Kolbe A and my personal offsite

by | Oct 2, 2015

As regular readers know, I’ve recently undertaken a personal offsite, where I’ve tried to get away from the office to think about my goals and objectives and set up my priorities for the next year, and the specific things I’m aiming to do in the period leading up to Christmas. While I was doing this I took time to check how well the things I’m wanting to achieve fit with my own personal strengths. This time I’ve undertaken the Kolbe A test and I’m convinced its going to make a big difference in how I approach things.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Gallup’s Strengthsfinder 2.0, which allows you to take a short online test and from a list of 34 strengths that they have researched tells you your top 5 and gives you strategies to leverage these. It’s a very insightful process, and I recommend it to everybody that I have any sort of mentor or coach relationship with. It’s very low-cost too, just the price of buying the book on Amazon.

This time I wanted to go deeper. Lots of people talk about the Meyers-Briggs personality test. I’ve never been too impressed though. But I decided to take another look. There’s a free version of the test at 16personalities.com. Its worth taking if you want a great description of your personality and how you respond in many situations. The problem is that it doesn’t give you very much that is actionable. I’ve always considered it more useful to coaches in understanding the type of person they are coaching than it is for the person.

The test at 16personalities did get me thinking. They name each personality. I’m INTJ, “The Architect”. It suddenly occurred to me that I naturally took on the role of architect, but in many situations where I wasn’t making much progress I was having to play the role of builder too. I wanted to explore deeper.

Kolbe has nothing to do with whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, or a math whiz. Kolbe A looks at your conative skills. Those are the skills to do with drive, instinct, necessity, mental energy, inmate force and talents. The conative part of the mind has  nothing to do with cognitive skills, typically measured by IQ and grown through knowledge , experience and education. Nor do they have anything to do with the affective part of the mind that deals with desires, motivation, attitudes and preferences that are more typically examined by Meyers Briggs. Conative skills are what drives you.

Your Kolbe result celebrates your Modes of Operation. Understanding and trusting this powerful source will give you the freedom to be yourself. At least that’s what the sales pitch says. After taking the test and reading through the results though, I’m inclined to agree.

Kolbe defines 4 action modes and gives you a score in each:

  • Fact finder – My highest, I’m a 7 which means I’m a strategist when it comes to gathering and sharing information. I work at my best when I’m planning, analysing, putting plans together and so on. Sound a bit like an architect?
  • Follow Thru – My second highest. I’m a 6 which is about maintaining order, monitoring and directing. Interesting that this aligns to being the architect that instructs and guides the builder, and not the builder himself.
  • Quick Start – My lowest. I’m a 3. So I’m quite risk averse and work by stabilising things and eliminating risk rather than the typical entrepreneur who would be a 9 or 10 and worry about the risks when they actually materialised.
  • Implementor – I’m a 4. So I handle things by restoring, typically making whats already there work properly rather than setting up brand new tools and systems.


Against each of the 4 action modes Kolbe gives you strategies of what you need to do to produce your best work and what not to do to avoid stress. I’m finding the what not to do part the most valuable, because the emerging picture is I’m trying to do far too much of the wrong things. A major aim for the next 3 months is find what I shouldn’t be doing and find ways to outsource or automate.

You can take the Kolbe A test by following this link. It costs $50, but I think its money very well spent if it saves me loads of stress down the road. I’m already thinking of making sure that it’s a part of the process when I set up a high performing team. Making sure we have a balanced set of skills across the team should pay dividends.