The Birkman Method: A book review by Bob Morris

BirkmanThe Birkman Method: Your Personality at Work
Sharon Birkman Fink and Stephanie Capparell
Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint (2013)

How and why the more you help others to fulfill their potentialities, the more they will do to help you fulfill yours

The title of my review stresses the importance of what I view as a Golden Rule mindset with regard to accelerating personal growth and professional development: the more we “do unto others” to support their growth and development, the more they will support ours. Hence the importance of a personal assessment such as the Birkman Method. More specifically, as Sharon Birkman Fink and Stephanie Capparell explain, “a workplace assessment designed to identify and to suggest how to optimize your potential by teaching a healthy awareness and a greater understanding of you might fit into the bigger picture of society.” Better yet, “it offers a no-nonsense way to deal objectively with all types of personalities in all aspects of a job.” Moreover, the Birkman Method “is the only assessment tool that reaches beyond more self-described behavior to reveal the underlaying m0tivations that drive and inspire.” Those who purpose a copy of this book qualify for a free Birkman assessment at a website (identified in the book) at which to take it for electronic processing. Those who complete it then receive a brief personal profile by email. “The Birkman profile is so sharply focused that those who repeated the test decades apart typically get nearly identical results.”

For me, one of the most important points that Fink and Capparell make throughout their narrative is the interdependent relationship between self-knowledge and understanding others. I think this is what they had in mind when agreeing to collaborate on writing this book. To the extent that circumstances permit, they are sincerely, almost passionately committed to helping their readers to increase their self-knowledge and to help In the first few chapters they focus on the Birkman Method that provides a framework for the Personal Birkman Report, introduced by Fink’s father, Roger Birkman, in the 1960s. I’ve reviewed the questions and they are progressively more probing, requiring the respondent to complete what amounts to a frank, indeed candid self-examination, guided and informed by the questions. There are no “wrong” answers. However, a rigorous evaluation of the answers (whatever they may be) will suggest specific modifications of attitude and behavior that would be more appropriate to one’s best interests, hence more supportive one’s aspirations.

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Fink and Capparell’s coverage.

o Birkman Beginnings (Pages 8-11)
o The Iniversal Four (25-29)
o People Oriented versus Task Oriented (33-47)
o Creating Effective Team Leadership, and Starting from Scratch (49-55)
o Eleven Personality Markers (59-63)
o No Drama, Please (78-79)
o Messy Compromise (93-96)
o Orchestrating Change (98-103)
o The Changing Face of Authority (107-109)
o Empathy and Thought (141-143)
o Analysis and Paralysis (150-152)
o A Focus on Culture (155-159)
o The Freewheeling Boss (165-167)
o Leadership and Challenge (180-181)
o Epilogue: Do People Change? (191-193)

Pogo the Possum spoke for many of us when announcing, “I have met the enemy and he is us.” That said, of equal importance is an attitude best expressed by William Ernest Henley in his poem, Invictus: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” The Birkman Method offers an opportunity for almost anyone to gain the self-knowledge needed to develop a much healthier and more productive relationship, not only with others but also with themselves.

As Sharon Birkman Fink and Stephanie Capparell observe in the Epilogue, “The Birkman assessment’s revelations about your Interests, Needs, and Usual Behaviors can be vital to helping you achieve fulfillment while showing you how to minimize your negative Stress behaviors…What we cannot change — and should never want to change — is the essence of who we are…A central message from Birkman is that all of us have personality traits and interests that offer value to our family, team, organization, and society as a whole…What Birkman uniquely measures are those powerful internal core Needs — the part of us that others do not easily see yet are essential part of who we are. Needs that we call Components function for us like the complex underground root system of the oak tree, and like the root of the oak, they anchor, nourish, and recharge us.”

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