The Birkman Method

SMUS-Views-Becky

Last Sunday night the School Prefects gathered for a potluck in Wenman Pavilion with the goal of taking time to reflect on the first term of the school year, set goals for this term, and revisit their Birkman Method reports. Using the Birkman Method allowed us to have a deeper discussion about their successes and provide suggestions for possible challenges.

The Birkman Method is a relational intelligence tool designed to help individuals understand where their true strengths lie. The focus of Birkman is to optimize personal, team and organizational performance. Although used almost exclusively in the corporate world, it has proven to be very useful for our student leaders in their personal development and when working as a team. We also feel that it will remain a very helpful resource for them as they move forward into their lives beyond SMUS.

The test was developed by Roger Birkman in 1951 after World War II. Dr. Birkman, PhD in Psychology, noticed through the war that people’s perceptions of one another hurt teamwork. He developed the test to investigate social expectations, self concepts, interests and stress behavior.

The Birkman Method has been used by almost 3 million people and more than 5,000 organizations. Companies including Continental Airlines, Boeing, Pfizer, and Procter & Gamble rely on it to help build an engaged workforce through focused hiring and selection, leadership development, team building and conflict resolution.

As Forbes Magazine (Oct, 2010) explains, to understand how the Birkman Method differs from the many other assessments that describe or “label” people, consider a landscaper who can tell you that one of your plants is a cactus and the other is a ficus. While that is good information to know, it still doesn’t tell you how to keep your plants alive. However, when the gardener says that one of your plants loves arid soil and thrives on minimal watering, but the other one is a thirsty plant that requires regular watering–well, that really helps, because now you know what the plant needs if it’s to stay healthy over time.

With people as with plants, there is no right or wrong, no good or bad, in terms of our individual interests and interpersonal needs. What does matter, however, is awareness–the ability to address the contrasting and often, opposite needs that people have. Birkman not only provides convenient people labels for better understanding, it also offers maintenance and care instructions for ongoing talent management.

Our goal is to provide our students with this language, self awareness and understanding to be productive leaders. To be most effective, a person needs to know themselves and learn to create an environment where those around can reach their potential as well.

For a recent article from Fortune Magazine, click this link.

I would like to invite those of you out there that may be interested in more information about this tool or to inquire about completing the Birkman Method as a student, parent, or alumnus, to please contact me.

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Becky Anderson
Becky Anderson is Director of the Junior School. She has also held the position of Director of Leadership Development at SMUS.

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