Personal Effectiveness and Common Misperceptions


Working with people from all walks of life, we frequently hear statements which can be real blockers to personal effectiveness:

  • I’m normal- it’s those other people who have the problem
  • The best way is my way
  • People at work don’t take the time to really understand me
  • Most people feel the way I do

These come up in discussing their behaviour and why everything is OK for them and there is no point in changing to increase their personal effectiveness. Let’s look at each of these Myths in turn:

Myth #1: I’m normal – it’s those other people who have the problem!


What is normal, or not normal, is defined by the observer and their unique perspective.

For those of you who are familiar with African culture you may have come across the word “ubuntu” which translates into modern western culture as:

I am what I am because of who we all are.

In other words, we should consider our behaviour in relationship to others around us.

A key attribute of the Birkman Method is its capability to measure and accurately describe the vision that emanates from our internal views:

  • Our perception of others
  • Our perception of self

Both perspectives are critical for us as we adapt to the formal and informal demands of our social and work environment.

Tip#1: Consider your behaviour in relationship to those around you.  How do they perceive your behaviour? What are their expectations of you in terms of behaviour?

Myth #2: The best way is my way!


There are many ways to accomplish a task to address a challenge or deal with a difficult relationship. I was reminded of a time when preparing for a scout jamboree; I was boiling water on a camp fire as fast as possible with the plan to win the jamboree fire competition. Watching, my father suggested I light only a small fire rather than a large fire, explaining that it would take less time to make a small fire and it would burn hotter faster, it was a winning strategy.

Tip#2: When we focus too much on our own way of doing things we can deny ourselves the opportunity to learn from others.  How would someone else approach this problem?

Myth #3: People at work don’t take the time to really understand me


The way a person behaves is not always the way they expect or prefer to be treated. In fact in exploring information we have collected on individuals in our Birkman database, this alignment on average only occurs for one out of every ten individuals.

Just because I’m quiet at work doesn’t mean I don’t like parties.

The behaviour we see another person using may not be an accurate clue in how to relate to or motivate them.

A unique aspect of the Birkman Method is that it does not assume consistency between our observable behavioural style and our underlying expectations of others in the environment we are operating.

Tip#3: When someone is upset or stressed, look for signs of their real needs.  Understand these and you are likely to have an friend for life.

Myth #4: Most people feel the way I do!


We all have our own unique set of expectations and preferences that are not easily observed by others. In addition our interests or motivators in a specific range of tasks will vary considerably and act as an additional filter on how we feel about a particular environment or situation. These expectations, preferences and interests create a unique perspective of the situation or environment that guides our feelings and actions.

In our work we are often asked about what is the ideal profile for job X or job Y. It definitely would make a lot of employers and recruiters happy if this was the case, but reality is very different.

Our response is always, “It depends!”

Yes, I know you are saying, “What about all those personal and multi-rater assessments that preach the importance of having a particular type or style for this or that organization and role?”

Because of our unique combination of behavioural styles (effective and ineffective), and motivators (behavioural and task) in relation to the environment (organizational culture and role requirements) and situation, it is impossible to define the ideal profile.

Understanding your predominant style in the context of your environment and developing flexibility around your predominant style is far more important in achieving success daily.

Tip#4: What is your predominant or usual style in each environment?  What is the predominant style displayed by those around you?