developing relational intelligence
(part 1 of 3)

I wish I knew then what I know now! It was fairly late in my career as a Human Resource Professional that I re-discovered how much I really needed to learn when it came to understanding people. As I sit to write this blog, I am reminded of a particular time in my life that led to this realization. I was working as the Director of Human Resources for a high-tech company in Washington (all names and dates purposefully omitted to protect the guilty). The organization, much to my dismay and against my advice, had the HR department reporting to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Set aside the fact that the CFO’s job is to increase the bottom line and the HR Director’s job is to increase employee fulfillment and productivity which may cost money. We were at odds from the moment we met. Each time I attempted to talk with my boss about some new culture building strategies or ideas for increasing employee satisfaction, I left his office frustrated and angry or in tears. Of course, this did little to contribute to my own fulfillment.

Several years later, I came across and was later certified in administering a behavior/style assessment called The Birkman Method. Having been schooled in psychology, I had learned that we are wired differently and while I intellectually understood that, it did not hit home until I received my own Birkman assessment. In seeing just how we humans are stylistically different, I began to understand the value to having such relational intelligence.

This is the first of a three part blog dedicated to developing relational intelligence.
The first part will define what relational intelligence is and how we are wired differently.
The context for the second part will be the workplace and the blog will focus on how managers and employees can communicate more effectively.
The context for the third part will be personal relationships and the blog will illuminate ways in which to communicate with those who are close to you for optimum understanding.


Relational Intelligence is having knowledge about how we humans are wired to behave under a variety of circumstances – both positive and negative. It is knowing what people need (even when it is unspoken) and finding ways to meet those needs for optimum rapport.

Understanding the way in which we are wired differently is immensely helpful for three reasons:

  1. You don’t need to take others’ behavior personally. In other words, when someone behaves the way they do, especially under stress, it may or may not have anything to do with you. It is just how they process information and communicate.
  2. Knowing how people prefer to be communicated with or treated can help you create better rapport by operating in their style, rather than the way you always behave.
  3. Knowing your own needs and behavior under stress can help you to ask for your needs to be met so that stress can be mitigated.


The Birkman Method dates back to 1951 when Dr. Birkman decided to use his observations of human behavior and make it his life’s work. In the Birkman Method, people are categorized into 4 different categories with distinct characteristics:

Style: The Implementers (RED)
Ask: What?
Time Orientation: Now
Priority: Getting things done

Style: The Communicators (GREEN)
Ask: Who?
Time Orientation: Now
Priority: Selling of ideas & things or influencing

Style: The Planners (BLUE)
Ask: Why?
Time Orientation: Future
Priority: Planning, strategizing & creating

Style: The Administrators (YELLOW)
Ask: How?
Time Orientation: Past
Priority: Organizing & tracking results

The Implementers and Communicators are direct communicators and also known as the extroverts.

The Planners and Administrators on the other hand, are more indirect communicators and known as introverts.
Furthermore, the Implementers and Administrators tend to view the world through a task lens – what needs to get done; while the Communicators and the Planners tend to view the world from a people lens – how the people feel about what they are being asked to do.
Each of us are shaped from time of birth – where and how we grew up, our environmental influences, the role models we looked up to and so forth. This helped inform and determine our predominant “style” – our natural leaning, so to speak. Later in life, we develop a secondary and even a tertiary style based on what our environment calls for. The Birkman Method measures our innate style – our natural leaning, through the use of a comprehensive, reliable and highly validated assessment. The accuracy of results is astounding to most.

My own life and the way I communicate were transformed once I got to know myself better through The Birkman. Being the sensitive sort, it was helpful in managing my own needs, recognizing and re-framing dysfunctional behaviors to try and get those needs met and not taking others’ behaviors personally.
The relational intelligence offered by a tool such as The Birkman has not only enhanced my professional life, but my personal life as well.

Stay tuned to this website blog for Part II on Relational Intelligence and if your curiosity has been sufficiently raised and you would like to have a Birkman assessment administered, feel free to contact us.