Work with your hands

work with your hands poster

“Everybody isn’t a lawyer or doctor. Teach kids it’s ok to work with your hands and build cool things.” I ran across this poster on LinkedIn last week (you can see it here) and a friend commented that it’s a great time to be in the trades.

Later she wrote me how frustrating it is that people seem to think “. . . being a tradesmen is a secondary dream or something to fall back on if you don’t make it as a doctor . . . It seems the general LI public is really ignorant as to the education and commitment that it takes to be successful in a trade and that it’s not something to be taken lightly. It’s like if you don’t work at a keyboard or on a phone, that you’re less of a professional.

  • The fact is HVAC, plumbing, electrical and other tradesPEOPLE do go to college and are required like many professions to obtain annual CEU’s and certifications.
  • The fact also is that plumbers can expect to earn $80-100k annually.
  • The fact also is that we have a terrible lack of tradespeople available and they are now in a position to call the shots in regards to benefits, schedules and perks.

I don’t think that sounds like something that is a ‘fall back’ . . . I’m seriously disturbed by the attitude of people who clearly consider working with their hands lower in some way . . . and we’re going to find ourselves in a dire situation because we haven’t fostered the trades.”

Her comments reminded me immediately of Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford. I’ve quoted him before on the blog (here and here and here). He’s a PhD who became a motorcycle mechanic. He documents how we have degraded work over time by separating thinking and doing. This is a false separation, as my friend knows. In real work, you can’t separate mental and manual function. Mechanics, plumbers and general contractors constantly confront situations that require diagnosis and good judgment. It’s super insulting that we imagine these people are somehow less intelligent than a banker.

If thinking is bound up with action, then the task of getting an adequate grasp on the world, intellectually, depends on our doing stuff in it. Shop Class as Soulcraft p. 164

Work with Your Hands

Nothing beats experience. When you work with your hands, you see what works and what doesn’t. There’s something tangible in front of you and you get immediate feedback on your progress. You see what you have accomplished. This is highly rewarding to most of us. Who has experienced the feeling that you’ve accomplished more cleaning out your garage then you did all week at work?

There are a couple reasons for this:

  1. We see the whole picture. It’s easy to grasp how our efforts contributed. We can see real differences!
  2. We complete a whole project instead of just filling a desk for a certain amount of hours.

I’m sure you could think of more. If you want meaningful work, it’s important to consider how important tradespeople are to our society. They might not get the respect they deserve, but if you run their jobs through Daniel Pink’s Drive test, they win every time. Autonomy? Check. Mastery? Check. Purpose? Check.

Let’s work on erasing the hierarchy of jobs and instead celebrate the diversity of careers. The next generation needs to know all their options.

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:

Complexity

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!

What’s Wrong with Work Today: Time

You might faintly remember that I was doing a series on “What’s wrong with work?” awhile ago – well, I went back to check just how long ago it was and wouldn’t you know it, it’s been a WHOLE YEAR. I wrote about Money, Mastery and Meaning. In February I came back to the series talking about Management Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Is it irony that this last post is about time? We don’t have enough of it.

TimeIn my research into the nature of work, one of the aspects I found most interesting was the fact that we have changed from a task-oriented to time-oriented view of work. In the pre-industrial era, people worked on completing tasks: building a chair, tilling the field, sewing the dress, cleaning the stables. They probably worked the same amount of hours or even more than we do today but that wasn’t what their compensation was tied to.

Today, how many hours we put in can feel more important than what we actually accomplish during that time, which adds a new dimension of pressure to work.

Consider the billable hour. I worked at a graphic design agency where every 15 minute increment was technically supposed to be documented and billed toward the right projects. Design doesn’t work that way. Brainstorming and idea creation involve time to think. Some people mull through problems for a long time until they have everything thought out in their heads and then execute quickly. Others start doing right away and re-think as they go along. Thinking isn’t easily measured and don’t look “productive” from an outside perspective. 

Having to account for every minute of your day to show its productivity is enormously draining. In Daniel Pink’s book Drive he suggests that part of the reason lawyers are so miserable as a group is because of how minutely they’re required to track their time with each client, “For nonroutine tasks, including law, the link between how much time somebody spends and what that somebody produces is irregular and unpredictable.” While we’re obsessed with being more efficient and faster at everything we do, some work is seriously jeopardized when we try to hurry it along.

Sometimes, working fewer hours actually makes us more productive because we value our free time so much. In Joanne’s Cuilla’s book The Working Life she writes,

We actually have some record of what such a change [working less hours] might mean to a community: in 1930, in the teeth of the Depression, the cereal entrepreneur W.K. Kellogg put his workers on a six-hour day at full pay. Productivity increased dramatically, helping pay for the experiment. Meanwhile, the company town’s parks, community centers, churches, and YMCAs all flourished. Researchers who interviewed the townspeople found that their interests had grown and changed: they now asked themselves, “What shall I do?” not just, “What shall I buy?” (p. 115).

There are quite a few modern examples as well (Results-Only-Work-Environments are the most extreme version) and yet Americans still work longer hours and take far less vacation than most Europeans. And it’s not putting us that much farther ahead. Despite working fewer hours, the French are just as productive as the Americans.

There are all kinds of obstacles if you start trying to fix the time vs. productivity imbalance. Culturally, we’ve tied being busiest to being best. Touting the numbers of hours worked per week is a kind of status symbol (Maybe because so much of our work has lost meaning and time is the only “measurement” we can find to give us a sense of meaning?). Many people are doing the work of two or more people and no matter how long they work, can’t get through what’s expected of them. Some of us, if given the freedom to chart our own course, find it hard to self-motivate or learn how to work outside a 9-to-5 structure.

Have you struggled with living in a time-oriented vs. task-oriented culture? Have you struggled with the billable hour or with setting your own hours? Tell me about your experience.

The Birkman Method Book & Free Personal Report

The Birkman Method Book and Personal ReportSo I’ve been doing this small series (see here, here and here) on how the Birkman Method plays out in our lives in order to get you excited about reading this book. The current CEO, Sharon Birkman Fink, recently published a book appropriately titled, The Birkman Method: Your Personality at Work and it includes a free personal report (I believe it’s a condensed version). I was sent a free autographed copy in exchange for a review. Since I already have my own report I would like to give this copy away to a reader! Now is a good time to be excited.

The book explains each of the eleven behavioral components that the Birkman Method measures as well as the interest scores. It gives you many great stories and examples of how people have used the information in their reports to solve problems and work more effectively. Even though I have my certification as a consultant, I found the illustrations so helpful in broadening my understanding of how this tool can be put to good use. For those who are unfamiliar with the Birkman Method, it is a great overview and introduction to the material and what you can do with it. You’ll find that it’s a quick, easy read.

I think my favourite takeaway from the book was a point repeated once at the beginning and once at the end:

While certain unique behaviors and customs are taught in different cultures, the more important underlying motivation and needs that drive people are shared around the globe. In other words, we humans are more alike than we realize, more similar than we are different. There is consistently more diversity within any one group than there is among groups (p. 10).

The difference among individuals in any particular nationality are much greater than any differences among nationalities (p. 155).

This is such an important truth for us to absorb as our communities and workplaces become more globalized and culturally diverse. It’s something we need to remind ourselves of, whenever we feel tempted to think in “us vs. them” terms. Underneath the cultural differences in behavior we might see, we are much more similar in our motivations and needs than we think. And that means that no matter how strange it might feel, it is possible for us to relate and connect with people anywhere on earth. In fact, we should seek to find those common bonds wherever we can.

If you would like to win my free copy of The Birkman Method and get your free personal report, all you need to do is leave a comment that interacts with this blog post. I will select a winner out of a hat and send you the book! If you would like to get a full Birkman report and enjoy a consultation with me, then check out my services page and contact me. You can also continue reading more about The Birkman Method on this page. You can also check out the beautifully redesigned Birkman website for more info.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention I am giving this book away on Monday the 30th! So you have until Monday lunch to leave a comment that will be entered into the drawing.

The Birkman and my former bosses

Understanding my former bossesI feel that it’s a little risky writing a post like this . . . like airing dirty laundry in public. But this is not about boss-bashing. I promise.

What I want to do is share a few insights that the Birkman has given me into the workplace tensions I experienced with my bosses. The Birkman Method scores many of its components on a continuum. The farther your score is to one end, the harder it is for you to understand that the other end exists, let alone that there might be benefits to a different way of doing things. It is such a good reminder for me to guard against my tendencies to think other methods are “wrong” when they could simply be different.

Authority Score:

Authority is one of the 11 behavioral components that Birkman measures. My authority score is extremely high (91/100). This is good and bad (as always – each end of the spectrum has its positives and negatives). The positives are that:

You show a healthy respect for established authority, whether verbal or in the form of formal procedure and control. It is relatively easy for you to take charge and direct activities, and see to it that pre-arranged plans are executed.

STRENGTHS

  • self-assertive
  • seeks to influence and excel
  • enjoys exercising authority

High needs in this area indicate that:

From others, you need personal and clear instructions as to what they expect to have done. You respect people who appear to you to be natural authority figures, and expect them to enforce strictly the boundaries of authority.

At first I really struggled with this score since I often feel that I’m actually a little bit anti-authoritarian as far as questioning the status quo and wanting to do things differently than established procedure (Freedom and Structure scores play into this).

But this score is really about verbal, visible leadership and that does make sense for me. I hate it when I’m not sure what someone is asking of me! I want someone to take charge and make a decision even if it’s just about where we’re going to lunch! This means that if I’m working with someone who prefers a  low-key democratic suggestive style, I might not “get it”, which leads to the negatives:

CAUSES OF STRESS: You can easily lose your respect for those in positions of authority when it seems that they are having difficulty showing strength. Your morale and enthusiasm suffer in these situations.

POSSIBLE STRESS REACTIONS WHEN NEEDS ARE NOT MET:

  • provocative statements
  • undue assertiveness
  • becoming bossy or domineering

Essentially, if I don’t think someone is showing “enough” leadership, I feel like I have to take over for them and it really stresses me out. I know I’ve failed to respect people for exactly this reason. As Lucy likes to call Charlie Brown – I’ve tended to see these people as “wishy-washy” rather than understanding that they simply have a different style of leadership.

People vs. Procedure

At one place I worked, whenever we ran into a problem, my boss would outline a new set of procedures for the team to memorize and follow. I couldn’t understand how he thought this would help. I kept thinking that we needed to work it out together to get a good system because we’re all human and another policy doesn’t fix everything!  On the “Preferred Work Styles” report, I found this:

Public contact: Prefers activities that involve social contact. Seeks solutions through people. Focused on people being central to organizational effectiveness.

Detail: Concern for the procedural and detailed aspects of work. Focused on processes as central to organizational effectiveness.

Guess what my scores were? 10 for Public Contact and 1 for Detail (on this report you score 11 between pairs of words – so basically I’m all about the people). I’m willing to bet my boss was a 10 for Detail and a 1 for Public Contact. For him binders of step-by-step instructions ensured efficacy and quality control.

Work Motivation

Perhaps the biggest insight into why I even have this blog comes again from the “Preferred Work Styles” report where one of the categories scored is called “Work Motivation.” A person with a high score has:

“A positive attitude toward work; exhibits a responsible outlook toward work rules an assigned functions. Able to find value in most jobs/roles.”

My Work Motivation score is ONE (the lowest you can get)! Yikes! This basically makes is sound like I’m a terrible worker! But thankfully, at my certification training, I learned that what this is really trying to measure is how much you need a “why” to work.

The comparison group for this factor is assembly line workers who are happy in their work. I didn’t even think it was possible for assembly line workers to truly be happy in their work. That’s because my score says it’s essential for me to understand how my work is serving a greater purpose. I have really struggled with this in all my jobs because sometimes there is just so much busy work that doesn’t seem useful!

So there you have it: this whole huge project of researching calling and trying to understand the meaning of work highlighted right here in the Birkman. It’s a good reminder for me, because I think understanding calling is so essential for everyone else and yet I meet plenty of people who don’t seem to care and I can’t fathom why they don’t. They probably have a completely different Work Motivation score than I do and that’s ok!

These are just a few of the insights that have helped me get a better perspective on my experiences with different bosses.

If this stuff intrigues you and you’d like to get your own Birkman done, just let me know. Or suggest bringing me in to do Birkmans and team-building at your workplace! It can have huge benefits. You can contact me with any questions or check out my services page to figure out where you’d like to start.

Have you heard of the Gallup Q12?

Gallup Q12I ran across the Gallup Q12 the other day. The Gallup Q12 is an employee engagement survey (the Q12 stands for the twelve questions). Why is it considered important to measure employee engagement? Because companies with engaged employees, “exhibit lower turnover, higher sales growth, better productivity, better customer loyalty and other manifestations of superior performance.”

Gallup uses these questions to measure the American workplace on an ongoing basis. Unfortunately most companies either don’t know about the Gallup Q12, don’t know how to use the information the Gallup Q12 provides to improve their employee engagement, or don’t care enough about employee engagement to really make an effort.

How do we know this? Because the most recent figures show that only 30% of employees feel engaged at work. You can download the most recent report here.

I want that to change. It’s a big amount but imagine if we could reverse that percentage? What if 70% of people loved their work? I think the only way to start is with individuals. Why? Because we’ve had corporate consulting, coaching and counselling on the scene for years now and it still doesn’t seem to be making much of a dent. We can’t wait for a top-down approach anymore. I get excited about helping individuals reclaim work as a good word. One-by-one, maybe we’ll make a dent in that percentage, no matter how daunting it seems.

Get yourself started by figuring out your own answers to the twelve questions:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my organization make me feel like my work is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a close friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, have I talked with someone about my progress?
  12. At work, have I had opportunities to learn and grow?

Are you one of the 30% or do you fall into the other 70%? Which factors would you say contribute most to where you would rate yourself? Are there items on this list that you can address with your manager?

The Problem with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Happy July, everyone! I got a chance to read Made to Stick by the Heath brothers over our mini-vacation last week (we went to visit my parents in Nanaimo). It’s another great book about how we make our messages “stick.” At one point in the book, the authors discuss motivation & Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

They argue that thinking of these needs or motivations as a hierarchy is wrong. Everyone pursues all of these needs at the same time (why else would you have starving artists?). The reason we need to consider this is because we often forget to address more than the bottom few layers of needs when we’re trying to motivate people. Here’s an excerpt of their research findings in this area (from p. 184-185):

Imagine that a company offers its employees a $1000 bonus if they meet certain performance targets. There are three different ways of presenting the bonus to the employees:

1. Think of what that $1000 means: a down payment on a new car or that new home improvement you’ve been wanting to make.

2. Think of the increased security of having that $1000 in your bank account for a rainy day.

3. Think of what that $1000 means: the company recognizes how important you are to its overall performance. It doesn’t spend money for nothing.

When people are asked which positioning would appeal to them personally, most of them say No. 3. It’s good for the self-esteem – and, as for No. 1 and No. 2, isn’t it kind of obvious that $1000 can be spent or saved? Most of us have no trouble at all visualizing ourselves spending $1000.  (It’s a bit less common to find people who like to visualize themselves saving.)

Here’s the twist, though: When people are asked which is the best positioning for other people (not them), they rank No. 1 most fulfilling, followed by No. 2. That is, we are motivated by self-esteem, but others are motivated by down payments. THis single insight explains almost everything about the way incentives are structured in most large organizations.

Or consider another version of the same task. Let’s say you’re trying to persuade someone to take a new job in a department that’s crucial to the company’s success. Here are three possible pitches for the new job:

1. Think about how much security this job provides. It’s so important that the company will always need someone in this job.

2. Think about the visibility provided by this job. Because the job is so important, a lot of people will be watching your performance.

3. Think about how rewarding it will be to work in such a central job. It offers a unique opportunity to learn how the company really works.

The chasm between ourselves and others opens again. Most people say No. 3 – an appeal to Learning – would be most motivating for them. Those same people predict that others would be most motivated by No. 1 (Security) and No.2 (Esteem).

In other words, a lot of us think everyone else is living in Maslow’s basement – we may have a penthouse apartment, but everyone else is living below. The result of spending too much time in Maslow’s basement is that we may overlook lots of opportunities to motivate people. It’s not that the  “bottom floors” – or the more tangible, physical needs, to avoid the hierarchy metaphor – aren’t motivational. Of course they are. We all like to get bonuses and to have job security and to feel like we fit in. But to focus on these needs exclusively robs us of the chance to tap more profound motivations.

Seems crazy right? If we were in a position to offer bonuses or new positions, wouldn’t we think it normal to present the reasons that appeal most to us? And yet, that so rarely happens. It’s amazing how quickly our opinion of people drops when we move from thinking of a particular person we know to the concept of employees or society in general. It’s a great reminder to consider all the facets of motivation together, rather than in Maslow’s hierarchy, and then do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

In which my business goes “live”

After much delay, I finally have almost everything put together on my website and feel ready to announce that I’m open for business. My Calling IQ has become more than a blog. A week ago, I got my business license and today I finally decided to quit tweaking my website and officially hang out my shingle.

So what am I doing?

  • I am now offering consulting services to individuals, couples, and corporations using The Birkman Method. Read all about it here and see what I offer here.
  • I am available for speaking engagements and seminars/workshops on topics like calling, work & faith, knowing yourself etc. You can read more about this aspect of my work here.

Why am I doing this?

  • I want to be part of transforming the work experience and the workplace for people just like me. I have seen over and over again how applicable and relevant the Birkman Method material is to real life situations at work. The information in the Birkman reports is actionable in a way that most personality tests aren’t.
  • While writing a book on calling was great, I want to provide people with opportunities to interact with me directly (whether at a speaking engagement or workshops) in the hopes that sharing my experiences will help them on their own journey of pursuing their callings.
  • I’ve wanted to run my own business for a long time now and it feels like the right time for our family. Doing this work would allow me to contribute to our income while still being at home with Canon. I’m ready for the work-at-home-mom challenge.

I would love your help.

Do you know someone who is struggling with career frustration? Friends or family who aren’t sure what direction they should be taking? Acquaintances or colleagues that are stressed or burnt-out? Maybe you’re struggling with a manager, co-worker or your whole work team? Maybe you know event planners, chapel coordinators, retreat facilitators or other people who are often looking for speakers to bring in for events and meetings. I would love to work with anyone in these scenarios and:

I need you to spread the word. Emailing your friends and sharing my website on Facebook or Twitter or Google+ or LinkedIn or Pinterest (have I missed any?) would mean a lot to me.

Want to test out my services before you start recommending them to your friends? I’m offering a two week 20% off promotion on any services purchased to celebrate my launch (ends Friday, June 7th). Simply enter the promo code “LAUNCHPARTY” at checkout!

Seriously friends, it would mean a lot to me if you took the time to share my information with anyone you think could benefit.

Have questions? Leave a comment!

A Different Kind of Courage

courageThere are so many quotable quotes from Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. I was surfing through my bookmarks and highlights this morning and was having trouble even knowing where to start – there’s just so much good stuff to talk about! This book talks about what it means to live wholeheartedly and how we have to talk about the things that get in the way (shame & fear) before we can even think about living wholeheartedly. The problem is that none of us want to talk about shame and fear – these emotions are often intensely painful and we prefer to keep them shrouded in secrecy.

I know I have a really hard time being vulnerable about these things – even with myself. I prefer to view myself as competent and wise, more used to helping other people than needing any help myself. Case in point: I’m still not sure I really “needed” this book, but I think the material is fabulous for other people. Ha! Needless to say, I read the book through twice and now I should probably chew on these concepts for longer than I think necessary.

For example, let’s look at a few things Brown says about courage. Courage is a major part of the book – obviously, it takes courage to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and work toward more authenticity. Brown writes that,

“the root of the word courage is cor- the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today [She’s comparing that to our common definition of courage as fearless action]. Courage originally meant ‘to speak one’s mind by telling one’s heart.'”

I love this definition. It sounds like something I like to think I already do on a regular basis. However, Brown turns the tables a bit with this illustration:

“Do you know how incredibly brave it is to say ‘I don’t know’ when you’re pretty sure everyone around you gets it? Of course, in my twelve-plus years of teaching, I know that if one person can find the courage to say, ‘You’ve lost me,’ there are probably at least ten more students who feel the exact same way. They may not take the risk, but they certainly benefits from that one person’s courage.”

I know I’ve been the one relieved that someone else asked the question but wow, I don’t think I’ve ever been the person to ask a teacher to re-explain themselves. I’m pretty sure I’ve always done my best to act like I know exactly what’s going on and look down on those poor slow people who don’t get it yet. Ouch!

This is a terrible attitude not only because it’s dishonest and judgmental but because it closes you off from actually learning. Have you ever had that experience? Where you get in over your head and instead of just admitting, “I really don’t know much about this – please explain it to me,” you get defensive and wreck the conversation? Yeah . . . I’m working on asking for clarification and telling people I don’t understand what they’re talking about. I know it’s better for me to ask questions and really learn but sometimes the pull to be viewed as “the smart one” still makes me do pretty stupid things. Go figure.

Do you relate to this?

The Importance of Organizational Health

Organizational HealthToday I want to review just a tiny portion of The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni – a book that a Rich recommended in the comments sections awhile ago. I really appreciated the tip because this book dovetails beautifully with everything I just learned on my Birkman certification course. The “advantage” Lencioni writes about is Organizational Health. His whole premise is that any organization that is healthy will have an advantage in its field. Why?

Because:

An organization that is healthy will inevitably get smarter over time. That’s because people in a healthy organization, beginning with the leaders, learn from one another, identify critical issues, and recover quickly from mistakes. Without politics and confusion getting in their way, they cycle through problems and rally around solutions much faster than their dysfunctional and political rivals do . . . In contrast, smart organizations don’t seem to have any greater chance of getting healthier by virtue of their intelligence. In fact, the reverse may actually be true because leaders who pride themselves on expertise and intelligence often struggle to acknowledge their flaws and learn from peers (p.9)

Lencioni says there are two requirements for success. You have to be smart in your strategy, marketing, finance and technology and you have to be healthy. He defines “healthy” as:

  • minimal politics
  • minimal confusion
  • high morale
  • high productivity
  • low turnover

If you’ve spent any time in the corporate world, you may have found that the opposite is true for many, many organizations. Why is that? Lencioni writes, “Most leaders prefer to look for answers where the light is better, where they are more comfortable. And the light is certainly better in the measurable, objective, and data-driven world of organizational intelligence (the smart side of the equation) than it is in the messier, more unpredictable world of organizational health” (p.7).

Figuring out the “human” element of “human resources” is definitely messy and unpredictable and that’s the beauty of the Birkman. It’s data-driven, objective and measurable. The data it provides takes some of the unpredictability away and maps it for us in terms of interests, usual behaviors, our actual motivational needs and stress behaviors when our needs aren’t met. It is specifically tailored to address communication issues and interpersonal conflicts, help managers maximize potential and guide individuals in finding their best career fit. You can use it manage more effectively, develop accurate job descriptions and make better hiring decisions.

Having worked in three different companies in the last five years, I’ve seen a variety of dysfunction firsthand and that’s exactly why I’m so excited to be a Birkman Consultant. I hate to see potential go to waste. I hate to see frustration and politics getting in the way of people being able to do their jobs well and enjoy them. And I think the Birkman gives people a phenomenal platform for addressing some of these core issues and become a healthy team.

Unfortunately, as Lencioni points out, many employers and managers view this kind of thing as optional, believing that “team building” has no impact on the bottom line, when in fact it’s the exact opposite: “The financial cost of having an unhealthy organization is undeniable: wasted resources and time, decreased productivity, increased employee turnover, and customer attrition. The money an organization loses as a result of these problems, and the money it has to spend to recover from them, is staggering” (p. 13).

By the end of this month, I plan to “officially” launch this business. Addressing organizational dysfunction and helping frustrated individuals will be my primary goals.

What do you think about this concept of Organizational Health? Got a story to share about it? And feel free to contact me if you want to jumpstart the Birkman process for yourself or your team!