David-8795-hi_rez_cropped_low_pixel_rxNUlRToday’s guest is David Kolbe from The Kolbe Corporation.  Kolbe is the home of the Kolbe Index, one of the tools I think is crucial for putting together great teams and hiring the right person, the first time, every time. 

I first met David over ten years ago when I went through the Kolbe Certification process.  I’ve been using the Kolbe Index to help me work on what I call the will do part of our hiring process.  This is an important podcast, one you’re going to want to listen to over and over.

In today’s podcast you’ll learn the following:

  • What the Kolbe Index is and why you need to pay attention to what it provides.
  • How to use the Kolbe Index in hiring and running your company.
  • What striving instincts are and why they’re different from other forms of human behavior.
  • What makes the Kolbe Index different from other tools like DISC or Myers-Briggs.
  • Why you need more than job descriptions to make great hires.



Narrator:         Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful.

Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.

Josh:                Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick and you’re at The Sustainable Business.

Today, we’re in for a huge treat. Today, our guest is David Kolbe from the Kolbe Corporation. Boy, I don’t know when I met David but I bet it was 10 or 15 years ago. I’d been a user of the Kolbe instrument for years and years in my own businesses. I use it with my clients’ businesses. I think it is a great evaluation tool about helping somebody sit in the right seat at your company. And what I mean by that is, too often we hire people based on technical skills and sometimes we think about values but we really forget about what is they have to be willing to do to be successful in a job. And Kolbe helps with that better than any other instruments I’ve seen.

So instead of me just keep on wandering on around Kolbe, let’s have the expert come in and David can talk about his instrument and what their experiences and how they help people use it. So, let’s bring David in.

Hey, David, how are you today?

David:             Doing great, Josh. Thanks for having me on.

Josh:                So, give me a little background on Kolbe and why it is an instrument that’s different than Myers-Briggs, DISC, the predictive index – all the other zillion instruments that are out there.

David:             Sure.

Well, we measure something different. We measure something called the conative part of the mind. So, broadly speaking, there are three parts of the mind. And this concept literally goes back to Plato, so it’s over 2000 years old. And the three parts of the mind – you mentioned DISC, and Myers-Briggs, and predictive index and, as you said, scores if not hundreds of others. Those all measure something called the affective part of the mind. So, that’s the emotions. It’s what we want. It’s our values. It’s important. It’s good know. It certainly drives a part of the way we behave. We’re all familiar with that. It’s been measured really since kind of the middle of last century.

Another of those three parts of mind is the cognitive part. That’s how smart you are. Both, kind of, your native intelligence and it’s what you learn over the course of time. So, IQ tests measure that. If you are an accountant, when you take your CPA exam that measures your cognitive skills in a very particular area.

But then there’s this third part of the mind. It’s not how we feel. It’s not how we think. But it’s the way we take action. So, it’s hugely important, when you’re thinking about a work context. By the way, all three parts of them are. We don’t ignore those other two. We think they’re really important. But when you’re working – when you’re striving to do a good job, the way you take action is going to really drive the way you are going to be successful as an individual. The way organizations are successful, if they’ve got a particular instinctive culture that’s going to drive them. By the way, it also drives what will lead you to failure, too. So yes, they’re both sides of the coin.

Josh:                So, what are the four parts of the Kolbe Index and what do they mean?

David:             Sure. So, as I said, the conative part is the how we take action – the doing part of us. And what we figured out — and I’m being very generous when I say we. Kathy Kolbe is my mom and she actually developed the Kolbe A Index and the language around the description of this.

So what we’ve noticed is that this conative, instinctive part of the mind really breaks down into four, what we call, action modes. So, four distinct things that we look at. They’re all important. All of us have our own take in each of the four. None of them are better or worse.

The first of the four – at least, by the way, we usually talk about them as what we call fact finder. That’s how you deal with information – details on one end of the spectrum where people who really need lots of information. They need to become an expert. They research stuff. If you ask somebody a question who’s on that side of the spectrum, they’re likely to give you lots of information as a response.

On the other end of that spectrum is somebody who really looks at the big picture. They don’t get bogged down in all the details. They look at what are the important few things to think about. Again, both of those are good. Frankly, in an organization, you want people on both ends of the spectrum and people in between. But it will drive, again, the way they work.

The next of the four is what we call Follow Thru. This is how we deal with systems and structure. So, I’ll start at the other end of the spectrum this time. People, we would call are “preventive Follow Thru’s” have real talent for being adaptive, for finding shortcuts. They don’t need to follow a system that’s put in place already. They can just kind of jump around and make things happen. They tend to be more at ease with switching tasks quickly. The other end of the spectrum then is somebody who initiates and follow-through, somebody who really creates systems, creates structures, will also follow a plan that’s in place. If there’s a 13-step plan, they’ll go through each of those 13 steps and reach the conclusion.

The next one’s Quick Start. That’s how we deal with risk and innovation. So, initiating Quick Starts need to do things differently. If they’ve done something the same way four times in a row, they’re likely to try something different. Even if not’s the smart thing to do because, “Hey, I’ve done it five times in a row. It’s worked out really well. Maybe the smart thing is do it the same way the next time.” But those initiating Quick Starts just have a need for mixing it up. At the other end of that spectrum then is somebody who stabilizes – smebody who looks for the tried and true and doesn’t needlessly break out of that.

And then the final one is what we call the Implementor. Frankly, if I could go back in time and change the name, I probably would because it’s not how we implement – as in, carry things out, but it’s how we deal with the three‑dimensional world. The name comes from how we use tools and implements. So, initiating implementors need to touch. They need to build. They really construct solutions. The other end of the spectrum are people who imagine and envision. They don’t need to physically put their hands on things to create solutions. They can imagine and dream them up.

So, that’s kind of the quick overview of all four.

Josh:                So, there’s two areas I want to go with, (1) how we hire people.

David:             Yup.

Josh:                And the second is (2) how we build teams.

David:             Yup.

Josh:                So, if I’m going to hire for a job, it would seem to make sense to me that I would want to be thinking very clearly about what you have to do to be successful in a particular job.

David:             Yup.

Josh:                And then, I would try to find a Kolbe index person that fits, sort of, that descriptor of what it is. Does that make sense?

David:             Yeah, it makes absolute sense. You’re right.

Josh:                So, it seems to be important for me to sit down and clearly think through what it is. Like, if I have a salesperson, they have to be willing to make cold calls, for example. So, if someone was willing to make cold calls, what would we be looking for in that particular case?

David:             Right.

Let me walk you through our process that we’ve developed to help people do this. So, you’re absolutely right. The first step is “what does this job demand?” And I’m constantly surprised by how often people who are hiring forget that step – not just with Kolbe but with anything. They just kind of go along with, “Well, we have a job description written so we’ll just post that and we hope we find the right people.”

Josh:                You know what the problem with that is, when people do that?

David:             What’s that?

Josh:                They only focus on the technical skills and they forget to look at culture, fit and conative activity.

David:             Yeah, absolutely.

And even with that, if they’re just using the job description that was written the last time and they don’t think about what they’re looking for in moving forward, they might not even be up to date on the technical skills. So, really, for all the listeners – make sure, when you have a position that you’re hiring, even if somebody was just it and you don’t really think you’re changing it, take at least a few minutes to really think about “how can or should this job change?” Now that it’s open, you’ve got an opportunity to re-craft it a little bit. And I think you should take it.

So, with the conative piece, what we’ve done is we’ve developed a way to get a good picture of what that job requires. So, yes, it’s things like, “Are they going to be cold calling? Is there a script already written then they’re doing that cold call? Or do they have to improvise every single time?” But instead of asking somebody, you’re kind of hoping that they’re a conative expert and can translate, “Oh, well they have to cold call. They don’t have a script.” And then figuring out, “Well, what does that mean in terms of this language David’s talking about with conative strengths?”

We give you the tools – the Kolbe A Index which identifies instinctive strengths of a person. But then also, very importantly, what we call the Kolbe C Index which a supervisor or in this case, probably the person who’s hiring for that position, just answer some questions. It only takes about 15 minutes and the result tells you, “Here’s a description of what that person thinks this job requires or demands from a conative standpoint.” So, it takes the guesswork out of it.

And that process that we use, we’ve got software called RightFit software that helps work through that. And it just tells you in really clear simple language, “Oh, this is what you’re looking for.” And then it builds what we call Range of Success – basically a job profile, that you can score candidates against.

Josh:                So, that would make sense when it comes to hiring?

David:             Yup.

Josh:                So, let’s talk about building complementary teams. One of the things I see people make as mistakes all time, is they build companies in their own vision of who they are. And in my experience that’s s huge mistake.

David:             Yeah. And I think the title of the podcast here, Sustainable Business, is really the key. Look, if you don’t want to sustain something, you’ve got more leeway for how you want to build a team. You can build it to last six months. We can all—I think if we’re motivated, kind of, bear down for six months and work through it. But if you really want sustainable success—

We’ve done lots of research. It started out with just observations of our clients. But then we’ve worked with two different universities and other different clients – the University of Chicago and the University of Arizona, and looked at what is the key to success for teams in terms of what’s the right blend for people with their conative talents. So, we were actually able to isolate, “Hey, let’s assume or set aside the smarts. You know, are these people goad at what they do? Do they have the raw intelligence they need?”

And let’s just look at this conative piece. And what we’ve seen is you really—I’ll use your word, you really do want complementary talents. It’s kind of complex though because that’s not necessarily true of every team. So, for instance, a sales team, you know, we call it a team but they are much more independent. They don’t rely on each other. As a matter of fact, a lot of times, they compete with one another for getting clients. Maybe, you do want more of the same type of person to fill those roles, if they’re really doing the same kind of selling.

Okay, well, then where in the organization are you going to get those other things? Do you want your office manager, or your controller, or your – kind of fill in the blank. Do you want them to look like the salespeople? Probably not. And yet you’re right, organizations led by strong leaders often fill many of those roles with the same kind of talents as the leader and it’s not a recipe for long-term success.

Josh:                No, it’s not.

Here’s my experience I see with teams. Companies that are well malfunctioning, they seem to have respect for people who are different than them.

David:             Yup.

Josh:                And companies who are not well functioning seem to have this ongoing internal war.

David:             Yes.

Josh:                So, how would I Kolbe to keep from having the ongoing internal war?

David:             You know, that’s a great question.

And, frankly, it’s not just a matter of using Kolbe. Some of it is you need to have people with a willingness to appreciate and respect other people’s talents. I will even tell clients who want to bring us in, “Look, if you have a mindset–if I’m talking with the leader, if your mindset and the company’s mindset is, ‘You are right. Everybody else is going to do what you say, the way you say it.’ You’re probably not a great candidate for using our stuff because it starts with an understanding that there is no right or wrong. There might be a right person and the right job but that doesn’t mean that somebody with different conative talents is less important and less productive.”

If you get to that point where you appreciate those differences, then you can have an organization where, “Yeah, there are these very different people – from a conative standpoint.” You know, their instinctive strengths are very different but they actually want that difference. They seek it out.

Yes, it causes problems. I mean, look we live in the real world. If somebody does something very different than you and they try to impose that on you, even unknowingly, it can be frustrating. So, here are some of the tips we give them. (1) Appreciate it. (2) When we come in, we give people a language so they can see what’s going on and communicate that to each other.

So, I mentioned that FollowThru strength. So that’s how we deal with systems and structure. The positive way to describe that initiating FollowThru is, “Wow, they’re so organized and thorough. And they get everything done. When they start a process and a project, they work all the way through to the finish line and nothing’s left. You know, they don’t drop the ball.” That’s all great.

Here’s a negative way to put that, “Oh my gosh, they are so rigid and bureaucratic. I am so sick and tired of working with David because he won’t let anything go.” Well, same person, same behaviors but I can have a different attitude about it. So, I want to put that person in the right place. And for those roles where I need systematic, structured kind of activity, I’m going to appreciate that.

I actually happen to be the opposite of that. I’m the find-a-shortcut. If there’s a 13-step process, if I can get just as good a result in three steps, I’m going to do it. That’s a positive because it short circuits in a good way. You can do things more quickly sometimes.

But you know what? It can also lead to problems. I thought I could skip step 4 but as it turns out, that’s really important and it caused me a problem. So, when we appreciate that and we spot that and have the language, then another thing that’s really important is to use humor. So, if that other person is staring to annoy me, rather than yelling at her or telling her she doesn’t know what she’s doing, I can make a joke about it. “Oh my gosh, you’re doing it like that again? My head’s going to explode.” It still puts her on notice that I’m stressed out. Maybe I should step out of this part of the process. Let her take over because this is where the systematic approach is better.

Frankly, I could go on for an hour talking about just this one little slice because I see it so often with our clients. And there are so many examples. It really depends on what the differences are between the people – all kinds of solutions.

Josh:                You know, this just brings to mind, I used to be in the food service – vending business back in my first 20 years in business and I, like you, have a very short bar when it comes to Follow Thru. So, I really have never–it took me years to learn an appreciation for people who like to go through all the steps. And what I’ve learned is that there are lots of jobs where those steps have to be done, it’s better for me not to do it.

David:             Yup, absolutely.

Yeah, we were working with a client in the nuclear energy industry. As you might imagine, safety engineers at a nuclear power plant really should follow those steps. You shouldn’t leave any of them out. So, yeah, you look for those different kinds of jobs. You get people in the right role.

Josh:                And once you put someone in the right role, my assumption is that the amount of energy they have for doing the job is almost un-killable if they’re in the right role.

David:             Yeah. Look, they can still get worked too hard and burn out but what we see, the difference is, when they’re in the right role, their energy is being used productively. There are lots of things that can make us inefficient. So, maybe you’re running but you choose to run into the wind. You’re not going to run as fast. So, if your goal is running fast, turn around, go the other way. You know, if your goal is – well, you have to run into the wind to get where you’re going, okay, that’s a different deal.

But, when people in the right role, they work more productively, more efficiently. And we’ve actually seen this. We did research with an Arizona State University professor to look at the electrical patterns in our brain. You know, the way our brain is firing electrons and using energy. And what saw was people who were doing tasks that we predicted were a better fit for their conative strengths actually needed less energy to complete that task than somebody who didn’t fit that task so well. Just magnify that by 100 when you think about work and it gets so much better.

And let me broaden that, thinking about entrepreneurs or just people leading a team. You mentioned people often hire people just like themselves. The reason that doesn’t work so well, usually, is because then there aren’t other people to pick up the slack and do the things that aren’t a good fit for you – the leader. So, instead of creating a team where somebody else—

So, if you think about maybe a business person who is starting a company. At first, they have to do everything. But then, when they can hire the bookkeeper, let’s say, it doesn’t fit. You know, “Look, I how to do the bookkeeping. I can but it doesn’t fit my conative strengths.” I can off load that part of the job to somebody who’s really good at it. They take less energy to do it because they’re efficient with it. Meanwhile, I can do stuff that’s a better fit for me. The team starts working really, really well then.

Josh:                So, we have time for one more topic which is, is there a personality that fits in with different Kolbe’s? Like, you know, a lot of times, are on around – and it drives me crazy, by the way, when people do this. They say, “You’re a Quick Start so you are this way. Or you’re a Follow Thru so you are this way.” But is there a personality for CEOs that you see more often?

David:             Yes and no.

So, I’ll have to say I’m an 8 in Fact Finder which means I’m a detail‑oriented person. I always look at “Well, yes and no, what are the details? Let’s drill down from that.” Here’s the no part. No, it is incorrect to generalize so much and say, “Well, here’s what CEOs ought to look like.” And by the way, in terms of language, we usually don’t describe what we measure as personality because that’s usually the affective emotional part.

Josh:                Sure, sure.

David:             But, from our perspective, “No, there’s not one CEO profile, one CEO Kolbe result.” But what we do see is – depending on the industry perhaps, depending on the stage of the business perhaps, there are trends. So, for instance, a truly entrepreneurial kind of business, a startup, especially where there’s not as much of a tried and true method for doing that startup, we often see more initiating Quick Starts in that role.

Yes, not all. It’s nowhere close to 100% but it’s more than the general population. So, in the general population, we see about 20% of the people being initiating Quick Starts. That’s that end that are just the risk-taking, got-to-do-things differently kind of MO. So, you know, maybe you’ll see 40% to 50% of what we would consider entrepreneurial CEOs with that MO but there are always counter examples.

So, for instance, from what we’ve seen, not academic research but our anecdotal evidence at Kolbe Corp, people who start up franchises. So, you know, McDonald’s, Subway or whatever franchise you might think of, those CEOs are more likely to be initiating Follow Thrus which make sense because it’s not a, “Oh, I can do this however I want to do it.” There is a process. There is a system. You still have to run the business. You still have to make all those decisions, find the investment capital – all that stuff. But once you do, the process is a lot more rigid. There’s a pattern to it.

So that’s what you need to look at when you’re thinking about a CEO. But I’ll also say, Yes, it bugs me when people say, “Oh yeah, CEOs are like this.” Or even in those little groups, they get together with their networking group, whether it’s YPO, or Vistage, or Strategic Coach – lots of different places. They think, “Oh, well, we should all be like this.” No, you shouldn’t all be like that.

Josh:                Right. It drives me out of my mind when people do that.

David:             Yeah.

Josh:                And for those who are listening, don’t do it in your company – your employees hate it.

David:             Yup.

Josh:                Hey, David, unfortunately, we are out of time. And I want everybody here to know how to find Kolbe, how to use Kolbe. And so, if they want to—say,”Okay, I want to do a Kolbe on myself,” where do they go?

David:             Thanks for asking. They go to www.kolbe.com and it’s K-O-L-B-E. And that has all kinds of information about what we do. You can take your own Kolbe Index there. Kolbe A Index for you personally or the Y Index if it’s for kids. And then you can also find out about our business applications on that site.

Josh:                And by the way, for folks who haven’t done a Kolbe Index on themselves, it’s a great experience—

David:             Oh, thank you.

Josh:                –to be going through. It’s really cool. The report that they give is the best I’ve seen for this sort of stuff in the online community. They’ve really done a nice job with it so I highly encourage you to go to www.kolbe.com. Check it out.

And we’re out of time but I have an offer for you also. It’s that I have made a one-hour audio CD course called Success To Sustainability: The five things you need to do to create a sustainable business. That’s an economically and personally sustainable business. To get it, it’s really easy, just take out your smart phone – and don’t do this if you’re driving. But take out your smartphone and text SUSTAINABLE to 44222. That’s SUSTAINABLE to 44222. You’ll get a link. We’re going to ask you for your address. We can mail this CD to you. You can drive around and listen to it and find out what it takes for you to create a sustainable business yourself.

Thanks so much for stopping by today.

Thanks, David.

You’re at the Sustainable Business. And this is Josh Patrick. I hope to see you back here really soon.

Narrator:         You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around 100 years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802‑846‑1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an e-mail at jpatrick@askjoshpatrick.com.

Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.

Topics: sustainable business podcast, Sustainable Business, Hiring, Kolbe Index

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