Yesterday I met with the consultant with whom I had arranged to complete the Birkman Personality Assessment. The session was surprisingly informative and insightful, with the test results hitting on many points which were highly accurate. The test also highlighted some areas that surprised me, which the consultant referred to as “blind spots”, and of course are really the areas one wants to learn about when taking a personality test.

In our preamble chat, the consultant asked me about my primary motivation for taking the test. I explained that I would be taking a year of maternity leave from work soon, and wanted, in part, to take the time to reevaluate things in my life, including my career. He also asked me if there was one thing I could change in my day to work to improve my enjoyment, what would it be. This took me awhile to respond to, but after some thinking I decided that I would be much happier in my work if the expectations of my job were more clearly defined and adhered too.

I like being able to plan my time and to know what my day is going to hold, as well as what my areas of responsibility area. Constantly being pulled away from what I’m doing to the next shiny object that the boss decides needs to be addressed, and or having more duties suddenly fall under my area of responsibility really tends to irritate me.

Then he asked if there was one thing I could change in my day to day personal life that would improve my enjoyment what would it be. This one I easily identified, (in large part because of my list of 5 things that I do that I don’t like!) and that was to completely eliminate having a work phone. The consultant asked why this was, and my response was that I felt the work phone presented a constant intrusion in my personal life, one that meant I could never escape from the obligations of work.

As it turns out, both of my answers fit directly into the results I had received on the test, and the consultant couldn’t hide a brief knowing smile as I unknowingly gave my two explanations. The total personality assessment report was forty (40) pages, so I’ll breakdown the highlights of the results to give you an idea of what it’s all about.

One of the first things you receive is a profile summary, which provides you with your scores for your components of personality, area’s of interest, preferred work styles, and a life style grid.

I’ll start with the components of personality. This section rates you on 11 different categories, with a score of 50 representing the average individual. A marked departure, either above or below 50, indicates an area worth paying attention to. The categories are split into two sides, your personal strength’s that the world see’s, so long so long as your personal needs are being met, as well as your own personal needs threshold for each component along with the point and severity at which your stress responses kick in when those needs are not being met.

The consultant compared our needs to our physical need for oxygen. As long as you are having your need for oxygen met, you demonstrate the normal behaviours that the outside world is used to seeing. Essentially, no one even notices that your oxygen need is being met as everything seems normal. Translated to meeting your personal needs, you are operating optimally and people observe your strengths in personality. Remove that oxygen however and suddenly your behaviour is way outside what people have come to expect. In fact it can become downright bizarre as you attempt to meet that need. So to it is with your personal needs, fail to meet them and your behaviour is sent spiralling into stress responses in an effort to meet that need. Those stress responses are picked up on by the outside world as your weaknesses, personal flaws, or less than desirable behaviour. All that being said, here’s what the components are, and my results:

Challenge (18) / Self Imposed Demands (18)

People perceive me as someone who sets manageable/achievable goals, rather than always reaching for the stars. This translates into success in what I do, but in large part because I’m not always swinging for the fences, but also means I’m unlikely to hit a home run out of nowhere. This consistency of success leaves people with the impression that I am confident and at ease. In terms of my needs, I rank at the same level as people perceive me, I like manageable goals and I will react with stress when I’m overburdened or assigned a task which is unlikely to be achievable. I will also tend to over-justify if I make an error in judgement, not an ideal trait.

Esteem (31) / Relating to Individuals (94)

My score suggests that people perceive me as a pretty cool cucumber. As long as my needs category is being met, people see me as confident, relaxed, direct, and to the point. HOWEVER, underneath all that is an underlying need to feel genuine appreciation and respect from a few close friends and people of importance. Hence the big number ninety-four (94) in the relating to individuals category, which is a huge number so this is a very important need for me. As long as I am meeting that need through those close relationships, to everyone else I appear as that relaxed, confident person. Take away my close relationships, and all of a sudden I’m going to be overly sensitive, and could even be seen as shy. Interesting result, but when highlighted in this context I can definitely see how I truly value a few close relationships in my life, and when I have more contact with those people I do feel confident and secure in all other environments.

Acceptance (74) /Relating to People in Group (27)

With a score of seventy-four (74) people who interact with me would perceive me to be someone to whom group relationships are important as I tend to be sociable and communicative. But this ability to blend in is actually concealing a real need to spend a lot of time by myself (not surprising!). The numbers show that my need to relate to people in group settings is quite low, and in fact if I am forced into those situations to often I become impatient and withdrawn (yah very true, maybe I shouldn’t be pushing myself to do more group activities, but rather to cultivate close and intimate friendships/relationships, which clearly I have a much higher need for.)

Structure (97) / Systems and Procedures (16)

Well, turns out everyone sees me as a highly structured, organized individual who is concerned with detail and loves procedures. BINGO! However, this love of structure only seems to apply when I am the person allowed to implement and shape the structure, because at a low score of sixteen (16) I really don’t like having other peoples rules applied to me. What a double standard hey?! In fact, if people force their structure on me and I feel it is inefficient or pointless, I will rebel with neglect to the procedure as a whole. Yikes! (This area ties directly to my desire to have clarity of the expectations on me at work, but as becomes clear later, once the goalposts of those expectations are established, I like to have the freedom to structure my own way of meeting them.)

Authority (72) / Directing and Controlling (10)

Turns out people see me as having authority, and being firm but forceful, I suppose thats good since I am in a management role. On the flip side, at a ridiculously low score of 10, I don’t enjoy people pushing authority on me, in fact I don’t enjoy authoritarian environments at all, and gravitate towards more pleasant and low-key interactions. The test suggests that my authoritarian style is a learned or socialized behaviour (likely a direct result of my job) because it is in such contrast to me preferential nature. However, this is an interesting one in that when people try to micro manage me or defy direction, my stress response is to significantly one up them on the authority scale and go from zero to a hundred pretty quick. This is not an ideal reaction, and can be perceived as downright bitchy…….that’s a reaction worth trying to prevent!

Advantage (25) / Incentives of Competition (71)

Apparently people see me as someone who is not overly competitive or interested in gaining individual advantage. Which works, until I feel I am being under appreciated or my work is going unnoticed, which then results in a major spike of self-protective behaviour and immediate reward becomes important.

Activity (30) / Preferred Pace of Action (2)

Well, apparently I don’t like the fast paced environment I thought I did! But, I am all about the finish line, so I like to tackle a task and run with it. Being interrupted from the task, or asked to multitask too heavily is not something I appreciate, particularly when I’m being asked to do something without sufficient time for reflection or planning. My stress responses to this are fatigue, procrastination and evasiveness. I can actually see this quite clearly in my habits lately, my work is an environment where I am constantly overtasked, expected to multitask to the enth degree, and forever being pulled away to new and “more important” things. The exact opposite environment that works with my personality and base needs. All my indicated stress responses are showing up all over my work, which had been driving me crazy not understanding what is wrong with me, but makes a lot of sense when viewed in this context.

Empathy (64) / Involvement of Feeling (75)

People perceive me as “objective but warm” and “sympathetic but practical”, however I also function best in an environment where people feel encouraged to express and work out their emotional problems. When I feel my emotional needs are being overlooked, my stress reaction is discouragement and becoming overly sensitive.

Change (90) / Dealing with Change (90)

Two high numbers in this area. People perceive me as someone who has a sense of novelty and adventure, and that I quite enjoy fresh and stimulating environments. Without the stimulation of novelty and change I can quickly become restless, annoyed with delays and have an inability to concentrate.

Freedom (54) / Personal Independence (86)

While I like to be individualistic, people perceive me as someone who balances conformity with independence. However, if I am in an environment where I am given ample freedom I will perform at my maximum. When I am micro-managed or restricted in my ability to express independence, my stress response is to become rebellious. Very true……….

Thought (18) / Action Reflection (92)

People see me as quick to make decisions and cut to the important issues. However despite the appearance of decisiveness, I don’t like to be forced into making quick decisions and value time to reflect and consider all possibilities. When I am forced to make decisions quickly without adequate time to gather information or consider outcomes, my stress reaction is underlying anxiety that translates into me thinking, thinking, thinking. (This is where my work phone factor comes into play, it is a major trigger that causes me to think, think, think about work non-stop. Hence why I see it as so problematic, and many other people think it’s no big deal.)

Insights

My big takeaways from this assessment were to recognize that I can only operate at my optimal level if my base needs are being met. In particular, nurturing close relationship and finding a work environment that is better suited to my personality are two things from which I would likely see a lot of gains.

Speaking of work environment, my lifestyle grid showed that I am someone who ranked as having interests in task/detail oriented work, as well as strategic planning and innovation. My particular areas of interest showed extremely high responses to careers involving numerical/analytical aspects, literacy, clerical/administrative and creative components. I think I’m in the wrong work environment at my current job! The consultant asked me how I would feel if my current employer asked me to work from home (so I could manage my own schedule), examine the inefficiencies within the organization and develop strategies and protocols to remove redundancies and streamline operations. I told him that would be my dream job, but I think he already knew that.

He also made some excellent points regarding the concept of “currencies”, being: time, money and emotional output. When we are expending one of the currencies in what we feel is a wasteful manner, we feel the effects and it generates multiple stress reactions in our behaviours. I could relate to his analogy completely, and when phrased in that manner it became clear that I felt I was wasting my currency of time in many ways. Ironic that evaluating where my time was being spent was a key area of January’s intentions, even though I didn’t originally have the clarity to identify that as a root issue.

Overall, I would highly recommend this personality assessment over others I have done. While the entire report is to lengthy to delve into, it also came with a number of coaching suggestions for how to manage and prevent my individual stress reactions, as well as job fields which married up to my personal strengths and interests. It has definitely given me a lot to mull over, and will serve me well in identifying what will be positives to my pursuit of contentment, and what will be negatives.

Next up: January’s Takeaways: A summary of the lessons learned from January’s Intentions.