Like many people, I’ve had the opportunity to take various personality and aptitude tests over the years. I found one from high school recently that said I should be a writer. OK, I thought when I saw it, that was a good call.
Generally, though, they’ve been offered by the organization I’m working for as part of broad efforts to enhance team performance. The logic is simple and not without merit –– if team members understand each other, they’ll take each other’s preferences into account and all will run more smoothly. You’re an introvert, I’m an extrovert… you’re green, I’m blue… we’re different and I have to remember that when I’m dealing with you. Got it.
My most recent experience has been with something called The Birkman Method, developed in 1950 by Roger W. Birkman. A pilot and pilot instructor for the U.S. Air Force in the 1940s, he became interested in individual differences between people, especially the impact that visual and interpersonal misperceptions had on pilot performance. This led him to study psychology, and ultimately to measure the human characteristics he saw influencing perceptions, behaviors, and motivations.
The questionnaire I had to fill as part of the process was a total mystery to me. It asks all kinds of questions and you have to choose from a number of possible answers. Some are about which job you’d choose (and you can’t select ‘none of the above’). Some deal with how active you are, how much sleep you get, and so on. Others ask about how you see yourself and how you see other people. No rhyme nor reason that I could see.
The report that is generated as a result details a person’s areas of interest (the areas where you find their passion and energy), leadership style, usual behaviour compared to your needs especially when under stress, and a few other things I’m not qualified to explain.
As it turns out, when it comes to areas of interest, I am one point shy of the top score of 100 for literary (check), artistic (check) and musical. The first two made total sense, and once I learned that musical could mean that I appreciate music (check) and that I seek harmony and flow (double check), the third one did as well.
Apparently, if you have scores over 80 in any one area, it means you really should work in related areas, because this is where you will find your passion, and it’s where you get your energy.
My color scheme is equally interesting. There are four quadrants –– red, green, blue and yellow. When it comes to both my interests and needs, I’m about as blue as you can get. Which means I’m people-, as opposed to task-oriented, and something of an observer in my interaction with the world, an introvert you might say. But my usual behaviour is yellow, because apparently I act in an organized, consistent, detached, concentrative, insightful, selectively sociable, and thoughtful manner. (Mostly check.)
Then there are the component scores which deal with everything from empathy to activity to freedom to change. They offer some interesting insights as well, but the one that seems most relevant for this post is the activity score. I’m virtually at the top of the scale on the usual behaviour side (99 again), and near the bottom of the scale on the needs side. Apparently that means that I can keep a pretty high pace and am a tad driven (check), but from time to time I need to find a beach or a mountain and totally disconnect (twice a year: check).
It’s admittedly quite fascinating to see yourself reflected with a fair degree of accuracy in charts, colours, numbers and bullet points. It’s also interesting to reflect on whether or not the choices you’ve made over the years align with what those numbers and colours say about who you are and what you should be doing.
I didn’t really need Birkman to tell me communications, writing and publishing were the paths I should follow, that those were the places I would find my passion. I’ve always loved to write… I’ve always loved the flow of words, the look of words, stories, and books. Nor did I really need Birkman to tell me that despite the fact that I get up early, go to bed late, and don’t stop much in between, my deepest need is for quiet and stillness.
But Birkman is a valuable reminder for me personally. It also offers helpful advice for people who may want to follow their dreams but think there just isn’t enough energy or time. The reality is that if you love something, if you’re passionate about it, that passion can in fact help you find the energy to do what you need and want to do.
As for me, the next time someone asks how I manage to juggle full-time job and Iceberg, I think I’ll tell them the key is in the numbers –– 99, 99, 99 and 99. And the fact that I stop every now and then to climb the Tablelands, lie on a sandy beach, or sit on a rock at Bellevue.