If there’s one lesson companies have learned from the pandemic, it’s the importance of building strong teams. And in our new hybrid world, which will mean an ever-evolving combination of in-person and remote work, creating cohesive teams and maintaining a resilient company culture will be more important — and more challenging — than ever. That’s why a personality assessment tool called PrinciplesYou has been such a game changer for us at Thrive Global.
PrinciplesYou is a personality assessment created by Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio, along with three of the preeminent experts in psychology, psychometrics and the science of personality: Dr. Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School; Dr. Brian Little, a pioneer in the field of personality assessment; and Dr. John Golden, who developed the Golden Personality Profiler assessment. The project grew out of decades of Ray Dalio’s experience building Bridgewater into one of the world’s largest and highest-performing hedge funds. What emerged after two years of intensive R&D is the most comprehensive and useful assessment I’ve ever encountered.
After its launch in April, we started using PrinciplesYou at Thrive to gain more insight into candidates for certain high-level roles. But we found it so valuable we’re now using it to guide us in filling roles at every level. It’s not an elimination tool — it’s an illumination tool. It gives us a greater understanding not just of what candidates are like and how they think, but in which kind of team they’d be able to perform at their best. Are they comfortable with more philosophical, abstract thinking, or is their strength in organization and details? What’s their specific archetype? Are they shapers, artisans, explorers or problem-solvers?
And it’s not just useful for the workplace. Whether it’s with a co-worker, a friend or a partner, the assessment gives you a roadmap for how to work more effectively together, but without judgment. As Adam Grant says, “I think this is the first assessment I’ve ever done where I don’t want to slap a ‘don’t try this at home’ warning label on it!” I personally love it so much, I’ve sent it to both my daughters, and my son-in-law.
The assessment, which is free, gives you an overview of your strengths, your talents and your top three archetypes from a list of 28 your strengths and your talents. And it also shows you what’s underneath all that, and how it all plays out in your daily life, your relationships and how you work best with others. We’re social creatures, and our personalities can’t be separated from how we relate to others. That’s why PrinciplesYou has a feature allowing people to compare their results to friends, family or co-workers who have taken the assessment. “Although your car comes with an owner’s manual, your mind doesn’t — and neither do your colleagues,” says Grant. “We designed PrinciplesYou to help you gain the self-awareness and other-awareness that are critical to making good decisions, getting things done, and turning a group of co-workers into a great team.”
To get a better sense of how it works, you can watch this conversation I recently had with Ray and Adam at the 2021 Collision Conference. Both Ray and Adam are dear friends whom I’ve known and worked with on various projects over many years. But after comparing our results (which you’ll see in the video), we were all amazed by how it explained so much about our dynamics with each other, and how this information will improve our ability to collaborate in the future. As Ray said, “when we think differently, we have different sensitivities or we’re talking almost a different language — and when we understand the other person is speaking that kind of language, we can speak more clearly to them.”
For example, at Thrive, one of our core cultural values is what we call Compassionate Directness, which is about empowering people to surface problems and give feedback in real time, so both our team members and the company can learn, grow and evolve. PrinciplesYou has been powerfully effective at helping us put this into action. Everybody has different strengths and abilities. And if an individual is very strong in certain qualities but weak in others, that’s critical information any manager needs to have. Because when we can identify strengths and weaknesses, we can create teams where people’s skills complement each other.
One of the things I particularly like is that, unlike a lot of assessments, the results you get from PrinciplesYou are the beginning of a conversation, not the end. Early in the interview process, we ask candidates if they agree with the results. They usually do, but even when they don’t, that opens up a deeper conversation about how they perceive themselves and what kind of environment helps them to thrive. More often than not, there’s some “a-ha” moment in the conversation where some new insight clicks into place, bringing an added layer of human connection to a process that, as anyone who’s ever interviewed for a job knows, can feel mechanical and impersonal.
As great as PrinciplesYou is now, the team is committed to constantly improving it and making it better. For businesses, there’s a version called PrinciplesUs. And if you’d like to take it yourself, or do it along with others in your life, you can go here for more information.
What I love most about the assessment is that it’s such a great example of modern science validating ancient wisdom. The Delphic admonition “Know Thyself” and Socrates’ pronouncement that “the unexamined life is not worth living” are not ancient philosophical platitudes, they’re the most relevant guiding truths for our lives. It’s a truism by now that since the pandemic began we’ve all had more time to get to know ourselves better. As we enter a new phase, PrinciplesYou is a tool that not only increases our self-knowledge but makes it possible to use that knowledge to be our best selves. “Life is a journey to discover oneself, and then the corresponding fit — the fit in not only the people but the job,” says Ray Dalio. “And the quicker you can get to that self-discovery and self-acceptance, and then find the fit for you, the better your life is going to be.”
Subscribe here for Arianna’s On My Mind Newsletter, where you’ll find inspiration and actionable advice on how to build healthy habits, resilience and connections in our unprecedented times.