What is your favorite personality assessment? You’ve likely taken one for marriage counseling, choosing your career, applying for a job, or your personal growth. There are hundreds out there, and, like most things, you get what you pay for in a personality assessment. As former university professors, we took many different kinds. We learned our letters like E, N, F, P or D, I, S, C, we discovered our number and wing number, our colors, and in one assessment, we even learned that we could be a lion, otter, golden retriever or a beaver. Each tool identified our strengths and common behaviors, and then a book or a consultant explained it to us. God’s intention was diversity. Psalms 139 teaches us that we are each uniquely and wonderfully made for a purpose.

Diversity is good, but it can be challenging, particularly when we minister to others. The closer we work together, the greater the potential for misunderstanding. And as often seen in ministry, teams working toward a common end can collide. The further we reach outside of our perceptions and working styles, the more challenging the situation becomes. Burnout, relationship problems, or hiding behaviors can become unmanageable. Families implode, expenses for therapists add up, and those around the wounded or fallen saint can feel betrayed, used, and confused. Much of this is avoidable if we knew ourselves and those in our inner circle more accurately, possessed skills to identify and express our needs and exercised the courage to be vulnerable.

The two of us first took a personality tool called The Birkman Method® Assessment when we worked as long-term external consultants for a ministry. The team was experiencing personal conflicts, and so everyone was asked to take the assessment. We each had a one-hour feedback session with the Birkman consultant, and then we sat in a room for two days and processed the team dynamics.

The Birkman Method® helped us learn how our perceptions and reality may not match, how we project our interpretations of a situation onto others incorrectly, through our personality lenses. We each learned our unique value to the team, and we learned concrete signs and symptoms alerting us when our lives are off-balance. Using the Birkman, we learned a neutral language to ask for our needs.

The two of us were fascinated and riddled with anxiety throughout the two days as we learned truths about ourselves and those around us. It soon became crystal clear that stress behaviors from some key leaders on the team were unlikely to change. Through prayer and many discussions, we realized trying to continue our consulting arrangement would be unwise. So, we took a courageous step within the next several months and left the working relationship; it was a challenging but invaluable lesson.

Ten years after our original experience, Kerus wanted to do leadership development work as part of our ministry. We decided to do The Birkman Method® consultant training, and we are even more in love with the assessment than before. The Birkman Method® opens doors for in-depth discussions and can serve as a Segway to spiritual applications when appropriate. We help young people chart a path for their careers, assist professionals transitioning to new positions, or maximize their workplace effectiveness. We work with executive leadership teams desiring greater productivity, seeking new talent, and retaining valuable workers in their organizations. And, we use the tool as part of conflict resolution in homes and the workplace.

Our earliest Birkman experience taught us that we must be ever vigilant to care for ourselves and lead toward individual differences, not merely tolerating them. And to have the courage to realize when an unhealthy situation needs to change and to change it. In our office, relationships are more important than work. And, taking time to explore individual uniqueness with respect makes us better at what we do. Volunteers that go with us to Africa or any new potential employee takes The Birkman Method® assessment; we can’t tell you the number of times just knowing how to talk with someone according to their unique needs has made all the difference. Or how helpful it has been to realize who may or may not be a good fit for our organization. We are grateful for the insights Birkman provides.

Do you have a team that is struggling to communicate? Are you, yourself, feeling stuck?  Are you looking for a change? Maybe you are heading off to college and need some help choosing a major. Are you trying to figure out what’s next for you? We are happy to help!