By: Amy Shepley
I sometimes feel like Usual Behavior is the red-headed stepchild of my Birkman feedback. I have always viewed a people’s Usual Behavior as their self-described style and little more. Yes, it is observable; yes, it is the person’s most productive and effective behavior. But how much could I glean from how a person describes his/her own style? After all, people typically participate in a process like the Birkman to increase self-awareness.
Like most Birkman users, my fascination was with Needs. This part of the person was secret, hidden from the outside world. This was the part the person was less likely to be aware of or understand. Let’s be honest, the Needs are where the magic of the Birkman interpretation happens, and when you are providing the feedback, you are the magician.
However, as of late, I’ve been kicking around some thoughts about Usual Behavior that I would like to share with you. Before I continue, my High Challenge score needs me to clarify that this is a recent insight for me. I may be telling you something you figured out in your original Certification training. Part of why I am so enamored with the Birkman instrument is that even as a practitioner, your knowledge evolves and unfolds. Every time you see a new Birkman profile or provide a Birkman feedback, the experience is new and unique. This is where I am currently in my personal de-brief story.
My ‘ah-ha’ moment (will Oprah let me say that?) came when I was recently reminiscing about my first Birkman feedback. I was 18 at the time and the amazing Patti Corbett was reviewing my report with me. My Birkman at the time looked like what you would expect for an 18-year- old: a lot of extreme scores on both the Usual and the Needs side. Many of you would likely consider my report to be a challenge in terms of interpretation. For example, check out my Esteem scores:
Esteem Usual 99 Needs 79 Stress 79
If I saw these scores today I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some reservations about how I would describe the Usual score of 99. Is this person going to be offended that I am telling him/her that he/she is at the top of the Sensitivity score? Well here is my experience. When Patti described the high end of the Esteem scale to me, she described my High Esteem behavior as:
- Sensitively aware of feelings
- Initiates by suggestion
- Willing to commit time to individuals
- Warm and supportive towards othersSo what was my impression of her feedback? I thought she was spot on. Not only that, I was reassured with what I was hearing because I resonated so much with the information. My recent ‘ah-ha’ moment is that Usual Behavior is not just a person’s self-described behavior. It is so much more than that. The person is sharing with you what he/she thinks is the right way to be. Not only will the client not feel offended by the description, he/she will feel encouraged by the description. His/her perspective says that this is the right way to be, the best way to be, the socially desirable way to be. So next time you encounter a Usual score that you think is less than ideal, keep in mind that your reservations are being colored by your own perspective of what you believe is the right way to be. For your client, his/her Usual behavior is the best and the only way to be.