Episode Notes

In this episode of the Lawyerist Podcast our Product Director, Ashley Steckler, talks with Stephanie about how to best use personality assessments with your team. With Ashley’s background in behavioral science, she debunks a few myths and gives guidance on how to navigate assessment results for yourself and your team.

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  • 5:28. Why we use assessments
  • 7:22. The goals of different assessments
  • 12:29. Account for biases
  • 17:53. Evaluating assessment results


Announcer (00:00):

Welcome to the Lawyerist podcast, a series of discussions with entrepreneurs and innovators about building a successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. Lawyerist supports attorneys, building client-centered and future oriented law firms through community content and coaching both online and through the Lawyerist lab. And now here are the co-authors of the Small Firm Roadmap and your podcast host.

Zack Glaser (00:36):

Hi, I’m Zack Glaser.

Stephanie Everett (00:37):

And I’m Stephanie Everett. And this is episode 370 of the Lawyerist podcast. Part of the legal talk network. Today, I’m talking with our product director, Ashley stickler on how to use personality assessments with your team.

Zack Glaser (00:50):

Today’s podcast is brought to you by post and posh virtual receptionist. We wouldn’t be able to do this show without their support. So stay tuned and we’ll tell you more about them later on.

Stephanie Everett (00:59):

So Zack, we have found out recent that we’ve gotten some new listeners to the podcast, which we always appreciate hearing when people reach out and tell us that they’ve discovered the show and are enjoying it. And one of our newest listeners is your mom.

Zack Glaser (01:16):

She is, yeah. She holds the record. My mother who is an attorney, holds the record for most episodes listened to, by somebody in my family. I am married to an attorney and my father is an attorney. So they’re a very supportive bunch.

Stephanie Everett (01:33):

Yeah, no, well, we’ll give her a shout out, but it does seem like our sh or, I mean, the numbers are showing us that listenership is going up and we really appreciate that. And we love of when you guys reach out and tell us what you think about the shows or specific episodes, or if there’s topics you’d love for us to explore. Like we, we really do welcome and love all of that feedback.

Zack Glaser (01:55):

Absolutely. And, and, you know, you can put that feedback on, find us on Twitter on LinkedIn. We, we usually post our episodes and post the, those places. And so you’ve got something to say about the, the podcast. We’re happy to, to hear it there, but certainly having reviews and recommendations on all of the places that you, wherever you get your podcast, you know, whether it’s apple podcast or Spotify or, or what have you.

Stephanie Everett (02:19):

Yeah. Well, it’s been a long time since we’ve asked you guys, but you know, we’d of it. If you would share the show with people that you think might enjoy listening or leave us a review, because it really does help, help us reach a bigger audience. And ultimately, that’s what we’re trying to do is give you guys useful information that you think will help your practice. So we, we really appreciate when you do those things and would love for you to do that again.

Zack Glaser (02:43):

Well, speaking of creation creators, we also have our best websites contest that we’re running right now. We would love for people to go and nominate anybody that you think has a good website. Do you go to somebody’s website and it impresses you then, you know, come and nominate it. It might be your website. If you’ve, you’ve worked really hard to, to have great intake and solid foundations and, and post your values, put your website in the hat. And we’d love to see ’em

Stephanie Everett (03:12):

Yeah. Self nominations are allowed.

Zack Glaser (03:15):


Stephanie Everett (03:16):

And so now here’s my conversation with Ashley. Hey, Ashley, welcome back to the show. I mean, you’re on now quite regularly. So people are probably getting to know you, but they may not know your other professional credentials and your background before you joined the Lawyerist team and it’s sort of particularly relevant to today’s topic. So I thought maybe you could just share a little bit of that background with us.

Ashley Steckler (03:40):

Sure. So I think people who know me at Lawyerist know that I’m the product director I’ve been on talking about project management systems oriented kind of stuff. I have another side. I have a, a history background in academia. And so before I came back to the Lawyerist team, I was an assistant professor of sociology. And I have a background in behavioral science. I’ve taken lots of research methods statistics, looking at human behavior, doing my own research in human behavior. A lot along the lines of as close as we can get to psychology and still call ourselves a sociologist, which for people is the middle ground of wide, a big complex social systems impact our human behavior. And then when we think about the individual in so sociology, how does that impact how we interact as an individual with others around us? And so my background before coming back to Lawyerist has really been in looking at communication, social interaction, interpersonal interaction and how we process our identity and how we display that to others in the social world.

Stephanie Everett (05:04):

I love hanging out with you, cuz you always bring a different perspective and sometimes remind me like, oh, is that this thing? And I never think that way. So I’m super excited today because we’re gonna tackle a topic that I feels like is very popular right now, which is around personality test or assessments. What, how would you bucket this group of things that exist in the world?

Ashley Steckler (05:28):

Yeah, I think it is really exciting to a lot of people. I think we use assessments as a way to, we like to, as humans, self reflect, we like to learn things about other humans. We like to say, oh, I’m different from you and this way. And there’s lots of different assessments that have been used in the workplace. People use them for team building, for hiring in order to try to see what is the makeup of our, I think often we use them at work to see what’s the makeup of the team. How do we compliment each other? Where are your strengths? Where are my strengths? What kinds of things as a team, do we understand and know holistically because we’ve all taken this assessment. There’s lots of different assessments out there. I think people get excited to know about themselves and learn things about their coworkers.

Stephanie Everett (06:22):

Yeah. And I mean, for those listening and thinking, like there’s all kinds of different ones and they all kind of take a different approach and look at it. So, you know, I’m familiar. Most people are probably familiar with like Myers Briggs or DISC and strengths finder. And I mean, you could probably rattle off like five more if, if we sat here and thought about it, there’s a bunch.

Ashley Steckler (06:43):

Yeah. I’ve maybe taken a dozen.

Stephanie Everett (06:45):

Exactly. And so we’re not gonna talk about any particular one, but what we thought we do is sort of break these things down because we often just see people throw out advice, especially like in our community chat, hear somebody say, oh, we’re, we’re using this assessment. Everyone should use it. And so I guess today we thought, before you jump on the assessment bandwagon, maybe let’s just take a minute break ’em down, look at ’em as a collection and, and see what they are and why we might wanna use it. So maybe that’s a good place to start is before we decide to use an assessment like this, what are some questions we should be thinking about?

Ashley Steckler (07:22):

Yeah. I think that is true that you hear from someone, you know, who’s implemented an assessment in some area of their business and it’s worked really well. They’re loving it. You should do it too. My first question would be, what are you trying out of implementing the results of that assessment? Are you using it in hiring and is the assessment intended for hiring? Sometimes assessments are not meant to predict things. And so if you’re thinking about using an assessment to hire some am, one, you are potentially trying to have the assessment, tell you whether that person is going to be a good fit long term on your team. And if it’s an assessment that is only indicative. And so it’s meant as an indicator of tendencies, personality, exceptions traits, right? There’s different assessments that are trying to get at different things for very different purposes.

Ashley Steckler (08:26):

Does it align with what you’re seeking? And so I think first, when you hear about someone who’s taken an assessment loved it decided their entire team would, has found it really useful. The first thing I would ask is in what ways have you found it useful for what you’re trying to get out of it? When we think about human behavior and implementing measures to expose that human behavior we need to think about behavioral research and there’s a couple very important things we talk about in behavioral research that are actually important when we think about these assessments that we are so drawn to one is reliability. And so once you get beyond what is the assessment trying to a measure and is it the thing that we’re trying to measure? The next thing that you need to question at least is, does it have reliability?

Ashley Steckler (09:23):

And what that means is when I look at a sentence, a measure, right? A description, a question that’s in an assessment. Am I going to understand an internal, the meaning and intent of that question, the same way that you are and the same way that other people are. And so does it have internal reliability that when they use a word, like for example, emotional, that word is not universally understood. It’s not understood generationally the same. It’s not understood between gender is the same, right. Are we talking about anger as an emotion or are we talking about tears as an emotion? Right? And so those are all very complex. Yeah. Which we don’t need to get stuck on today. But if I’m thinking about courage, am I thinking about it the same way that you are? Because sometimes when we take these assessments, they’re not done by behavioral scientists and it’s possible depending on the assessment.

Ashley Steckler (10:25):

And sometimes they come and go in their popularity is the measurement they’re using reliable in the way that we define what it is it’s asking of us. The other one is validity. And that is, can I, and can you take the test over and over again and get the same outcome I have taken again, probably a dozen and I have people in my professional and personal life say, have you taken this? Oh, take it again. Right? Let’s talk about it. My outcomes not always have consistency. And that is because some of the assessments lack validity. And so if I’m thinking about my work life, I’m taking an assessment. I might respond with my work life. And if I’m thinking about my childhood or my personal life, I might respond differently there too. Some of the different assessments try to ask questions in a way that alleviate those inconsistencies around validity, right?

Ashley Steckler (11:34):

Are we going to get the same outcome? No matter how many times we take it, sometimes they, don’t. Another thing that I would caution at the front end is, as I mentioned, when you think about validity and isn’t going to produce a consistent outcome, I’ve heard people in the past say I took this years ago and I took it now and it’s different. And why is that? And I had someone say it to me recently. And my response was you currently took it in a work setting. Behavioral science offers us an idea around there’s a name, the Hawthorne effect. Individuals have a tendency in good conscience to internalize what they think the anticipated outcome of their behavior should be.

Stephanie Everett (12:28):


Ashley Steckler (12:29):

And so people often modify their behavior in response, you knowing their behaviors being observed. If I am going to take an assessment on a team or asking someone to do it in the hiring process, we at least need to be aware. Not that it’s malicious intent. Not that they’re trying to say everything that they think it is. We want them to say, but understand that they are responding to these questions, knowing, or making assumptions around what the outcome quote unquote should look like.

Stephanie Everett (13:05):

Yeah. I mean, I, I feel like that makes sense. I’ve taken the assessments before. It feels like a lot of times they ask about creativity. I’m not sure, but I just, that seems to be something, it is a common theme on some of these. And I always just immediately like, I’m not creative. I’m, you know, because in my work life, I don’t think of myself as very creative. Like I think of myself more analytical or something. But then if I were to stop and pause about my home life, I probably display a lot of creativity there and I enjoy and creative things. So it’s interesting to notice that when I take these assessments for work, I immediately shut down any possibility that I am creative.

Ashley Steckler (13:43):

That’s fascinating. Because as someone who works with you, you’re very creative. And that’s what I meant by inner reliability. You are thinking about creativity in a way. I don’t think you are paralleling with all of the writing that you do and all of the oh yeah. Workshop, workshop design that you do.

Stephanie Everett (14:06):

And now that you say that, I’m like, yeah. I guess

Ashley Steckler (14:09):

You use creativity all the time and I see it. So that’s fascinating.

Stephanie Everett (14:13):

Yeah. But when I take those assessments, always think of creativity is like art or draw. I don’t know, like drawing and painting and I’m like, that’s not me, but then you’re right. Like I’m creating courses out of nothing. And I create content at an and so that is very creative. And it’s funny that I’d never had that thought until just now, now I need to go see to retake all my assessments,

Ashley Steckler (14:34):

Go back and take the assessments.

Stephanie Everett (14:36):

But I think those are good points. And so it’s just good to be aware of these things because it, we sometimes do get excited seeing results. And then we, we maybe read too much into it or use it in a way that they weren’t maybe designed or meant to be used. So that’s great. And I think let’s take a quick break and hear from our sponsors. And then we come back, we’ll pick up what someone should do with this. Once they’ve taken the assessment,

Zack Glaser (14:59):

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Zack Glaser (16:01):

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Stephanie Everett (16:42):

Okay. We’re back Ashley. You’ve told us how we should think about the test before we take it now, what are we gonna do with it? Once we have the results?

Ashley Steckler (16:50):

Yeah, I am not putting on my, a skeptics hat and saying we shouldn’t use them. I think there’s usefulness in these assessments, for sure. We need to be clear on why we’re using them. And we also need to think about a few things when we get our results, as individuals, as team members, as people looking at other assessments, right? Other assessments. There’s some things that I think we need to keep in mind because we have a tendency. I know I do personally, although I do put my skeptics hat on after I take these assessments and also for others, we like to know things about ourselves. We like to know things about other people. And so we immediately grab onto things and say, yes, yes. That sounds like me. Yes. That sounds like you. Because I remember a time when there’s another behavioral science effect that lends here.

Ashley Steckler (17:53):

And that’s the Barnam effect, which is that people have a tendency when they read descriptions about their personality, about themselves, based on these assessments that are supposed to be tailored to them. I think something that draws us to assessments is that it does have this quality of it’s tailored specifically to you. We place such a high emphasis on the outcome when in reality, sometimes what it is that the feedback is suggesting is actually applicable to a really wide range of people. And so what I try to do when I think about the outcomes of, of my own assessments and we do them on the team, right? We, we think about the intent of them and what we want them to do and, and we don’t avoid them and I don’t avoid them. But I think the first question is, could everyone agree with this? Could a large majority of the population agree with this statement? Is this a part of the human condition itself? Sometimes the answer is yes. And that’s fine.

Ashley Steckler (19:02):

Have I identified a similar tendency prior to hearing this, has this given me something to anchor things I already know about myself? Can I think of examples when this has happened in the past? Or am I getting excited about description? If we’re thinking about it in terms of team members, and we’re thinking about it in terms of what is the balance and makeup on our team, how does this play out and how each of us is actually interacting with each other? And can we say, now that I know this is something that you have reported, and I can think of examples of times this has come up, how does this help us work better together moving forward?

Stephanie Everett (19:50):

Yeah, I think it’s the hard part because I’ve been on lots of teams that have used these things and it’s always like the big reveal is this aha moment for everyone. Oh, I learned all these things and then let’s be honest. I feel like a lot of times they just get put in the drawer and then they’re never really used again. And maybe every once, every couple of months someone say we should pull that out and remember what it said about somebody. And so I think that’s the hard part is then how do you connect these ideas of what these assessments could be telling us and actually make ’em useful with our team and on the workplace. And I, I wonder if you have any suggestions for, if you’re gonna use it, how to actually get some good use out of it.

Ashley Steckler (20:30):

Yeah. We actually took an assessment earlier this year on our team and we had what I found to be a very useful conversation around what we can discover about each other from them, from the assessment, how that helps us work together in the future. What kinds of examples can we think of? We built it into a conversation that we were having around team engagement and interaction and communication anyway, that we were already going to have. And so we used it as a helpful tool to start conversation about things we already wanted to discuss. And I think that’s important. Sometimes it’s easy to have an assessment box people either out or in, I think we place a lot of emphasis on it being static and true. And if we can, you use it as a way to facilitate things that we’ve already implemented and are already doing on the team, whether that’s team building conversation, communication, interaction, team dynamics of how we work together or hiring and not have it boxed people in, but rather allow it to be a tool to notice patterns because what’s happening with these assessments, regardless of their rate of reliability or validity, is that we are inputting information.

Ashley Steckler (22:02):

We’re the ones reporting the answers. It’s providing a summary of the answers that we’ve ed in ways that we’ve maybe not connected before, but it’s not magic.

Stephanie Everett (22:13):


Ashley Steckler (22:13):

Right. It’s a report.

Stephanie Everett (22:15):

I like that idea of not boxing you in, because I’ll share that I took an assessment a couple weeks ago and just had the like call with the person to go over it this week. And I mean, there were pieces of it definitely saw, but then it’s kind of been sitting with me all week because there were some things he said about maybe how I make decisions or how I act that wouldn’t necessarily align with the role that I have on our team. And I’ve been struggling with that. Interesting. The low, I mean, maybe that’s part of the point is it’s gotten me think, thinking about it. And it had me like, I’ve thought I’ve thought about it in a more, more intentional way than I have in a long time where I was like, is this true? Does this, how I show up at work? And so, I don’t know. I think that’s kind of where I landed as I was like, yeah, I see what he’s saying there, but I don’t think he was completely right in the assessment of me as like, I, I had to kinda walk away and say, wait, he doesn’t actually know me. He doesn’t know my whole career, my whole job. And I don’t think it was a true assessment of, of my whole being, it was a snapshot in time that he was able to give

Ashley Steckler (23:24):

Yes, nor is it meant to be an assessment of your entire personhood.

Stephanie Everett (23:30):

Right. But I kind of, you could kind of take it sometimes, like this feedback was a little harsh maybe. And so maybe that’s why it sat with me so much where I was like, gosh, is that what I am? Is that how I am? So

Ashley Steckler (23:42):

Yeah. I think it’s important to remind ourselves, have I, I identified a similar tendency. Has someone else identified a similar, similar tendency? And how is that relevant to me if I hold onto that, if this is true, how is that relevant to me? And if it doesn’t quite feel like it fits, I would ask yourself too questions. Are you being introspective about yourself and truthful? And if the answer is, yeah, you think you are, if it doesn’t fit, maybe don’t hang onto that piece of the report.

Stephanie Everett (24:18):

Yeah. All good thoughts. We’ve covered so much here. I know. I’m sure it was a lot. If, if you’re like me, you probably had to listen to this like episode three times cuz you piled in so much good information. But I think the big takeaways really are for people to be thoughtful and intentional by what they’re trying to use the assessment for making sure that this tool that they pick is actually going to achieve that. And then really being thoughtful about what you do once you have the results. So that’s super helpful.

Ashley Steckler (24:47):

It was fun.

Stephanie Everett (24:48):

Yeah. Thank you. Thanks.

Announcer (24:51):

The Lawyerist podcast is produced by Bailey tiller and edited by Ryan Croft. Are you ready to implement the ideas we discussed here into your practice? Wondering what to do next? Here are your first two steps. First. If you haven’t read the small firm roadmap yet, grab the first for free at lawyeristbackup.kinsta.cloud/book. Looking for help beyond the book. Let’s chat about whether our coaching communities are right for you. Head to lawyeristbackup.kinsta.cloud/community/lab to schedule a 15 minute call with our community manager. The views expressed by the participants are their own and not endorsed by the legal talk network. Nothing said in this podcast is legal advice for you.

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Stephanie Everett

Stephanie Everett is the President of Lawyerist, where she leads the Lawyerist Lab program. She is the co-author of the bestselling book The Small Firm Roadmap and is a regular guest and co-host of the weekly Lawyerist Podcast.

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Ashley Steckler

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Last updated January 26th, 2023