You have probably heard of the cognitive and emotional components of the human mind, but have you ever heard about conation? It is this overlooked third component that only the Kolbe method measures. Created by Kathy Kolbe in the late 70s, it remains the most reliable measurement of people’s natural strengths in terms of the way they take action. The method quantifies these strengths in terms of four action modes through their proprietary Kolbe A Index. By getting a clear insight into how you and the people and your team operate in this conative component, you can unlock the path to greater synergy in your business and even in your personal life. Joining Alicia Couri to give a detailed explanation of this method is David Kolbe, Kathy’s son and now the CEO of Kolbe Corp. Listen in as he explains what differentiates the Kolbe A Index from other personality tests and why organizations need to use its incredible information-generating power.
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Understanding Yourself & Your Teams Through Conation With David Kolbe
Kolbe: A Different Kind Of Assessment
My guest is the CEO of Kolbe Corp, David Kolbe. I’m excited to have him on. I have many juicy questions to ask. Let me give you a little bit of his bio. David Kolbe has lived and breathed the Kolbe concept from its inception. His work on Kolbe technology and intellectual properties began when he co-developed the original algorithm for computing Kolbe A Index scores. His involvement in the design development and use of the Kolbe wisdom gives him great insight into all aspects of this valuable tool, including selection, organizational development, and team building. His role includes management of operational financial, technical and legal efforts. In addition, he conducts seminars, research and speaks to a broad spectrum of industries.
David joined Kolbe Corp after working on Capitol Hill as legislative director for a Texas congressman and as an associate with the law firm, Gammage & Burnham. He earned his Law degree from Arizona State University and a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. He engaged in his community as a board member, volunteer and participant in civic groups. David and his wife, Pam, have four children. Within those four, you have twins as well. Welcome, David Kolbe, to the show.
It’s great to be here, Alicia. Thank you for inviting me on. I’m excited.
You have a very extensive resume here, but what is your philosophy when it comes to leadership?
Boiling it down, a couple of things, one, your role as a leader is not to force everybody to be like you. It’s not to try to bend everybody to your will. If you’re a great leader, you get the most out of people. Depending on what you’re doing, if you’re leading, for me leading a business, I need to get the most out of people and then channel that in the areas that are going to make the business successful. That business successful part, that’s almost separate from being a leader. We’re leaders in all kinds of areas of our lives. You mentioned my kids, I’m a leader at home with my kids. I’m a leader in other things that I’m involved in. Sometimes I’m a follower. Part of being a great leader is also knowing when to step back and when to let other people come to the forefront. I could keep going. Those are parts of the key elements that I’ll start with anyway.
When you say getting the most out of people, it’s not in the terms of using them until they expire.
If that’s your mindset, you won’t get the most out of people. I know this part of it. I also lead and manage the business, but also lead with a long-term perspective. If you want to think about this week or this month, or even this quarter, you can grind people. You can make them work long hours and that’s fine for a quarter. If you want that to be sustainable, you can’t treat people that way. It will come back to bite you. Getting the most out of people, you need to take a big look at that.
Clarify that for people so they understand that it’s not grinding people. It’s helping them understand, expand and grow as an individual.
If you want to get the most out of them, part of that is unlocking the potential, that’s there. If you grind people, you use them up and spit them out, you’re not interested in developing their talents because whatever they’re operating, you know what they’re doing now, you’re fine with that. You’re using them. If you are leading, you’ve got to develop those people because they start with whatever skills and talents they have, but those can and should grow. If you don’t give people the opportunity because you’re working sixteen hours a day and you don’t have any time to develop new skills and talents, you’re missing out.
That could be a huge mistake that some will make moving forward. Your name is David Kolbe. It’s by no accident that you are the head of Kolbe Corp. Tell everybody what exactly is Kolbe.Your role as a leader is not to force everybody to be like you, but to get the most out of people. Click To Tweet
First of all, although it’s not a coincidence, it’s also not what people assume. A lot of times people think, “You started the company.” My mom started the company in 1975. I was just a little kid. Kolbe Corp helps people understand a part of themselves that nobody else helps them understand. It’s called the conative part of the mind. This concept goes back thousands of years. Kathy Kolbe, my mom, was the first person to figure out, put understanding around what this conative part of the mind is and very importantly, figure out how to measure it, how to look into people and say, “What are your natural inborn instinctive strengths in terms of the way you take action?” That’s what conation is. It’s not the emotional feeling side of our minds. It’s also not the conative smarts intelligence side. It’s this doing, taking action side of who we are. We seemed to be born with these ingrained takes on how we take action. We all have a pattern and a style for that. We help people figure that out and use that to achieve the things that they care about the most.
You alluded to some differences between how you feel and how you think. What makes this assessment stand out?
It stands out because it’s the only one that measures the conative side of the mind. Let me give you a little example. The words are fine, especially because conation is obscure, people don’t have an immediate understanding of what it means. Being smart is the intelligence side of things. If you go to school and you’re thinking about leadership, you can take leadership training. You can learn different skills. There are intelligent sides to things. You can analyze the situation using your intelligence. You can decide this is the right course of action. This is the smart thing to do.
That’s different from the way you will go about doing it. Some people start with a plan. They’re systematic. They’re organized. They decide, “This is the right thing to do. This is the course of action I want to take. Let’s develop a plan and then let’s execute that plan in sequence.” That’s what we would call an initiating Follow Thru person. There are people on the other end of that spectrum. I happen to be on the other end of that spectrum in terms of the way we deal with systems and structure. When I decide, “This is the way to go, this is the plan, or this is the way to go, not the plan,” I would have somebody else develop maybe a plan. If I’m doing it, I would come up with a big picture. I’d say, “What are the goals at the end that we want to reach? What are maybe a couple of milestones?” There’s my plan.
That’s the difference in my conative style and strengths, but the intelligence side is different. The active side of our mind, the emotional, our preferences and our interests. As you think about, let’s say we are following a plan and we’re trying to get to a goal that we’ve set out for ourselves, at some point along the way, we might get down and get disappointed because we missed a milestone. Some people miss a milestone and it hits them. They have to stop. They have to regroup. Other people think this is a milestone and their emotional side is, “That’s a challenge. I’m not going to be down and sad. I’m going to be angry. I’m going to kick myself in the butt and make sure that doesn’t happen again.” Those are the three. It’s the thinking, figuring out, what is it that we should be doing, the way you approach that task, and then the emotional side is how you react.
The motivation side, what do you want to do? Maybe the smart thing to do, but you’re not motivated by it. You’re not going to make that effort. That’s the emotional side. The Kolbe piece stands out because we measure this thing that doesn’t change the way you take action. It looks at four action modes and describes a person’s strengths in each of those four action modes. Once you understand that, you’re better at using those internal strengths to get where you want to go.
I look at it too as it’s that why piece. For me at least, it was that why I do things the way I do it. It made so much sense when I took my Kolbe, why I do things like this instead of this and why I was frustrated in school for so long because they didn’t do things the way I needed to do it. They were trying to make me do things in a way that I had trouble trying to do it that way and it stressed me out. That was the piece of the puzzle for me that started to make sense. When I took action and then I could be more confident and secure in the action that I took because I knew that was how I was wired to do things.
That’s a pretty common experience that people have with Kolbe. I use that because that’s some people think of it. Personality is more of that effect of the emotional side. When you take a personality test or some assessment like Kolbe, a lot of times people think it’s going to be limiting. It’s like, “I don’t want to do that. It’s going to box me in.” What we see way more often is what you’re describing a sense of liberation. It’s “This is me. I get it. I understand why school wasn’t such a good fit for me.” It lets them know, “I understand why school a great fit for me and I seem to be lost. I need to get back to doing what I was doing then.”
They’re different experiences that we all have with it. When you understand that, it is part of what gives you audacious confidence to go out and tackle things because you don’t have to doubt. Maybe I will go too far that way you ask some more questions, but depending on the Kolbe results that you get, again, we all have our experiences and our reactions. There are times when people doubt themselves, even when they’re successful because they don’t know if they can do it again. Kolbe helps you to figure out how you can repeat it. I mentioned sustainability as a leader, it is the same thing with leading yourself. How can you drive yourself towards sustainable long-term success?
If you are confident in the action that you took to get that result and you know that is your MO, your Modus Operandi, you know that it’s a repeatable process. “Every time I do it this way, I get great results. Anytime I try to do it, somebody else’s way, that’s when the wheels fall off the bus.” I read this paper from a friend of mine. She’s doing an MBA Leadership Course at Notre Dame. They talked about navigating polarities and how there are people with these different viewpoints and ideas. They’re trying to teach them in leadership how to bring everybody to the middle, even if you have these opposite viewpoints. I was explaining to her that sometimes from my Kolbe training, it’s not like these polar opposites are viewpoints, but it’s the way that people are wired to do things. It can create those polarities. It’s not necessarily everybody coming to the middle to agree, but it’s about understanding each other on their own viewpoints. What do you see about that?
First of all, I love the fact that they’re spending time on it. In our country and probably even the world, we need to spend more time figuring out how we can get people to work together toward a common goal, even when they maybe have their differences. That’s awesome. As far as Kolbe and how we apply to that, when you think of these three parts of the mind, when we identify and as you are talking about, yes, there are polarities. There are differences in conative strengths. I mentioned the one in terms of how we approach systems and structure. Some people need closure and some people are great with having everything be open-ended.
For us, it’s not about trying to get those two people to operate in the middle. It’s about empowering both of those people to be who they are, be the best at who they are and appreciating what the other person brings to the table. I mentioned myself and I’m an open-ended, not super systematic and planned out person. My wife is at the other end of that spectrum. I know this is a personal reference, not a business one, but it hits close to home for me. It’s great because I know when to let her do that stuff. I understand the goals that are important to her and the systems in our family life that I shouldn’t mess up, even though that’s naturally what I do.
Messing up systems isn’t usually seen as positive, but it can be. She also understands when I do mess up her systems. Number one, I’m not doing it because I don’t care. I don’t love her. It’s not that stuff, that’s who I am. She also understands there are times when her plans, systems and structures aren’t going to work, or maybe they’re already broken and I didn’t do it. When the kids have done it, it’s time for dad to step in. I need to step in and say, “Now is the time when the system and the plan aren’t going so well. It’s probably not going to get put back in that bottle. I’ll jump in and I’ll make something up.”
I’m an improviser. It’s the combination of both the Follow Thru and then also the Quickstart is you’re alluding to with that improvisation. It’s the same in business. We all need conative diversity. We need lots of different kinds of diversity. In terms of Kolbe Corp and instinctive strengths, if everybody operates the same way, like if everybody’s super structured and planned out, then when something happens like COVID comes around, where’s the system and the plan for operating 100% remote? We did it in one day almost. If everybody is the planning, systematic, structured person, you won’t have what you need on staff to deal with them to roll all that stuff, so it’s important.
The other thing I want to mention is, as you were describing, because there are these differences, these three parts of the mind when you learn the parts that aren’t about some of the harder things to work out like values some of the emotional sides. If one person values money and the other person values respect or something, you can have these things where you aren’t going to agree. Those are harder to deal with. When you can isolate people who approach a problem differently, you can say to those two people, “You guys agree on the goal. Your values are the same. You approach it differently.” That’s a good thing. It doesn’t mean you’re going to have to be patient with each other. Maybe you need to work separately more often than if you know you’re working together and that’s you’re butting heads. Your differences are key to your success. They don’t hold you back from success.
You mentioned your personal life and I did want to touch on that, Kolbe isn’t just for business though.
This is part of who you are, 24/7 if you don’t turn it off or change it when you leave the office and go home. You’re going to bring it to your relationships, whether it’s your family, your friendships, the volunteer things you’re doing. It’s always there.
Kolbe has a system for couples and relationships.
We were doing a meeting. We had an advisory board. We were going around the room and asking everybody on the advisory board, the biggest difference that Kolbe has made in their lives. These were all people who are business clients of ours. All of them mentioned something in their personal lives. It was something with a child. It was something with their marriage. It was something with a volunteer thing that they were involved in. The couples, the relationship that we call ItTakesTwo.com. It’s not a dating site. It’s not about finding somebody. It’s about understanding the relationship that you have. You and your significant other can take their Kolbe A Indexes. You get a report that says, “Here’s how the two of you match.” When you have those differences, how do you manage those? When you have similarities, how do you manage that? A lot of times, the similarities can make things more easy and natural between the two of you. Let’s not only talk about Follow Thru. Let’s talk about Fact Finder, that’s another one of the action modes. That’s how you gather and share information.
If both of you are researchers, jump into things and dive deep and find out all kinds of information and data, that’s great, but maybe you compete on those things. How do you manage all of that stuff? It helps. Again, one of the big differences it makes is understanding the times when, “This is who my partner is. He or she isn’t doing that this way to bug me. They don’t bug me because they don’t care. They don’t love me. That’s who they are.” The discovery helps a huge amount. The practical suggestion, it’s divided up into different areas around household chores, vacations, if we ever get to take vacations these days, personal finances and great practical advice too.Information is power. Having insight into the people you lead and work with is invaluable. Click To Tweet
I have many other questions I want to ask. I’m trying to gather my own thoughts. I’m a Quickstart too, so I want to throw them all out there at you. I’m going to ask about the biggest mistake that you think you’ve ever made, that it was like, “How do I recover from this as a leader?” Did it affect your confidence and how did you recover?
It was partly a particular incident, but something that I had to learn was the right level of communication with people. The specific incident where this came to the forefront, unfortunately, we have to let somebody who had been our number one salesperson go. This is a number of years ago. It seemed abrupt to lots of the staff and people thought we didn’t handle it very well. I got lots of criticism. One of the main reasons was because we hadn’t communicated to other people about what was going on with this person. We had talked to them. Their performance was an issue when we had worked with them and tried to improve it. There was something that made it somewhat sudden, but the underlying problem was that I kept things to close.
It’s important to value and respect people. When you give them negative feedback, it’s best to do it in private. I’m not saying that I should have given a public dressing down to this person. I also was hesitant to share with anybody else, even in leadership, what was going on and what we were trying to do about it. It was balancing that respect for that person’s feelings with also being clear in what I needed to do as a leader in communicating that ahead of time in a constructive way. It’s a hard issue. It’s not like, “I made this simple mistake and I changed it.” I don’t think those are the biggest mistakes. They may look the biggest because they can be public sometimes. If they’re that easily corrected, it’s like, “It was a mistake. You fixed it.”
The bigger ones are things like, it’s not that there’s one right answer. It’s pretty nuanced and you have to work. That’s something that I’ve worked at ever since then is finding the right balance between being open, sharing information more broadly in the company. I don’t believe in being a total open book. I’m not the leader that sits in a meeting. When somebody suggests an idea that I don’t think is a good idea, I don’t say, “That’s a terrible idea. I can’t believe you wasted our time.”
That got their attention maybe, but that’s probably a little too destructive and other problems, but again, you have to balance that. I know there are some leaders who are, “Here’s me. I’m super direct. I think your idea is bad. I’m going to tell you. If you can’t deal with it, then you shouldn’t work here.” I also believe that can work. If that’s the authentic style for that leader, it’s not mine. There are people who do well with that style. It’s not a place I would want to work. A lot of other people have that reaction. My mistake was that communication issue and I’m constantly working on it.
That’s a big one too to navigate the nuances of how transparent as a leader are you and how much do you have to hold on to other people’s privacy as well?
If I can add an example and it’s not about personnel, but when COVID hit, our business was affected like lots and lots of other businesses. As a leader, part of my job is to make sure that the people on our team don’t panic. They don’t need to feel like, “The world is falling down around me. I don’t know if I’m going to have a job tomorrow.” You want to reassure people. You need to reassure people but you also need to balance that with which information do you give if our revenues are down. Phone calls have stopped, which they get for a little while back in March and April 2020. How do you balance that? It was something. I’m constantly working at it. I’m way better than I was earlier in my career, but there’s still not one right answer. You need to think about it. You need to get information back, “How did I do? I shared this.” I was constantly doing that through the pandemic situation. Am I communicating the right way? Is it enough? Can you do that?
I feel like a lot of leaders right away had that initial struggle with how much do we share and how much do we hold on. We don’t want people to panic. We don’t even know what’s going on either and trying to reassure people, but still trying to find ways to make it work.
The not panicking part is more obvious. If you’re leading people and you respect them, you need to give them information and treat them like grownups. They don’t need to be panicked. You don’t need to overly worry them, but they also need to be given information so that they have time to process it. For instance, we haven’t had to lay anybody off. If we did, I don’t think it’s good leadership to pretend everything is fine. We’re going to be great. All of a sudden, you have to lay off 10%, 20% or whatever. Your staff people should have been given a heads up that, “We’re doing everything we can. Here are the positive sides, but you do need to know that there’s a risk.” That’s part of the philosophy.
How did you make the transition? You were a little boy when your mom started her whole research on this Kolbe method, but then you went off and you did your own thing. When did you come back? How did you come back? How were you received back into the company?
It’s important that I went away. I know there are people who can live in the family business from the time they graduate college and start working, but for me, it was important to go do other things. I’m a lawyer. I came back as general counsel. I worked on the legal stuff. I started slowly doing more and more things. I had a business education background. Law and working on Capitol Hill, that’s not working in the business. I needed to learn more about that stuff in a day-to-day way. I was careful to understand that there’s going to be some skepticism when mommy’s boy comes into the company.
I’m using that language about myself because some people are going to feel that way. You don’t overcompensate and come in, it’s like, “Look how smart I am and how great I am.” You also don’t come in too timid and not doing anything and being meek. You act appropriately. The appropriate place for me was running the legal part of the business and then slowly building other stuff. I’m not the right person to ask about what other people thought because I’m not those other people. It’s worked out okay because I’m still around.
The other part of your question was how did that happen? I came into Kolbe as a grownup in 1997. I was working as an attorney. Kathy Kolbe, a.k.a. mom, but in a business context, she’s always Kathy. Kathy recruited me. The company had a lot of legal stuff going. It was early in its career. There were more legal things that needed to be worked out. We also had some intellectual property issues that we had to deal with former clients who we’re ripping some things off. There was a lot of legal work to be done. I liked being a lawyer, but being in business had a broader set of opportunities for me. That’s why I wanted to move. This was as the internet era and the dot-com stuff is taking off in the company in addition to doing personnel assessment, had these internet things going on with Kolbe.com selling indexes. It was interesting. It was a great opportunity.
When you have family businesses, there can be that tricky part of people who are not in the family and people who are in the family. I read the book, Business is Business. Trying to navigate all those things but it can be a tricky situation as well. I’m glad it’s all working out for you.
It’s often rough. The book you referenced was written by Kathy and also Amy Bruske, who is my step-sister technically, so sister and also works in the business. She’s the president of the company and I’m the CEO. She also worked in other places before she came into the business. Part of it is it’s not always going to be smooth. Maybe it is for some people, but there are bumps along the way. You asked about mistakes. One of the things that I had to learn, it was one of those that I knew it would be there, but I didn’t understand how it would affect working the business with the different relationship of mother and son and boss and subordinate.
I intellectually knew it, but when my boss did things that I didn’t agree with or mom said, “This is the decision we’re going to make.” I understand she’s the boss and I’m the subordinate. What she says, “Goes,” I still react to it like a son reacting to his mother. That took me a little while. That was a harder transition for me than for her in those earlier years. It was always realizing I can’t respond the same way in the office that I would respond in a personal situation. That’s not appropriate, but those feelings are still there so you kept some of it to make those feelings go away. Some of that is they’re never going to go away totally so you identify that and respond appropriately in the work setting.
I don’t have a family business so this is all fascinating to me. Talk to me about how leaders can leverage and use Kolbe to make their company and their business, the people that work for them take their business to another level?
It starts with information being power is one way to put it or understanding, having insight into the people you work with and you lead is invaluable. If there are only three parts of the mind and pretty much everybody knows about it and has learned about the other two, the intelligence and the emotional side. If there’s this third part and you don’t even understand it, you’re operating at a huge disadvantage. You may intuitively guess some of this stuff, but Kolbe gives you quick, clear insight into who your people are, how they operate and how you can be a better leader for them.
There are lots of times when we make assumptions about, “This is what worked for me, so I’m going to tell my people, ‘You should do it this way because that’s what worked for me,’” but it’s also people that you’re leading at work. When you understand those differences and you understand that not everybody operates the same way you do and you don’t want them to, you can put people in the right roles. You can help people understand how to work better together. I’ve been doing it for so long. I don’t understand how people operate as leaders without understanding this info.
You said something important about how people understand the conative part of the mind and use it to put people in the right roles and everything else. What do you say to people that say, “I’ve taken these assessments before?” It’s like a snapshot in time. Tell me moving forward how this person is going to be. What do you say about Kolbe in that situation?People get into a flow state when they are working with their strengths, not against them. Click To Tweet
We’ve done test and retest studies on Kolbe and it’s a very stable trait. Most people don’t change more than plus or minus one unit. We’ve done that up to twenty years, whether you’re taking the test six months apart or twenty years apart, it’s quite stable. It’s not a snapshot in time. It is something that you can count on that lasts. That is a big difference. The other thing I’ll say, “The Kolbe Index is not a cure for everything.” Sometimes the disappointment that people have with assessments, whichever assessment is, they’re over promising when they hear what it’s going to do.
Kolbe doesn’t answer every problem. It doesn’t solve everything. Not everything gets back to this, but it’s helpful a lot of the time. Like your reaction, we have many clients that when they get their own result and say, “I get it.” It’s also different because, Kathy, who developed the instrument. She’s a business person first. She’s not a PhD who spent her life in academia and came up with theories and concepts that are great in and of themselves. She did that, but she applied them to a business setting. For her, it was all about how do these things get used in real life? We’ve focused our entire history on how can we take this information and make it practical, make it something you can take action on rather than sit there and go, “That’s nice to know. Let’s keep it in my drawer and never look at it again.”
You mentioned a little while ago about negative perceptions of whether systems and processes or disorganized, this perception of being disorganized because you are the type that will break systems and processes. I know when people get their results, it’s on a scale from 1 to 10. Let’s talk about that 1 to 3 as a strength and not a weakness because some people immediately perceive it as a weakness. What’s that 1 to 3 and why it’s a strength?
All results in each of the four modes describe your strength in terms of the way you operate in that action mode. There is no better or worse score. It’s not like an IQ test or an SAT where you want to score at the top. You want to find out what your score is on the Kolbe Index. That 1 to 3 in each of the 4 modes is what we call the ReAct zone. It’s all about reacting to situations. We’ll stick with the systems and structure, the Follow Thru. My take on it because given that 1 to 3 is I don’t initiate action by creating systems and structure and using that energy.
I will react by finding shortcuts, by being adaptable, by being open-ended. With all of the four action modes, what we typically see is people who have a score in that ReAct zone, the 1 to 3, which is usually seen as a weakness. It’s something that you should work on. It’s obvious in the systems and structure side. Going back to grade school, I remember I was taught, every year the teacher had their thing of, “When you’re turning something in, you have to write your name in the class period and then my name at the top right-hand corner and the date.
I would turn in homework and it wouldn’t be there. The teacher would say, “You get a zero.” I was like, “That is unfair. I did it. You didn’t even read it.” They’re like, “I told you, if it’s not there, you don’t get credit.” That’s maybe a little much, but they’re also teaching little kids a lesson that there are some things that you have to do. I’m a two and follow through. I still have to file my taxes on time. The government doesn’t say “It’s okay, David, you’re a CounterAct Follow Thru.” “No. I have to get it done.”
I’ll get back to the example I used with my wife. If it’s just the two of us, it’s easy to see if I’m breaking her systems and messing up her plans, that can be super frustrating for her. She sees it as a strength more when the kids mess it up and I can come in and help that situation where she doesn’t have to be frustrated by all that. It’s up to me to use it as a strength. It’s up to me to engage that. If I’m sitting back and saying, “Whatever, Honey, you had your plan. I don’t care if it’s broken, I’m going to watch the game.” I’m not a very good supportive husband because that’s what my talents are needed.
In each of those four, because you don’t initiate action in them, that’s why it’s seen that way. Let me mention a couple of the others. Quickstart, which you’ve mentioned, 1 to 3 in Quickstart is all about stabilizing. It’s finding what has worked well and sticking with it. A lot of people see that as, “Are you kidding me? You always say no to my new ideas or why go for it?” There are a lot of those messages. Those people need to be recognized for the strength they bring. In business, you do need somebody putting brakes on even if in the end you move forward.
I work with a client who’s a ten Quickstart so he is the most like ideas coming out constantly. He will come back from lunch and he will tell his team, I’m starting a new business. Here’s what we’re going to be doing, but what his team knows because they all use Kolbe is that’s how he starts. They need to understand that doesn’t mean we race off this afternoon and we invest $1 million in starting a new business. It means we wait until tomorrow morning. At least maybe that idea is gone. It means not saying no to him when he’s brainstorming, but he knows that those people on his team that do stabilize those preventive or CounterAct Quick Starts, he needs to listen to them. If he has 10 ideas, probably 5 of them are bad, 4 of them are marginal and 1 of them is awesome. If he didn’t listen to the people saying no to things, he had spent way too much time and energy on the not so great ideas. Because he knows that about himself and his team, he’s able to see that as a strength rather than a weakness. It’s important that we all do that.
One of the things with the ReAct Follow Thru is this idea that you’re disorganized. You’re always disorganized, but when someone who is like that, it may seem disorganized to you, but they typically know where everything is that they need. It’s their own system. I wonder if the Dewey Decimal System was created by a counteract follow through.
That’s got to be an initiating following through.
It makes no sense to anybody.
It may not be a good system, but it is a system.
You throw books on the shelf and say, “Find what you’re looking for.” Talk about how understanding your conative strengths help you with your mental energy.
It helps you understand what it is for one thing. You need to be realistic, so my example is having to pay taxes on time. There are times when you’re going to have to do things that are outside of your wheelhouse. They’re not your conative strength necessarily, but you’ve got to do it. When you understand that you can be smart about the way you approach it. Some of our advice, when you’re doing those things that go against the grain for you, set it at a smaller time chunk aside. You’re going to do it for a half an hour, but then you’re going to stop and you’re going to move on to something else. Do it earlier in the day when you’re not burnt out yet. If you try to do it when you’re fried, you won’t be able to do it.
When you’re working with your natural instincts, your conative instincts, you can recharge even though you’re working. People who are able to work and work, they’re usually in that flow state. Part of that flow state is working with their strengths rather than against them. Don’t interrupt your flow state if you’re already in it. Don’t interrupt it by them doing something that’s not a good fit. Maybe before you’re in to do those other things, you’ve got to know the things that don’t fit well and move on. You will recharge by working, which seems counterintuitive. When you love what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like work.
My final question to you is you have four children, are they planning to go into the family business and what are you teaching them about leadership and their own confidence?
Their ages, I have a senior in college, a sophomore in college and my twins are juniors in high school. I have told all of them, “There is not a job for you at Kolbe Corp.” They say, “Dad, what are you talking about? It’s a family business and you didn’t start it but there was a place for you.” I said, “Yeah, but I did two other careers before I came back to the business.” They’re not planning to work in the family business. A couple of them, their interests lie elsewhere. A couple of them, they might be interested in coming to the family business, but I will not just encourage, I will force them to work elsewhere before they come into the business, if that even ever happens.
The second part of your question is such a big one. It’s to understand that there are great things about you. Be true to yourself and that’s a hard thing. Especially I still have three teenagers, one of my college kids is still a teenager. That’s something they have to grow into. There are doubts along the way and insecurities. Those things will happen. A lot of people hesitate to be a leader because they see their own flaws. Especially earlier, a lot of people who rise up early into leadership positions, it’s because they’re arrogant. They aren’t willing to look inside. A lot of those people see the flaws and they see shortcomings and think, “I can’t be a leader because there’s this part about me that isn’t perfect.”
Great leaders aren’t perfect either. They deal with that. They’re realistic about it. They move forward. I am a huge believer of, “Bravery isn’t about not being afraid, it’s about how you handle being afraid.” It’s the same thing with leadership. It’s not a matter of being perfect every time from the get-go with all of your decisions. It’s about how do you deal with it when you make a bad choice, when you fall flat on your face. Even if it’s not your fault, when there are big challenges, that’s when you need to step up as a leader.Great leaders aren’t perfect, either. They just deal with it. Click To Tweet
Understanding them young, knowing their Kolbe strengths, probably helps them also know that they’re great problem solvers because they know how to rely on those strengths to solve problems.
They’ve been brought up with that understanding. We try not to overdo it and make everything about that, but it’s a huge part of understanding who you are and how you’re going to be successful.
Did you have anything else you wanted to share?
No. There is not anything I can think of in particular. Thank you for having me though.
I enjoyed this tremendously. There’s so much more I know we can talk about. We could talk for hours about this. You love Kolbe. I’m loving Kolbe too. I will see you at Kolbe Con. We’ll see each other virtually. Thank you for making this happen.
Thank you, Alicia. It’s great to talk with you.
About David Kolbe
David runs a great company. Their intellectual capital not only has changed our lives, but the lives of thousands of our clients.