Report Support Article Written by Dan Perryman
I’ve had several people approach me over the past few months about the same topic, so I figured this would be a great place to cover it for everyone. The question presents itself like this: “I’ve got a client with a (insert color here) Usual symbol on the Birkman Map, but their (insert Component here) score totally says the opposite! How can that be?”
Great question! It’s something you should be prepared for because it happens more often than you think. I’m going to answer this from a psychometric viewpoint first, then give you the practical explanation that you can actually use with your clients.
The statistical, psychometric, number-crunching, frustrating answer: You can’t directly compare the Component scores to the colors on Birkman Map. You’ll drive yourself crazy trying to make a one-to-one correlation between the results. Read on and you will see why.
- The Birkman Map is calculated from the responses to specific items (questions) on the questionnaire. Not every item is used, only the ones that are statistically significant. Not every item carries the same weight—some items are very significant, while others are less. The Birkman Map is another way to look at the data from the questionnaire, not a summary of the Component scoring pattern.
- The Map is NOT derived from the Component scores. Does that sound like I am repeating myself? Yes, I am. It’s that important to understand. The algorithm that computes the location of the symbols on the Birkman Map is equivalent to the KFC Colonel’s blend of 11 herbs and spices for his chicken. It’s part of the secret sauce that makes The Birkman Method work. Just adding up Component scores and replicating the Birkman Map won’t work. Trust me, I’ve tried it.
- Is this really important to your client? Or are you just anticipating the possibility of having to clarify why this can happen? As “Birkman Nerds” we sometimes get wrapped up in details that the respondent is not that concerned with. This can be one of them. IF the question gets asked? Yes, we need to be able to answer with clarity and transparency. And if our goal is to be in service to their growth, we don't want something that appears to be an inconsistency to be a barrier to the insights that are raised in the rest of the instrument.
The Signature Report has made it easier to visualize the “disconnect.” Birkman now gives you the icon color for each Component’s high scores, so it’s easy to look at the Map symbol and then try to validate it against the Components of that same color. The most dangerous Map quadrant for this is Yellow. Only the Insistence Component matches that color, so it is easy to question the instrument when you have a Yellow diamond and a low Insistence Usual score. Doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? And you don’t have the recipe for the secret sauce that defines the Map. So, what do you do?
Look for the three “hidden” yellow scores. Excuse me, hidden scores? Yes, the hidden Yellow scores are the low Usual scores for the three Green Components (Social Energy, Incentives, and Restlessness). There are really four measures that go into making a Yellow score, not one. The high Yellow Component score, and the three low Green Component scores.
I was helping a Birkman Professional recently with a specific client who had this pattern—a Yellow diamond on their Map, but a Usual Insistence score of 16. The pattern did not make sense to her. But when we looked at the “hidden” Yellow scores, all three Green Components had low to mid-range Usual scoring, which pushes the Usual symbol away from Green and toward Yellow. You could say this person is not a classic Yellow, but more of an “anti” Green. Knowing this, she could adjust her description of Yellow away from the compliance and process focus (our typical Yellow language) and towards focus and independent work, that person’s “real” Yellow traits.
So, here is the mindset I use in approaching a Birkman Map conversation. Birkman believes in the power of the uniqueness of every person. But, on its face, the Birkman Map can look like it is pigeon-holing people into one of four colors. There are SO MANY ways to have a symbol in a color, and that is part of the magic of this instrument. Everybody will get there in a different way.
Almost every respondent will have at least one Component score that doesn't fit with the color of their Birkman Symbols. Instead of worrying about it, celebrate it. Me? I have a deep Blue Usual diamond on the Map, but my Assertiveness score doesn't match the typical Blue words we use. I’m a mouthy Blue. An assertive Blue. An opinionated Blue. Once I have my mind wrapped around the issue, I will make sure my point of view is heard. That’s the uniqueness that is me.
For the Yellow example I referred to earlier, I would describe that person as a flexible Yellow. You might also meet active Yellows, or competitive Yellows, or expressive Yellows. That’s a beautiful way to verbalize their uniqueness. For visual learners, refer to the imagery we use of the kaleidoscope. Every person has at least a fleck of other colors, and we are not painting people with a broad, single-color stroke. Approaching your conversation with a client with their uniqueness identified can really help them understand how they fit into the world around them.