The 3COze process helps team members understand their styles and needs and the impact they have on team dynamics.  We use the Birkman Method® as our tool in this process.  This is the fourth in a monthly series where I’ll help you look in the mirror using some of the insights that come through the Birkman®.  But don’t worry; you’ll get the benefit even if you haven’t used the tool.

How Assertive Are You?

In any team, it is pretty easy for me to spot the dominant personalities in the first few minutes together.  It’s these assertive, strong-willed people whose names and faces I remember even weeks after a session together.  But in the same group, there will be a few agreeable types who are easy going and less forthcoming with their opinions. If they stand out, it’s usually for their impressive ability to avoid offending anyone.

How Controlling is Your Approach to Work?

Think about how you show up on your team (refer to the top half of the table below). Are you the opinionated and controlling type?  Do you quickly take a stand on an issue and then express your point of view confidently?  Do you influence by proclaiming and professing?  Or are you the deferent and agreeable one who influences others by submitting and suggesting?  Do you use questions to share your point of view and invite people to think of things the way you do?  If you think about how you interact with teammates, do you ask or do you tell?


It is critical that you are aware of your own assertiveness (or lack thereof).  Particularly if you are a leader, our society has very strong norms. As with any aspect of personal style there are risks in the extremes.  Too much inviting or asking and people will perceive you as weak; too much demanding and directing and they will start making ruthless dictator jokes.

Understanding your own tendencies can help you attend to the situation and to flex your style to what’s appropriate.  When decisive action is required, such as in a crisis situation, you need to be more directive.  When delicate negotiations and careful relationship building are required, it’s best to be more open and inviting.  Can you think of a time where your style didn’t match the situation? What happened?

Getting Your Needs Met

Now take a look at the expectations part of the table.  Which side is more like you?  Do you need direction to come across as more agreeable and suggestive or do you need firm and forceful instructions to follow.  Again, neither is right or wrong.

Getting a sense of the amount of direction and control you need will help you understand where you feel friction.  If you need a more egalitarian and autonomous form of leadership and your boss is the strong, directive type, you will chafe at the feeling of being controlled.  If, on the other hand, you need clear and pointed directions and your boss is more of the gentle, inviting-type, you will feel lost.  Where possible, give your boss (and your teammates) some feedback about how you function best.  If you need clear and definitive instructions, say so.  If you need more empowerment and autonomy, you can ask for that too.

For High Authority Needs

“I find that I am most productive when my role and my authority are clear.  Can you provide some more direction on what you need from me on this project?”

 “It’s stressful for me when we are all accountable for getting something done. Can we take some time to discuss the decision rights we each have on this?”

For Low Authority Needs

“I’ve learned that I’m best when things are delegated to me and I can run with them. What projects could I take off your hands?”

“I need encouragement to express my opinions more forcefully. How can you help me get my voice heard in our meetings?”

As always, if your usual style is in one direction and your need is in the other, you’re going to be hard for people to figure out.  If when giving orders you show authority that would make a U.S. Marine proud, but when receiving orders you expect those above you to let you go with the flow, you’re going to leave a lot of people scratching their heads.   Similarly, if you tend to invite and suggest but need others to demonstrate strong control, you’re not likely to get it.  If you think your usual behavior and your needs are significantly different, be sure to talk about what you need—it won’t be obvious.

It’s valuable to look in the mirror sometimes and to see who you are and how you show up on your team.  This is just one dimension that you need to understand about yourself, I’ll share more throughout the series.

For more information on the Birkman Method® check out their website here.

See Other Posts in the Series

What does respect mean to me?

Do I need to fit in?

How much is enough structure?

How assertive are you?

Are you competing when you should be cooperating?

Are you the tortoise or the hare?

Where do you get your self-esteem?


Further Reading

The Echo Chamber

Your Conflict Defaults

What’s Missing from Executive Teams Today-Part I?

What’s missing from executive teams–part 2