If you are reading this blog, you are likely well aware of my passion for The Birkman Method. Since 2006, I have not coached or consulted without first gaining the perspective offered by its unique data set. Deep learning is like a fine wine – it is complex, and takes time to mature and ripen into something that is experienced by others, as real change. Like a great vintage, The Birkman Method is definitely in a class of its own.
Perspective is the sweet spot of The Birkman Method. It may surprise you to learn, however, that understanding the client’s perspective isn’t the starting place. You see, I have to do my best to ensure that I’m filtering out as much of my own conscious and unconscious bias as possible. I must start with understanding my own perspective. Knowing my own needs and the impact of each client on my limited energy is crucial. I know that I can respond negatively to certain styles of communication, and this will impact how I listen to diverse clients and situations. For me, too much detail can feel overwhelming. I park that feeling, as much as I can, for the client’s sake. My deep need is also for trust. Initial distrust of my role as coach can be difficult for me. I focus on my strength of empathizing with the client’s initial discomfort as they face the performance gaps they must overcome. Of course this suspension of my own needs utilizes my limited energy. This energy all comes back to me when trust is established and the impact of my attentiveness results in dramatic awareness for the client. Check out Robert T. De Filippis’ book: On Coaching with the Birkman Method for deep insights regarding getting yourself out of the way. It’s an invaluable resource even if you don’t utilize the Birkman.
One of the many rewards of my work is the honour of being able to train other professionals in The Birkman Method. During the three day Certification intensive, it is inevitable that the following question is asked:
“Dave, I see how accurate the Birkman is in framing the clients perspective, and the detail and insights are amazing…but how do you use the Birkman and avoid getting lost in all the data and possibilities it presents?”
Creating simplicity out of complexity is critical in any learning situation, and the following approach is what works for me and my clients.
- Be open and impressionable. Initially, it’s not about the Birkman report or any report for that matter. Listening with a blank slate, without my own agenda, ego needs, and desire to authenticate any one perspective is critical. It’s the client’s story, their unique potential, challenges and goals that matters.
- Start with active listening. I see myself as a mirror, and try to reflect back the truest picture of what I perceive and spiral deeper into the presenting challenge. Often it’s not the words themselves but the impression I get when the client is discussing their challenge. I relay back the impression…the agitation, or frustration, or anger, or discontent, and sometimes the elation and sparkle.
- Experience the richness: Here’s where it gets really powerful. Every person is unique in depth, experience and complex beyond measure. The Birkman Map, is full of insight into the client’s patterns, perspectives and potential blind-spots. The nine Birkman Components, which expand on the Big Five Personality Traits, are incredible interpretive elements that offer many potential learning opportunities. I liken the components and their accurate description of strength, need, and potential stress behaviours to the nuances in appearance, aroma, balance and aftertaste of a good wine. Until you understand the terms, and associate them with experienced tasting, they don’t mean much. With listening and practice, these components connect you to a deep appreciation of the client’s perspective which is rooted in their past and will impact their future. It is an awesome experience.
- Magic happens. Equipped with this new awareness, I ask questions related to the patterns I’ve learned by experience and training in the Birkman. This is when the client can often say, “How did you know to ask that question?!” The Birkman focuses in on the client’s perceptions, rules, scripts, motivations, passions, sensitivities, ineffective behaviours and potential blind spots. Asking questions with intuition and the Birkman scores as a guide, creates powerful dialogue and insights for the client.
Equipped with a new perspective and deeper insights regarding their own unique challenges, the client often has a deeper belief that their actions and choices will make a real difference. When properly reinforced with ongoing exercises, action steps, encouragement, follow-up and encouragement, we have what we are looking for! Transformation—substantial and effective positive change. It’s a beautiful thing (that for some would rival a 2013 Chianti)!
Of course it all takes practice and time. However, immediately after certification—before the practice, the addition training offered, and wonderful Birkman conferences—I mean right after Certification, there is so much potential insight to lean on, learn from and make an incredible difference right out of the gate. Confidence builds quickly.
I’m extremely grateful for the Birkman Method, to the late Roger Birkman, and the professional Birkman community that continues to enhance the value of this insightful instrument!