our left brains are hard-wired to analyze people and situations as rapidly as possible. Our brains are set up to categorize as much data as possible to save precious energy. In order to manage the billions of new sensory data per minute competing for their attention, our brains quickly link a person, situation or characteristic with a previously stored association in our neural associative network.

This is why most of us are sometimes unconsciously lazy. We label people instead of being curious about who they are. We forget to ask questions like, “I wonder what they are capable of achieving?” and “What is this person teaching me about myself and life?” Too often, the labels that result from a personality inventory or behavioral assessment are confused with the person who is being assessed.

According to quantum mechanics, what exists changes according to the eye and expectations of an observer. The very presence of an observer produces an impact. This is often true regarding the person who confides, “The XYZ test says I’m _____.” His listeners expect him to act like ____. Voila! A self-fulfilling prophesy emerges.

Evidence to support this claim emerged long before the field of quantum mechanics became well-known. In the Rosenthal-Jacobson study leading to “the Pygmalion effect,” elementary school teachers were told which children were brighter than their peers. The teachers then unconsciously behaved in ways that facilitated and encouraged their students’ success.

We know that, within reason, people whom we expect to achieve more highly do surpass their peers. When our expectations for someone’s achievements are low, they internalize our poor expectations or our negative label. When we believe someone will excel and we wholeheartedly support them, because “reality” is so heavily influenced by the external world, the person almost always succeeds.

You can easily see how this process can block our personal and professional development. Instead of delighting in an exploratory conversation in which we’re curious to discover the inner workings of another person, we can limit ourselves and others by labeling people as an object with a fixed personality or rigid characteristics.


Almost everyone you know is capable of endless change and development. Why are so many people stuck in a rut, facing the same challenge over and over? Most people have been told that their personality and I.Q. are formed by age five. They perceive many of their abilities and weaknesses as set in a concrete block. All of us can shift our identity with conscious choice.

When you hear self-assessment labels, listen with respect. Gain any value available. Then remind yourself and the other person that all of us exist in a field of infinite possibilities. You can ask yourself and the other person simple questions like, “I see who the assessment says you are. Since this was a snapshot in time, who do you want to be now?” and “How do you want to grow beyond your existing identity?”


Coaching is a powerful, proven tool of helping people discover their hidden strengths, productively dream about their best possible future and then create what they want. Certified coaches elevate your problem-solving abilities. We use powerful, provocative questions to help you quickly and easily modify unpleasant situations. You discover how to transform painful events into empowering learning opportunities. You no longer feel like a victim of any circumstance because you discover how to use every situation in your life as a tool.

Coaches observe and honor your highest potential. We shine a spotlight on your greatness so you can shimmer brilliantly in a world that longs for your inner light.

You can read statistics about the value of coaching in a related article, “Proof: Coaching is an Excellent Investment . . . Discover the return on investment (ROI) of coaching.”

Enjoy self-discovery with a certified coach instead of passively accepting the results of an assessment or inventory. We’re trained to use a wide variety of techniques and tools to help you reach your full potential. Because we’re not limited by personality indicators, behavioral models or psychometric inventories, you’re never tempted to limit yourself by a label.

Your coach will also help you discover that many of your most powerful resources reside inside of you. This includes your amazing brain, body, mind, intuition and spirit. You’ll enjoy using every tool internally available to you, whether it’s a self-assessment or the crystal ball that emerges when you follow your intuition and attune with your inner wisdom. Take advantage of the proven magic of coaching!

© 2010. Are you ready to create a new life story? Download your free ebooks and MP3s at Sign up for your complimentary “Personal Breakthrough Consultation” with certified coach and bestselling author, Doris Helge, Ph.D. at

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