Retaking the Birkman

I sometimes get questions from people about whether they should be retaking the Birkman? What they’re asking is if their scores change based on current circumstances or situations. I always tell them that one of the best things about the Birkman Method is that it’s a one-time investment. Starting around 17 or 18 years old, your reports should stay pretty accurate for the rest of your life. My website tells people you’ll be able to use it as a lifelong reference tool.

I took the Birkman for the first time at 17 years old. It was right after my first semester of college and I was about to turn 18. I really didn’t know much about “most people” and had only a smidgen of work experience. And yet, as I returned to my reports many times over the last 12 years, it still captured who I was. So I felt pretty confident in telling my clients it doesn’t change. At the same time, I thought it would be really cool to be able to confirm that with real data! Birkman International was nice enough to let me retake my own Birkman questionnaire for free to check.

Retaking the questionnaire was a revelation. I had no memory of doing it the first time, and wow, those questions are tough! I found myself wondering – along with most of my past clients – how on earth they get results from these questions!

So here’s the quick snapshot of what happened:

retaking the birkman
My 17 year old self
retaking the birkman
My 29 year old self


It might look like everything I just said was a lie. Most of these symbols moved! Yes, they did. And at the same time, they didn’t move much. Let’s dig in:

Usual Style

My Diamond symbol moved the “most” in that it moved from the blue square to the green square. The diamond represents your “usual style” or “strengths” behavior. It’s what you do when you’re at your best and it’s visible to others.

I called Birkman to discuss the results and got a lot of great information. During our 20s, a lot of us are still “settling in” to our usual styles. Of all the things the Birkman maps this one is the most flexible. This makes sense as we all know we have to modify our usual styles regularly in order to work well with people who are very different from us.

As we graduate from college and start our careers our usual style solidifies. So at 17 or 18, your usual style may not be totally nailed down but it probably doesn’t change super significantly. I didn’t switch to being an intense red style. I stayed on the people-oriented right side of the graph and moved slightly into the more extroverted communication half of the grid.


The asterisks represents interests. This shifted a hair down and to the left. My Areas of Interest report that breaks this down into categories (see below), basically just rearranged my top three interests (all still really strong interests). This is great news for those who want to take the Birkman to help them figure out a major and career direction. My midrange interests made some interesting jumps up or down, but my most intense interests stayed the same over a decade. Again, the changes confirm and solidify my interests. There are no radical departures from previous interests.

retaking the birkman

Needs/Stress Behaviors

My circle-within-a-square symbol represents my needs and stress behaviors. This symbol shifted deeper into the blue square – I’m now about as intensely “blue” as you can get as far as what I need from others and from my environment in order to operate in my strengths style. Our needs are typically more hardwired than our usual styles and for me this change mostly tells me that I’ve gained self-awareness since 17 years old. What my gut instincts told me then was pretty accurate and as I had more life experiences and more stress, my needs became more apparent and obvious to me.

Is there value in retaking the Birkman?

There probably is some value in retaking the Birkman for certain people. Sometimes I think we settle into one pattern of thinking about ourselves and we never go back to reassess that. This is a huge mistake, since we are all learning and growing all the time. So, retaking your Birkman might give you a much needed fresh self-perspective that could prompt healthy changes in how you work and relate to others. On the other hand, just reviewing the Birkman you already have is likely to give you some new insights, especially if you haven’t pulled it out in a few years. If it doesn’t feel like it describes you well anymore, take a minute to figure out if it’s the usual style that doesn’t seem accurate or the needs. You might find, like me, that your usual style has developed in a new direction while your needs remain the same.

Bottom line: I think Birkman is right. You can stick with your original report forever and benefit from it in a wide variety of situations. It truly is a lifelong reference tool.

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There is Life After College: A must- read for all!

life after college
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My library hold on There is Life After College by Jeffrey Selingo right after my last blog post. Wow, what perfect timing! You should put it on hold too. Why? Whether you’re a parent, teacher, counselor, student, professor or new graduate, there will be something here for you. A college coach recommended this book in her seminar at my Birkman conference. Selingo identifies three common paths for students: the Sprinters, Wanderers and Stragglers and I found it fascinating that this coach has found markers in the Birkman reports that predict which path students are likely to take.

But that’s not really the point today. The point is this book has information and advice you probably need. You might be a parent frustrated with your kid’s “failure to launch.” Read this book. You might be a graduating high school senior who is unsure about the next step. Read this book. You might be a college administrator trying to figure out what other classes or opportunities the students needs to “succeed.” Read this book.

Life After College

Selingo helpfully describes the current post-college challenges in our economy. Parents, it’s not all your kid. The system has issues too! He provides tons of concrete tips for students on how best to navigate college and understand how employers hire. He discusses internships, alternative learning avenues and hands-on experiences. It’s all the stuff we don’t tend to think about when we’re just starting college. How employers hire and what they’re really looking for.

This kind of book really resonates with me because it asks us to take a good hard look at all our assumptions. So often we live like lemmings just being funneled through the system because that’s just easier. As a result, we don’t stop to ask why we’re doing what we’re doing and if it’s really the best route. He clarifies how our ingrained patterns of doing college and looking for jobs aren’t really serving us anymore. Selingo jolts us out of our rut and helps us do some needed re-evaluation at the macro level. I love this because it’s similar to what I’m trying to do at the micro level with individual students and their families as they figure out their college and career direction.

Have you read it? What were your takeaways?

What’s the difference between Birkman and Myers-Briggs?

Most people give me a puzzled look when I tell them I’m a Birkman Consultant. I usually immediately follow that up with “It’s like Myers-Briggs on steriods.” It’s like the MBTI’s bigger, scientifically-backed older brother. If you’re not that familiar with the MBTI either, it’s the one about Extroverts vs. Introverts. People describe themselves with four letters, “I’m an ENFJ” or “ISTP.” Here are just a few differences between the Birkman and Myers-Briggs:


MBTI measures only four scales: Extrovert/Introvert, Intuitive/Sensing, Feeling/Thinking, and Judging/Perceiving. This only gives you 16 personality types total. These scales are binary or either/or choices. The Birkman measures nine different behaviors and four perspectives or attitudes on a continuum so that you can understand the differences between highly intense, strong and moderate displays of the behavior.

Bottom line: The MBTI is less nuanced while the Birkman provides deeper insights because it acknowledges greater human complexity.

Self vs. Others

The Myers Briggs asks only for your own self-perceptions. This can help them describe your usual behavior but not much more. The Birkman on the other hand, asks you questions about yourself and about other people. This way Birkman is able to assess your usual style and what you expect from your environment. Our typical behavior can be substantially different than what we need from other people so this kind of information really helps people understand how to communicate and work together more effectively. In other words, it’s information you can actually apply!

Bottom line: The MBTI measures your usual style but the Birkman measures your usual style, your needs and your stress behaviors – information that is much more useful!

Validity & Reliability

The Myers-Briggs has poor reliability and validity. Up to 75% of people get a different type the second time they take it. And it turns out that only the Extrovert/Introvert measurement has much validity. A researcher at The Birkman on the other hand, has 60 years of testing and retesting to make sure their results are both reliable and valid. Most people don’t see their report scores change much over time.

Bottom line: The MBTI is a great conversation starter but the Birkman beats it on scientific credentials.

If you want even more details how how they differ, Birkman International has a whole white paper on the topic that you can download here!

myers-briggsConclusion: Myers-Briggs vs. The Birkman

Imagine you were given a beautiful potted plant. People seem to love Myers-Briggs because it’s easy and quick. It’s like getting a nice little label with the name of your plant. Unfortunately, most people aren’t really quick easy reads. While knowing the name of the plant is nice, it doesn’t help you take care of it. The Birkman is a much more comprehensive look at humans. It allows us to resist labeling and move toward really understanding. It’s like getting that plant label AND getting a whole bunch of useful tips about what kind of light and temperature and nutrients it needs. Your Birkman reports can help you in any situation where you have to deal with people who are really different than you (wait, isn’t that EVERY situation?!) allowing both you and others to flourish.

If you want to get your Birkman report today, you can go here!

My Marriage IQ: Answers to questions you might have!

My Marriage IQ Logo

I’ve been getting some great questions about My Marriage IQ and thought I’d write a quick post to answer them. Take a look if you’re still in the process of deciding whether My Marriage IQ would be a good gift to get your partner for Valentines Day (you have until midnight on Valentines to decide!). If you have more questions, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below!

My Marriage IQ FAQs:

How accurate is this Birkman test? Will it really tell me anything useful about myself or my partner?

You’re right to wonder about this since there are so many random personality quizzes floating around out there. Being told you’re a Golden Retriever or Ariel doesn’t really help you improve your relationship. What you’re looking for in an assessment is validity and reliability.

Validity tests whether an assessment tool measures what it says it measures. The short answer is, Birkman International uses a variety of validity tests and the tool is sound. In 2007, Birkman updated the assessment tool to link it to the Five Factor Model – a set of five broad dimensions of personality that are widely accepted in current psychology.

Reliability refers to the consistency or stability of the assessment tool. When the test is administered it should provide consistent results. Give it to someone today and give it to them again in two weeks and the results should stay the same. This is called test-retest. The Birkman scales have test-retest reliabilities averaging 85% which means they provide a highly accurate picture of behavior. For all of you who more on the science and research end, here is the Technical Brief (pdf).

You’re not a counselor or therapist so how can this help our serious relationship issues?

You’re absolutely right that I’m not a counselor or a therapist. This tool is designed to boost communication and understanding in our relationships. It is not designed to address more serious relationship issues. It can help you communicate more effectively, but I highly recommend that you find a counselor or therapist if you need more help navigating the tough stuff. In fact, take your Birkman reports to the therapist and use them as a jumping off point for discussion. Here are some links for finding therapy:

Does this material contain gender stereotypes that will make us roll our eyes?

I hear you. John and I have read a few books where all the illustrations seem to come straight out of the 1950s. My Marriage IQ is about personalized information identifying interests and behaviors that both males and females exhibit. It’s presented in an objective way with graphs and neutral language. You will not find any cheesy illustrations or gender stereotypes to make you feel annoyed or uncomfortable! I also chose to use the word “partner” rather than “husband”, “wife” or “spouse” because My Marriage IQ is for both engaged and married couples.

Does this come from a particular faith perspective?

None of the material touches directly on faith as not all couples share a common faith so I didn’t want it to be a barrier in the process. I do provide faith-based and non-faith-based resources at the end of the guide for those who would like to explore further marriage materials. I am a Christian and so was the founder of Birkman International so both the guide and the Birkman reports uphold Christian values such as the beauty of being uniquely created, the dignity and value of every human being, and the belief that our differences are essential for contributing to the health of our partnerships and community. Also, the overall project is informed by my positive view of marriage as a life-long commitment that is worth working on and fighting for.

So what happens when I buy it?

You’ll receive and email that will have you download the receipt and instructions as well as the discussion guide. In the instructions, you will get a link for each of you to do the Birkman Method questionnaire and receive your individual reports. The discussion guide also contains a link to the instruction videos that clarify key parts of the Birkman Method reports. My Marriage IQ is entirely self-directed so you set your own pace with your partner and take your time. I’ve recommended a series of six date nights but you can do it in any order and for however long you need to. It’s also reusable. You could do a refresher on your Birkman reports every year on your anniversary. The report results are accurate for life so this information is relevant for the length of your relationship! Using My Marriage IQ in your relationship can give you a life-long reference tool on how best to take care of each other.

Why is there a deadline? Will it not be available after February 14th?

My Marriage IQ will be going offline at midnight on February 14th because of some internal changes to the costs and formatting of the Birkman Method reports for certified Birkman Method consultants. I will hopefully revive My Marriage IQ in a new format later in the year and will have to increase the price. If you’re on the fence, now is a good time to jump because it’s a killer deal and it’s not coming back. The individual Birkman consultations I typically do are $325 and My Marriage IQ pricing will likely approach or surpass that in its next iteration.

More questions? Something I haven’t covered? Leave a comment and I’ll respond as soon as possible so you can make your decision before Valentines!


Birkman Tour Part 5: The Extra Goodies

I’m finally wrapping up this tour with some more details about what you get with the full Birkman report. These are the extra goodies that add so much value to your basic report information. Why? Because it moves from being simply descriptive “You’re like to this” to more prescriptive suggestions, “When this happens, try this.”

Stress Pages

For example, the Stress Pages offer you more insight into your needs and how to build up your ability to flex in situations where your needs aren’t being met. Suggestions for how to manage stress behaviors and flex your usual style when it’s needed are really helpful for those of us who tend to ask, “Yes, but now what? What do I do with this information?” Of course, it’s still up to us to take the suggestions to heart and follow them, but it’s handy to have an action plan handed to you so you at least know what you’re aiming for.



There’s also a Coaching Report, a Coaching summary and other handy summary pages for those of you who work with a life coach or any other kind of guide on a regular basis. You could take these kind of reports to meetings with your manager or boss to give them a cheat sheet on your usual style and needs and use it as a basis for discussion. They’re also handy if you just need the reminder yourself. Tack them up on your bulletin board as a way to keep integrating the information into your life.

Coaching Summary

Comparative Reports

The other great aspect of doing the full Birkman is that it allows for comparative reports called “Issues to Watch” and “Differences to Watch” with really helpful information for understanding key aspects of your relationship with another person, be it a manager, team member, spouse, sibling or child.


Group Reports

If a large group takes the Birkman, there are also group graphs that are a great visual aid for people to quickly grasp where different members of the team are coming from.


I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour through the various Birkman Method reports! Let me know if you have any further questions!

Birkman Tour Part 4: Strengths and Needs Graphs

The Strengths and Needs Graphs are probably my favourite part of the Birkman. On the Lifestyle Grid, you get a diamond for usual style, and a circle and square for needs and stress behaviors. You get some bullet points about each of them but the really in-depth look comes in these graphs. This is where you really drill down into the more complex aspects of behavior and it’s much more personalized than the basic bullet points.

The Strengths and Needs Graphs go through 11 behavioral components with three graphs on each page and an arrow marking your score on each graph.

strengths and needs graphs example

  • The top graph shows you your usual style – aka your strengths! Usual styles are always: Productive, beneficial, and visible. You might consider it your external or public self.
  • The middle graph describes what you need from others and your environment in order to maintain your usual style. Needs are often invisible and not obvious from observing usual behaviors. Some people consider this their internal or private self.
  • The bottom graph describes possible stress behaviors you might exhibit if your needs go unmet. These behaviors may also be visible, but unproductive and potentially damaging. They may not be visible if you have developed strategies for managing these behaviors.

The 11 behavioral components measured are:

  • Esteem – Relating to Individuals
  • Acceptance -Relating to People in Groups
  • Structure – Planning and Organizing
  • Authority – Directing and Controlling
  • Advantage – Your Approach to Incentives
  • Activity – Preferred Pace of Action
  • Challenge – Your View of Yourself
  • Empathy – Emotional Expressiveness
  • Change – Dealing with Change
  • Freedom – Personal Independences
  • Thought – Reflection in Decision Making

The information in these graphs helps people:

  • own their strengths
  • name and understand their needs
  • acknowledge their unproductive stress behaviors

The Birkman Method gives you a neutral platform and a common language around all these behaviors so that discussing them with your spouse or your colleagues at work becomes a little easier and hopefully less tense. It can help couples or work teams appreciate the diversity of usual styles and the strengths that come with those. It helps you give more weight to you needs as something legitimate and hard-wired. And you become more aware of how you can mitigate your stress behaviors.

Some notes:

LOW and HIGH are not good or bad in this report. They are simply opposite ends of a spectrum. It’s not better to have LOW needs or worse to have HIGH needs – they are just describing two very different sets of needs. There is no ideal score for any of these behavioral components.

These behavioral component scores should never be taken as a license to make excuses for your behavior, “See, I’m just hardwired that way.” While our needs are generally “hardwired” we are totally capable of learning to flex our usual styles. We can also learn to manage our stress behaviors. Throughout our lives, there will be times when we have to learn to flex into very different styles that what we’re usually comfortable with, in order to meet other people’s needs.

The Strengths and Needs graphs provide a huge boost in self-awareness and allow you to communicate who you are more effectively.

Some quick details about My Marriage IQ

I missed blogging on Wednesday because I was in the middle of launching My Marriage IQ. Today I wanted to take a momentary break from doing the Birkman Tours to just share a few more details with you.

My Marriage IQ

Birkman Method Logo




If you haven’t had a chance to watch the videos, I had three preview videos explaining more about My Marriage IQ and what the Birkman Method reports contribute to that.



I also have a giveaway for one free copy of My Marriage IQ and that will end TONIGHT at midnight! I will announce the winner Saturday! Don’t miss out on your chance to win a free copy – enter today and then you’ll know by tomorrow if you won or not!

Other good things to know:

My Marriage IQ is entirely self-directed so you set your own pace with your partner and take your time. I do have instructional videos that clarify key parts of the Birkman Method reports.

This has no cheesy illustrations or gender stereotypes to make you feel annoyed or uncomfortable! This is personalized information presented in an objective way that lets you be you and doesn’t try to fit you into an ideal mode (there is no ideal mode!).

Why is there a deadline for getting My Marriage IQ?

This is my first launch of this product and I want to spend a good amount of time over the fall getting feedback from this first user group on their experience using My Marriage IQ. That’s why My Marriage IQ will not be available after Sunday night at midnight. Make sure you make a decision about investing in your relationship by Sunday evening so you don’t miss out on it!

I’m limiting it to the first 50 couples who buy it so that I can hopefully interact personally with each couple and learn from their input so that I can perfect it for a 2016 relaunch (I’m looking at February so stay tuned!)

Huge thanks to everyone who has supported me and helped with this project. All the positive feedback so far is very encouraging.

Have a great weekend!

UPDATED 9.28.2015: If you’re here hoping to get My Marriage IQ, it will be available again in early 2016. It’s currently going through an inaugural run with the first user group. If you to know when it’s available again, please sign up below and you’ll be the first to hear when My Marriage IQ gets relaunched.

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Birkman Tour Part 3: Career Management Report

Today’s Birkman tour takes us through the Career Management Report. This is a great tool for people who need some more options to explore, such as high school seniors who are debating their next steps or college grads starting careers. It’s also helpful for mid-career people who are wondering about career changes.

The Career Management Report can help you determine if your job satisfaction will be determined more by the actual tasks you get to do or by the environment you are placed in. Some people would be happy anywhere as long as they get to do a specific set of tasks. Other people couldn’t care less what the tasks are as long as the environment suits them.

There are two parts to the Career Management Report: Job Families and Organizational Focus

Job Families

Career Management

I find this one fascinating because it shows you how similar you are to satisfied people within various job categories by comparing your responses on the questionnaire. Birkman uses the Department of Labor’s O*net database to categorize and label Job Families and links to it so that people can explore things like education needed, job growth forecast, salary expectations etc.

Birkman doesn’t include every job family from the Department of Labor though. The ones listed in the Career Management report are limited to the jobs with large enough sample sizes in the Birkman database for accurate comparison. Within each Job Family, job titles are also ranked from most similar to least similar.

A few notes:

Birkman emphasizes that this report should not be used to exclude job options. If you are a strong match to a certain job, it does mean that you could have higher job satisfaction in that role, but it is totally possible to succeed and be successful in jobs that you don’t match very much. High matches mean you have the same types of characteristics as people who are satisfied in that field. However, you could have very different characteristics and still do the job well and enjoy it. You might bring a whole new valuable set of skills to the table. It also means you might likely face some steeper communication challenges with teammates who might assume you’re like them.

Organizational Focus

The Organizational Focus scales are deceptively simple. It’s about the way we view and relate to an organization.Career Management

Long bars mean you identify strongly with that work environment. Short bars means you don’t identify strongly with the set of work tasks or functions in that category.

Career Management

It’s especially important for business leaders to be aware of what aspects of their companies they’re naturally more focused on. The tendency can be to channel most of your energy and resources into that one area, which can be potentially damaging for long term business success. In order to build a strong organization, it’s important for leaders to balance out their leadership team and make sure all aspects of business are given adequate resources.

Again, as with the Job Families, if your green bar is super short, it does not mean you shouldn’t pursue a position in the Sales and Marketing division of a company. It just means you probably will be unique compared to most of their other sales people. That may be very effective for you or it can be a problem. The key is to be aware of this so you can make a better decision about what challenges you want to take on.

That’s it for now! Next part of the tour takes us into the heart of the Birkman: Strengths and Needs. If you have questions or thoughts, I’d love to hear them so feel free to use the comments below!

Birkman Tour Part 2: Areas of Interest

Areas of Interest is probably the most straight-forward report the Birkman provides. Most people have a good idea of what they’re interested in and this report ranks your interest in 10 categories: Artistic, Literary, Musical, Scientific, Mechanical, Outdoor, Clerical (or Administrative), Numerical, Social Service and Persuasive.  You can see the Areas of Interest definitions in the example here:Birkman Areas of Interest

Your scores are based on measuring your interest compared to the level of interest indicated by other respondents in that particular work area. While it doesn’t measure skill, it does show the work you are mostly likely to enjoy.

So, while this seems so basic you might not give it another glance, the thing I love about the Birkman is how it makes the connection between your interests and your well-being. Areas of very high interest should be considered a “need” in  your life. To feel energized and reduce stress in your life, you should have opportunities to be engaged with your highest interests regularly, whether at work or play. If you’re required to spend a lot of time working in an area of intense disinterest, that will increase your stress levels and drain you.

This is a great report for graduating seniors thinking about what classes to pursue in college. It’s great for those starting their careers to keep in mind as they figure out where they can contribute. It’s great for mid-career people as a reminder to consider if they’re tapping into all areas of their interest, if not at work, then through hobbies and volunteer opportunities. It’s great for managers to know these things about their employees as they assign new projects. It’s great for leaders to know these things about their teams because they can address more of a person’s motivational areas.

I love the idea that our areas of interest can be used as a guide to self-care. If your work doesn’t give you outlets for exploring your interests, you should be figuring out a way to incorporate them into your life in other ways. Focusing on activities that are meaningful to you will give you energy and a sense of well-being.

Today, take a guess ranking the above interests for yourself. Are you giving time to your top interests?

Birkman Tour Part 1: The Life Style Grid

The Life Style Grid is considered the heart of the Birkman. It gives you the snapshot or overview of everything else the Birkman will discuss in greater detail in other reports. I love the Life Style Grid because it helps you visualize the information quickly:

Birkman Life Style Grid


There’s a lot more to this but when you sum up the four quadrants, The Blue people work with their minds (thinkers), The Yellow people work with rules (counters), The Red people work with their hands (doers) and the Green people work with relationships (talkers). Red people focus on THINGS and their motto is “Just Do It!” Green folks focus on PEOPLE and they “never meet a stranger.” Blue people focus on IDEAS and you could say they “question everything.” Yellow folks focus on systems and their motto would be “there is a place for everything and everything in its place.”

It gets interesting and much more complex than some personality tests when you start figuring out where you land. The Birkman has four symbols to describe the different aspects of your overall style.

  • The Asterisk summarizes WHAT you want to do as indicated by Your Interests. These are the types of activities that will give you the most satisfaction.
  • The Diamond is your HOW – how other people see you acting most of the time. How you behave when everything is basically normal aka Your Usual Style.
  • The Circle shows WHERE you need support from others and from your environment. Birkman calls those things Your Needs. The Square indicates Your Stress Behaviors and goes around the Circle.

Symbols of the Lifestyle Grid Description

The Needs and Stress behavior symbols fall in the same place on the grid so each person ends up with a personal triangle. Your three points could all fall within one quadrant or you could be in three different colors! Every report I have seen has had a unique triangle. The configurations are endless. For example, here’s my triangle. My usual style edges over into the Green Communicator quadrant, but my Interests, Needs and Stress Behaviors are all deeply Blue. What that means is explained in an 8-15 page report with bullet points to describe your behavior and how it compares to the other quadrants. Tash's Life Style Grid

The Life Style Grid report gives you a good start to understanding yourself and others in a quick easy-to-grasp way. The more detailed information comes in further reports, so stay tuned for next time!