How the Birkman helps us work at home without killing each other

Change score discussion

This month I wanted to do something fun and show you how the information in a Birkman Method report plays out in “real life.” I will be using our real life as we work and parent at home. Today’s example cropped up about a year ago and continues to be something I have to consciously consider in our daily life. It’s about the Change component.

The Birkman measures you on 11 behavioral components. They put your usual behavior on a continuum from 1 to 99 with each end representing a different set of usual behaviors. While John and I are fairly similar on eight of the eleven behavioral components, we have a 47 point difference on our Change score. John is down in the lower end (34) of the continuum while I’m on the high end (81).

What is the “Change” component?

Birkman defines this as mental and physical restlessness. It describes comfort in shifting priorities, patience with interruptions and flexibility in accepting externally imposed change.

Low Change behavior is concentrative, not easily distracted, patient with long-range projects, and able to focus on the task at hand.

High Change behavior is easily excited by new ideas, ready to start new ideas, initiating change frequently and adapting easily to variety.

In terms of responsiveness to change you could compare a 1 to a supertanker needing to change course (that takes awhile!) and a 99 to a speedboat needing to change course (done in the blink of an eye!).

What are the different Change needs?

Low Change needs: protection from interruptions, opportunities to complete important tasks once started, time to consider new ways before changing methods, minimum of abrupt changes, an opportunity to give input before changes are initiated.

High Change needs: alternating work responsibilities, frequent changes of activity, relief from daily routine, opportunities to shift priorities as new interests arise.

How this plays out:

You might already be picturing the scenario: John has just embarked on editing a wedding – a “long-term” project on which he is usually able to focus for vast stretches of time. He likes to edit through until he’s done. Tash cannot fathom how he can possibly concentrate the whole day on the same task (she admires it but also wonders how this can be healthy) and she tends to suggest changes: “Don’t you need a break?”, “Let’s go for a walk”, “Can you help me with x, y, z for a minute?”, “Here talk to Canon for a second while I do this.” Tash blissfully believes she is offering him some variety in a LONG BORING day while John’s stress level rises with each interruption.

This happened quite a bit in Canon’s first year because it was also John’s first year of working from home. Since I need lots of variety and relief of routine, I assumed John probably did too. Not true! Turns out he needed to be protected from interruptions so he could complete the tasks he had started. Initially, I thought he was just trying to get out of helping with Canon by working constantly. John felt like I was trying to sabotage his work.

Looking at our Change scores helped us both to realize there wasn’t something “wrong” with the other person and that neither of us was trying to purposely annoy the other person with our usual behaviors. We were able to discuss ideas for solutions more practically and with less emotional turmoil.

While he still gets interrupted (“Help! Poop disaster!) I try to stay aware of interruptions and keep them more minimal when I know he’s concentrating on a long project. At the same time, John sees that I need alternating responsibilities and we continue to try to work out how we can best divvy up parenting and photography work.

That’s just one tiny piece of all the material the Birkman Method reports contain. If you’re intrigued – there’s still time to enter my giveaway here: The Birkman Preview report covers all eleven behavioral components and more. Or head over to my Birkman services page to learn more.