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Back in its early days, The Birkman Method was originally called The Test of Social Comprehension. Even though the name has changed since its creation in the 1950s, increasing and accelerating one's ability to comprehend different social interactions and social beings is exactly what The Birkman Method still brings enormous value to today. Individuals, managers, and leaders can understand how they, and those they work with, fit into the social fabric of our world through the use of the Birkman Map. You could say, the Birkman Map guides us to better navigate our social world.

The Benefits of Using a Reliable Map

Maps provide a representation of various phenomena all over the earth or across a specific area of land through a visual, graphic format. Maps are essential and indispensable tools for geographers to use since they help them understand and explore "relationships" on our planet. In the same sense, the Birkman Map is an essential and indispensable tool for leaders to use in the workplace. It helps leaders understand and explore the relationships and social dynamics on their teams and across their organizations. The Birkman Map provides a visual representation of various behavioral and personality styles.

Below is a sample of the Birkman Map. You can see that two axes run across the Map; from top to bottom lies the continuum of Extroversion and Introversion, and from left to right, we see Task-Orientation to People-Orientation. These axes divide the Map into four different color quadrants, which include Red, Green, Yellow, and Blue. These are the four core archetypes representing Birkman's behavioral and personality styles.

Maps Simplify Complex Information

One of the great benefits of maps is that they simplify complex information for people to more efficiently process, understand, and apply. As you likely know, people are complex—so there is a great benefit to having a blueprint to better understand people, especially those who are very different from you! Maps also help you organize information. The Birkman Map helps people organize and categorize different behavioral styles and personalities for ease of understanding and provide guidance for how to approach real-life interactions using our four core archetypes. The Birkman Map is extremely valuable to help figure out how to navigate relationships, especially if you feel lost! Maps help simplify your life.

It's important to keep in mind, however, that maps are never perfect! The smaller the map's scale, the more detail it may exclude, even if there are no actual errors. Because of the scaling of maps, features are often simplified or averaged out. This same thing is true for the Birkman Map. The Birkman Map provides a lot of helpful information on understanding different types of personalities. Still, it will not provide the same level of detail into someone's personality as if you were to use a different tool. For example, if you want to see a specific geographic element's features, you likely wouldn't use a map, you'd use something more like... a magnifying glass. Likewise, if you wanted to look into the details of yours or another's behaviors, you wouldn't use the Birkman Map. You would use the Birkman Components, giving you more detailed insights into someone's behavioral style. From a simple, high-level view, the Birkman Map outlines four unique archetypes—Doer, Communicator, Analyzer, and Thinker—each representing a very different climate of personality.

The Importance of the Legend

As you probably know, the legend is a critical piece of any map. What if you were on a road trip and had to go to the bathroom, but didn't know what the symbol was for "rest-stop"? Even if you had a great compass, without knowing what the symbols on the map mean, you likely would not arrive at your destination. And with that, maps are only as useful as the symbols on them. Symbols represent the features on the map, and in our case, these features are people!

These four symbols can help leaders better understand the different dynamics at play within their teams and answer the following questions:

The Diamond:

  • How is each individual going to approach tasks and manage relationships?
  • Where is each individuals' natural approach from a behavioral standpoint?

The Circle:

  • Which environment does each individual feel most productive and comfortable in?
  • What type of climate are they expecting you, as their leader, to create or foster for them to thrive?
    Did you know that Birkman is the only assessment to provide leaders with this type of information? Learn more about the power of the circle here!

The Asterisk:

  • What type of work will each individual gravitate toward and feel most motivated by?
  • What area are they going to be most interested in contributing toward?

The Square:

  • How does each individual react when in distress?
  • What type of obstacles might you need to look out for when things aren't going well for each person?

The Map in Action

So, if you're a team leader, how can the Birkman Map help you? Here are two common examples of how this type of information can help a team leader be more effective and create a stronger, more productive team. The Birkman Map can help you:

Uproot Conflict

Have you ever noticed that some of your team members don't see eye-to-eye? Or maybe, you don't see eye-to-eye with some of the people you manage? If you've ever experienced this, you know it can lead to derailed meetings and always wanting to take different approaches to projects or initiatives. When people tend to habitually disagree, this can often be taken care of by merely helping the two individuals understand where each person is coming from. The Birkman Map can provide a helpful perspective on how two people may be taking a completely different approach.

For example, let's say you have two employees, Yasmin and Greyson, who tend to experience conflict. Yasmin and Greyson both work on the same sales account team, but always want to take different approaches with the client. Yasmin likes to plan for all of their calls and follow an agenda when meeting with the client, but Greyson prefers just to jump in, socialize, and let the conversation happen organically. As you may have guessed, Yasmin is taking a "Yellow" approach to the job, and Greyson is taking a "Green" approach to the job, which are completely opposite styles. By showing these two team members that they are taking different approaches and explaining each one's value and how both of their approaches can be helpful, Yasmin and Greyson will be better able to intentionally leverage each other's strengths as opposed to getting annoyed or frustrated by one another. As their manager, you can task Yasmin with setting up the calls, planning the key points to discuss with the client, and take notes during the calls, and task Greyson with kicking off the conversation, taking the lead on any curve-balls the client might throw during the session, and connecting with them on a personal level.

Provide Feedback that Resonates

The Birkman Map can also help optimize how you give feedback and have constructive conversations with your employees. For example, you may assume that it is important to be sensitive, extra gentle, and provide a thorough explanation and conversation behind the developmental area when giving employees performance feedback. This is the tactic you use with all of your employees, but for some reason, whenever you provide feedback to Rachel, it does not jive well. She gets uncomfortable and doesn't act like herself, so you assume that she doesn't do well with feedback conversations. However, when the Birkman Map unveils her comfort for "Red" environments, you realize the issue is not about "what" you are talking about but "how" you deliver it. For Rachel, she prefers candor, and for you to get to the point, the extra sensitivity is actually triggering her to feel uncomfortable. Knowing this about her, you can better navigate feedback conversations with Rachel, and have a much more productive conversation with her, by using this insight to map your way to success.

The Birkman Map is a Workplace Navigational Tool

The Birkman Map is designed to help you navigate social dynamics in the workplace. Leaders can use the Birkman Map to better lead their teams, communicate with their employees, and provide feedback that resonates by understanding and applying the four important Map symbols through the Birkman Color archetypes. When it comes to broad adoption and use of a tool, simple is often better, which is why the Birkman Map and Colors are a great communication tool to roll-out organization-wide. The Birkman Map provides a short-hand for communicating about the complexity of behaviors and motivations across teams and organizations. Think the Birkman Map might help you better navigate your team? Connect with us to learn more.

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