Weekly Intention – Change

03.29.13 | Posted in Birkman Method, Weekly Intention

Last week’s WI was inspired by the six day leadership program I’m privileged to coach in at IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland. If you read it, my hope is that you found the time to reflect on your journey and that you discovered something unique and valuable about the experience. If you didn’t read it, I’d suggest going back and reading it before you continue reading this blog as it set the stage for the initiative we’ll describe as Change.

For some, Change is a dirty, four-letter word! For others, change is normal and part of your everyday vocabulary. And, still for others, change is a “Comme Si, Comme ” Ça” affair. That means that there will be situations where you radically embrace change and still others where you dig your heels in and refuse to budge. The point is change has a wide spectrum of possibilities, just as there are people!

If you found the time for reflection and discovered something that you would like to do differently – change – then let’s look at what might get in the way. Some people teach that people don’t resist change, they resist the perceived pain of change and the fear of the unknown. If you know anything about brain science, then this makes perfect sense. Our brains have wiring that tell it to keep us safe from harm. Harm could be the unknown so our brain goes into rationalization mode to justify the emotions that have created the feelings and urge to fight change.

Those previous comments are what I refer to as high level thinking – it puts most people into the same bucket – and labels us all the same. For the purpose of this blog, I would like to feature the Birkman Method assessment. What the Birkman gives us is a clear and accurate indicator of just how someone approaches change. We are given this very reliable status on three planes – 1) a person’s usual style, 2) their intrinsic needs and 3) their stress behavior should those needs go unmet. A person’s usual style is viewed from the lens of 10 other areas as well and it indicates the person’s strengths they use should their intrinsic needs be met. Birkman “grades” the person’s area – for our purpose change – on a 1 to 99 scale so that we very easily see a person’s dimensions.  Any score below 50 is low and any score above 50 is considered high. And, then we can group people into the following categories of Usual Style/Needs/Stress behavior: 1) Low, Low, Low, 2) High, High, High, 3) Low, High, High, 4) High, Low, Low, 5) Low, High, Low and 6) High, Low, High. I know that I just lost some of you, but hang in there and I’ll give a couple of examples to explain what those six categories mean.

The easy ones to explain are 1 and 2. For a person who is Low Usual Style, Low Need and Low Stress it means that change is very LOW on this person’s radar and indicates significant push back and resistance to change. Very simply, I can predict with a very high degree of accuracy that this person will not only resist change, but be an inhibitor to change in a corporate setting as well as in their own life. They will likely be people of significant routine. This person would best be served doing an occupation where they get to do just about the same thing everyday. And, Low Stress doesn’t mean they won’t be stressed by change. We just use that term to describe their stress behavior that we can predict with a high degree of accuracy. It will reflect that since they have a Low Need for change, their stress behavior will look like that of someone who doesn’t like change.

Now for the opposite end of the spectrum – High Usual Style, High Needs and High Stress this person is easy to predict as well. This is the person that embraces change, drives change and seeks and needs change on a very regular basis. Rote work would drive this person to leave the company. And, then we have everything in between with the other four descriptors. And, again, their Stress behavior being High just means that they will seek change for the sake of change when the Need for change isn’t met.

I will stop with the Birkman explanation for now, as this blog wasn’t intended to be a class in interpretation of Birkman results. I am only scratching the surface of how to use the Birkman information and this blog is meant to serve this purpose – show you that there is actually a very wide spectrum of how people approach change.  And, if you know this about yourself and especially your team, it would be valuable information that could help you break through some of your very own change initiatives and those you and your organization are trying to implement.

If you have a team that you lead and you don’t have Birkman assessments on your entire team, how do you know how your team approaches change? Go back to Reflection! Think back to some change initiatives that you’ve personally led with your team. Who was enthusiastic about the change? Who had tons of questions and even challenged the change? Who gave tacit approval and then never got on board? If you will take the time and really reflect on your team, you may be able to come close to predicting their approach to change.

But, here’s what I can tell you – the outward behavior of some of your team will be no indication of that person’s real, intrinsic needs. UnCommon Leaders seek the truth and lead personally. How do you do that? One way would be to have your team take the Bikman!

Onward & Upward!

Ed Chaffin


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