What are "Needs" and why are they so important, anyways?
Birkman is the only assessment that can provide a glimpse into the invisible Needs and expectations we have of the world around us, empowering people to be most productive in their careers and fulfilled in their lives. But what really are these Needs? And why is Birkman so unique in measuring them?
Remember the last time you were really thirsty?
Water is a key physiological need of humans—we need it to survive. Yet, even though we literally need water for our survival, we don’t walk around throughout the day thinking about water or looking for a glass of H2O. But what happens when you're on a road trip in the middle of nowhere and you begin to feel thirsty? At the first realization of this, you may think to yourself, "Hmm, I feel a little thirsty." Not much to it. But as time begins to pass and you are still feeling thirsty, you likely begin looking out the window for somewhere to stop and get a bottle of water. Looking... looking... looking... but to your dismay, the next road stop isn’t for quite a while. Your mouth is beginning to feel as dry as the desert surrounding you. Now you are really starting to get antsy, slightly irritated, and snippy at your co-pilot (even though they may have told you to pack extra drinks). Until you can get a bottle of water, the only thing you can think about is how uncomfortably dry your mouth is and that you need to quench your thirst before you put the pedal to the metal.
Finally, an hour later... you get your drink of water, and you can physically feel your discomfort begin to disappear. The stress of being parched has been lifted off your shoulders, and you can now go back to peacefully enjoying your road trip and your time with your co-pilot.
Humans need water, but we don’t truly feel this need until it goes unfulfilled.
This same thing is true for people when I think about our personality Needs.
What Needs do you have based on your personality DNA?
Let's look at an example. For some people, one of their personality Needs could be that they need time alone. For these folks, having time either by themselves or with a very small group of one to two people allows them to refuel and recharge. However, they likely don’t think about the fact that they need time alone until they’ve had too much social interaction. Like our friend in dire need of a glass of water, we don't often "feel" or remember our Needs until something uncomfortable triggers us to notice the absence of what feels "right". In contrast, others may have a need for group inclusion, and may not realize this until they don’t feel accepted within a group or team or have the opportunity to socialize with others actively.
By the way, my personality Needs are likely different than yours.
When I think about our physiological needs as humans, we all need water, oxygen, and food to survive. But when it comes to our personality Needs, we aren’t all wired the same! Some of us even have opposite Needs! This would be like saying some people need to breathe in oxygen, others need to breathe in carbon dioxide, and breathing in the opposite one would cause harm or discomfort. In terms of our personality Needs and expectations for how others interact with us, people are all very unique. That's why Birkman measures and describes these Needs—to help people understand their unique formula for success. These Needs are what fuel our productivity and satisfaction in the workplace. Below are a few pairs of Needs described by The Birkman Method. Which ones resonate with you?
- Having an outlet to express your emotions and talk about how you feel, OR
- Keeping emotional issues to a minimum and focusing on practical discussions and solutions
- Having time to process your ideas and make plans before moving into action, OR
- Being able to get started right away and act quickly on a task
- Receiving detailed instruction, providing a specific way to complete a task, OR
- Having a broad outline and high-level overview, explaining where to go but not how to get there
Photo by Richard Clyborne of Music Strive
It may be really obvious to you which Needs you prefer. Or, this may be something you need to think about a little more. If your choices were obvious to you, you might be surprised that some people expect the opposite. And that's why not knowing or not communicating our Needs can cause a lot of issues in the workplace.
Differentiating between how I act versus what I need from you
When most people think about personality, they are referring to how someone behaves. "They are so talkative, social, introverted, extroverted, meticulous, assertive, sensitive." However, when we talk about Needs, we are not referring to how someone acts or behaves, we are referring to how they expect others to behave! When we talk about Needs, we are referring to an invisible part of one's personality that cannot be seen. I can't tell that someone is thirsty just by looking at them. But I can tell if they're thirsty if 1) they tell me, or 2) their unfulfilled Need is causing them discomfort and I can tell something is wrong, but don't necessarily know what. This is why Birkman describes both an individual's outward approach, as well as what they internally prefer and expect from their working environment. When these Needs are fulfilled, it's more likely that the individual will be working in their productive style.
Pro Tip! Here's a helpful acronym to remember the powerful meaning behind Birkman Needs: Non-negotiable Expectations for Environments & Desired Situations
(Unfulfilled) Expectation is the root of all heartache
It's important to note that when people are in the uncomfortable state of not having these Needs fulfilled, they are less than effective; and after a prolonged period of time this could become destructive. The famous quote by William Shakespeare, "Expectation is the root of all heartache" is about expectations. However, what I'd say is that unmet expectation is the root of all heartache.
Remember our thirsty traveler in the desert? He was not his best self by the time he arrived for his bottle of water. The fulfilled expectation is the foundation for comfort. Unfulfilled Needs and expectations are triggering to us, and if our expectations go severely unmet or are unfulfilled for too long, this often causes people to move into stress mode. To put it simply, when employees, managers, and leaders are operating while distressed due to unmet Needs, they likely aren't innovating, collaborating, or selling... they are disrupting, arguing, and manipulating.
Birkman is the only assessment that can provide a glimpse into the invisible expectations we have of the world around us, empowering people to live their most productive and fulfilling lives by uncovering a formula for exactly what they need to thrive. We carry these Needs with us in everything we do. At work, Needs drive your expectations for:
- The style and approach people use when communicating and interacting with you
- The frequency and pace of meetings that you prefer
- How managers provide instruction and delegation to you
- The way you expect to approach problem-solving and making decisions
... and wouldn't you say these are all things that we need to get right?
Leverage Birkman Needs data to empower employees to thrive
Birkman contributes to building more effective employees, leaders, and teams through The Birkman Method assessment. With seven decades of social science research under our belt, we've got a few tips and tricks on how to develop the talent within your organization. If you are interested in learning how insights from Birkman can empower your organization's success, let's connect!
About the Author | Torri Olanski
As an elite athlete for many years, Torri (literally) dove into the world of sports psychology at a young age, which sparked her interest for personal development and coaching. Her creative interests later led her to pursue a degree in Entrepreneurship and Marketing at the University of Houston's Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship. Here, she took her first Birkman assessment and has been analyzing it ever since. Today she is the Content and Innovation Manager at Birkman and is very passionate about celebrating the diversity of personality. A proud Canadian, Torri enjoys travelling to the great white north to spend time with her friends and family.