reflects with shortcomings
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New personality scale found: Reflects on Shortcomings

As part of our major UK study into the development of objective tasks to assess personality (as opposed to the traditional self-report questionnaire approach), a new personality scale has emerged: the tendency to reflect on shortcomings.  It has not, to our knowledge, been possible to measure this personality scale using any other approach.  Relying on people that are low on this scale to self-report that they are not good at reflecting on shortcomings does not make logical sense! We believe that the addition of this scale makes a very valuable contribution to personality assessment. Reflecting on our own shortcomings is integral to growing and developing as humans as well as building relationships with others.

Our Mosaic study asked 480 volunteers about how they felt about resolving complex problems (e.g. “I can handle complex problems”), reading challenging material (e.g. “I have a rich vocabulary”) and understanding complex emotions (E.g. “I am concerned about others”). They were then recorded actually completing objective online tasks measuring their ability in these very same attributes.  The two were then compared to see how accurately volunteers judged themselves.

Did some volunteers over-judge or inflate their attributes compared with the reality of the objective tasks?  The answer was yes, but there were just as many volunteers who tended to consistently under-judge their attributes i.e. they performed BETTER on the objective tasks than they had rated themselves.  In other words, direct evidence that some people really are unjustifiably self-critical about themselves.  We have always known that some people are self-critical whilst others are overly confident, but now we have direct objective evidence of this within an assessment. When put together as a personality scale, the team of occupational psychologists at Mosaic Assessments Ltd were able to assess the extent to which each of the 480 volunteers in the study tended to Reflect on their Own Shortcomings.  Those who tended to be particularly self-critical and to reflect more often on their shortcomings were found to score more highly on a major personality area: Openness to Experience, one of the internationally recognised Big 5 building blocks of personality. 

Those who tend to reflect LESS on their own shortcomings also tend to be less broad-minded and to dislike working with complexity.  They perhaps prefer to see the world in black and white rather than more subtle shades of grey, and this seems to extend to a less nuanced consideration of their own skills and abilities.  For coaches and leadership development specialists working with clients, this is very useful information!

It seems very likely that this personality scale could not have been spotted through the use of questionnaires alone. The addition of objective personality tasks creates a contrast to the questionnaire, and has highlighted this new scale. It is relevant to leadership competencies such as Change & Adaptability, Working with People, Resilience and Continual Learning amongst others. Popular approaches such as humble leadership and Psychological Safety also rely on leaders being able to reflect on their own shortcomings. Leaders who are high on this scale can build trust by being willing to make themselves vulnerable to others by admitting their own deficits, thus giving an example to their team that ‘it’s ok to be wrong’ and ‘it’s ok to admit mistakes’. You may ask, but what if I score low on this facet? Well, that is also very useful information as you can learn to be aware that this is something that might not come naturally to you and to set aside deliberate time and effort to reflect on feedback and use this reflection to build trust. All in all, a very useful scale!

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written by Alan Howard, Director, Mosaic Assessments Ltd

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