Terrific personality and strengths tools are available to help us understand ourselves and understand others. Learning what motivates and inspires us helps us to communicate more effectively with others. Recognizing what motivates, inspires, and discourages others also helps us communicate more effectively with them. Whether it is our team members, family members, vendors, or clients, effective communication that meets their needs (and therefore ours) is important to the success of our practices and of our lives.
Understanding Me, Understanding You
People have unique personalities. Whether we work in a two-person practice or in a large practice, there are people to interact with, including our clients, on a daily basis.
Over the last century, many “personality profiles” have come into the marketplace to help us understand more about ourselves and the people we interact with. The goal of these many profile tools is to encourage us to understand ourselves and our differences while recognizing that different is different and can even lead to strength in our teams, friendships, and families.
Over the years, I’ve used several of these personality profile tools. Myers Briggs is a well-known tool, as are DISC, KOLBE, Social Styles, and StrengthsFinder. There are also color, animal, style and many other related tools for understanding ourselves.
The purpose of using any one of these tools is to increase clarity and understanding about yourself and those around you. Use of these tools is also about understanding your staff. The more you can understand yourself, the more you can position yourself in your areas of natural strength. And, the more you understand about your strengths, the better you will be at building a team that complements your strengths.
Once you have increased your understanding of yourself, work with your management team to learn more about their individual natural strengths. Together, you can work and communicate more effectively. Then work with your entire staff to learn how to most effectively communicate with them.
Let’s explore the KOLBE tool, because it is one I used in my practice. Like many of the available tools, it looks at four main behavioral areas. The four KOLBE areas are (from www.Kolbe.com ):
- Fact Finder – the instinctive way we gather and share information.
- Follow Thru – the instinctive way we arrange and design.
- Quick Start – the instinctive way we deal with risk and uncertainty.
- Implementer – the instinctive way we handle space and tangibles.
Understanding Strengths in Action
Let’s look at example of these strengths in action. Let’s say you are a high Fact Finder, your approach is to find a lot of facts and do research before you make a move. Let’s say you are a Fact Finder and you are contemplating how to become a Lighthouse Leader. Before making the decision, you will do a significant amount of research about the program and about me. You will look at what I’m about and what I’ve done. You might talk to people already in the Lighthouse Leader program to learn what they see as the benefits. You will search out detailed information, facts, and research in order to establish your own understandings before you make a decision. Your attention to fact finding is a strength, despite the fact that others may see your attention to details as a distraction or a slow-down to forward progress.
Now, if you are a Quick Start, you have lots of ideas. Your ability to generate ideas is useful in brainstorming and problem-solving discussions. Your openness to ideas can help identify new and unique solutions. Your excitement about ideas does not always translate into you taking action to implement the ideas. Your sheer volume of ideas and your willingness to take risks can be intimidating to others who seek all the facts and still others who want to know the implementation details before agreeing to any action.
For example, Implementers want tangible ways of organizing space and activities so that they can move forward. Implementers like to get work done, put things together, and to work with their hands. People who like to build things, create, and make things are high implementers.
All of us have strengths that we put into action on a daily basis. The challenge is to discover whether our strengths are supporting our team members and the building of our business or whether individual strengths are standing in the way of the practice’s evolution into fulfilling your vision.
What does understanding strengths have to do with building our practices?
Let’s start with YOU, the practice owner. When you take the KOLBE (or your tool of choice), you begin to realize how you work, how you prefer to do things, how you naturally approach situations, and how you tend to communicate. When you recognize more about your strengths, you begin to recognize how situations in the past played out – well, or not so well.
You also begin to recognize where your limitations or short-comings are and whom you might need on your team with strengths that will complement yours. For instance, a practice owner with low fact-finding natural talents may want to bring a team member into the practice with high fact finding tendencies. The use of someone else’s talents to support you and the practice brings strength to the entire team and supports the automation of your practice.
When you and your management team have taken the KOLBE, then you can look at the individual and team strengths to identify how to work more effectively together. Understanding how people naturally go about doing things helps you and the team identify what tasks make the most sense for people to take the lead on accomplishing.
When I used the KOLBE in my practice, it created some clarity around how we were all really working together to move the practice forward. It helped us gain understanding of ourselves and each other. We began communicating more effectively and assigning work more productively.
I also discovered because of KOLBE that one of our therapists was very low on Follow Thru. She produced terrific results for patients. However as we moved toward an automated practice, the requirement was to follow the processes we needed and were documenting for our success. It became clear that her natural way of doing things – which was a strength – was not a fit for my vision of building an automated practice. She was a phenomenal therapist yet didn’t have the follow-through to get the notes done and to communicate effectively with the front desk. Once we became aware of her strengths and what our practice most needed, we could have a respectful conversation. Eventually she pursued another position at another firm that gave her much more freedom and flexibility without the structure that we were putting in place to help our business grow.
In other words, the KOLBE has helped us identify how to interact more effectively, to accomplish work more productively, and even to identify who is a good fit for the automated practice team.
What about personality tools and hiring?
Personality profiles and tools are not predictors of how people will behave. While they provide indications of how people prefer to work, most of these tools do not measure how flexible people can be to use strengths that do not come to them naturally. As a result, the use of these tools is not generally a part of the hiring, job-offering process. Instead, the use of personality tools is most often used to help individuals and teams learn how to work together more effectively in the accomplishment of their work and delivery of their products and services. Be sure to check current local and federal laws related to hiring and testing employees before implementing a testing program.