People don’t come with blueprints. We learn this truth as children, navigating conflict with siblings, on the playground, in the classroom. Most of us have unwittingly hurt someone else’s feelings with a comment that landed wrong, or been surprised that an action we perceive as helpful is received as destructive. When we reach adulthood and start professional lives, these differences often present as workplace conflict. People are wired differently, and we don’t come with maps to help others navigate us.
We all have basic drives for certain behaviors. The Predictive Index suite of assessments (“PI”) identifies four: dominance, extraversion, patience and formality. PI Jedi Dan Courser translates these drives as follows:
- Dominance (A): your idea channel – how you value and generate ideas
- Extraversion (B): your communication channel – how you communicate, and more importantly, how you want others to communicate with you
- Patience (C): your work environment preference
- Formality (D): your decision-making channel – how much data do you need to make a decision?
These four seemingly simple drives lay the foundation for PI to write blueprints of people, and they’re powerful. Drives translate to needs, which we meet through behaviors. If Ted has a high drive for dominance (“High A”), then he likely has a strong desire to win. This need may present as Ted’s being extremely competitive with colleagues. Understanding that competitiveness is simply Ted’s wiring opens up myriad possibilities for leveraging his strengths – and saving him from the wrong role. His competitive nature suggests he will crush it as a salesperson, driven by the need to surpass his quotas every single month. His boss might hesitate, however, to place Ted in a highly collaborative product group, where individual performance is not measured. Thank goodness for the blueprint!
One of my favorite exercises is dividing a room of people by their drives – this is another borrowing from Dan Courser. I ask the “High A’s” to stand on one side of the room, and the “Low A’s” on the other. And then I tell them about themselves. My High A’s are competitive, driven, independent, and generally like to be in charge. They tend to value their own ideas highly, and will work tirelessly to ensure their own agenda is implemented. They nod and giggle as they listen, amazed that this stranger understands them so well (It’s just wiring, folks!). Then I turn to my “Low A’s”. This group values the best idea, and has no need for that idea to be theirs. They are natural harmony-seekers and peacemakers, the kinds of people who work beautifully on a team. As leaders, Low A’s are beloved by their employees for their supportive guidance and ability to hear every opinion. This group too smiles and nods as they listen to themselves be described. We then come back together, and divide up by High B/Low B, etc.
This exercise works wonders for teams because it allows people to see their colleagues’ blueprints being drawn. I always leave time for the groups to ask questions of each other, and lightbulbs visibly go off as the reasons for certain behaviors become clear. Recently, I ran this exercise for a team and the High B (high drive for extraversion, off-the-cuff communicator) CEO asked one of his Low B (low drive for extraversion, prefers time to think before speaking) direct reports if it annoyed her when he stopped by her office to brainstorm a new idea. She replied that it didn’t necessarily annoy her, but highlighted that she usually comes back to him an hour later with additional thoughts. This casual exchange transformed how these two colleagues communicate.
Users of the Predictive Index have many of these stories. And while PI is one of many assessment tools available to companies, I chose it for its simplicity, its eerie accuracy and its efficiency. The Behavioral Assessment – the basis of all other PI tools – takes 10 minutes to complete. BAs then live on an easy-to-use SaaS platform where companies can access their people blueprints daily. An employee can easily access her “Personal Development Chart” that highlights areas of strength and growth based on her BA. Her boss can print a “Relationship Guide” before her first day so he understands where they might collaborate well – and where pitfalls could lie. Their department’s manager can create a report that plots the whole time on a grid that measures tendencies toward innovation, process, results and people. Understanding a team composition is critically important for managers – and investors in private companies (see private equity blog post). Hiring, retaining, promoting … all these important disciplines become more effective with a scientific blueprint (for more on the science of PI, click here).
No blueprint or assessment tool is 100% effective. But as Dan Courser says, PI can improve your batting average tremendously. My PI clients love the tool, and come to rely on the insight afforded by having a blueprint for their people. If you’re interested in blueprints for your people, let’s talk.