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5 Reasons Why Understanding Acumen Is Important

Understanding Acumen Capacities

First off, what exactly are we talking about when we refer to “Acumen Capacities”?

Acumen capacities is a way of looking at our internal operating system through a combination of two concepts logic and bias. Logic speaks to our objective, analytical, non-emotional thinking while bias explains the emotional conditioning (or memory) that impacts our decision-making processes.

An example of this interplay between logic and bias can be seen in our immediate thoughts when seeing a dog for the first time. One person will immediately assume the dog is friendly based on an objective understanding of canine instincts and a positive bias that emanates from past experiences. Another person might assume caution due to a different opinion about canine instincts along with one or more past experiences with dogs that were not friendly; maybe even violent. This interplay between logic and bias is imprinted in each of us subconsciously, both from genetics (nature) and experiences (nurture). It is rarely visible to us without deep self-reflection and/or using self-assessing instruments.

At On Purpose, our TriMetrix HD assessment tool uses acumen capacities to help discover the reasons behind superior performance. You can get more information on the TriMetrix Assessment here.

Our TriMetrix HD assessment is based on the use of Axiology which is the study of values. Stated concisely, axiology is the study of how we make judgments about good and bad. While axiology may be the technical name, the concept is often referred to as a person’s “acumen.”

Revealing Acumen’s Potential

  1. Understanding and measuring acumen capacities has many benefits

Neuroscientists now believe that most, if not all, decisions begin in the subconscious part of our brain. Our conscious mind can override or change these initial inclinations, but it rarely does. Consider that the average mid-level manager makes up to 1,000 organizational decisions every day, it stands to reason that we don’t have time to carefully analyze and change more than a handful of judgments.

One example of the relationship between logic and bias may be the story of two salespeople.  One salesperson approaches each customer with trust and a natural optimism and, therefore, does everything possible to accommodate the customer’s requests. Another salesperson may approach the same customer with a natural scepticism that results in a more cautious approach, assuming the customer may seek to take unfair advantage in the pursuit of their objectives.

The customer in this scenario could also represent either the optimistic or sceptical mentality, further complicating the interactions that will take place. In the best of circumstances, both the salesperson and the customer will rely on logic to gain a beneficial outcome. The measurement of this relationship between logic and bias offers many opportunities to shape and improve decisions and relationships in the sales process, but also far beyond.

  1. Measuring acumen capacities reveals many nuanced opportunities for continuous growth and professional development.

Often, the difference between strong performance and top performance is a matter of identifying subtle hindrances to increased success. Earl Nightingale authored a famous, spoken-word record in 1957 entitled, “The Strangest Secret,” the first of its kind to achieve gold record status. He proposed that this secret to success was that “we become what we think about all day long.” Since then, many human performance psychologists have reaffirmed his conviction about the creative power of our thoughts, conditioning us either for success or failure.

Measuring acumen capacities adds 21st-century wisdom to Nightingale’s axiom and assists us in understanding our perceptions of the world around us and ourselves as unique human beings.

  1. Acumen capacities provide a clearer understanding of how people solve problems.  

A main proponent of leadership is solving problems. The more challenging the problem, the more important it is for us to understand the relationship between logic and bias. Acumen capacities bring fresh insights into solving people problems, practical problems or theoretical problems. Using acumen capacities, there has been success in helping individuals recognize how their bias of overvaluing or undervaluing a person, situation, or belief has helped or hindered achieving lasting solutions.

  1. Measuring acumen capacities provides a clearer picture of how people view and navigate their unique circumstances.

Just as acumen capacities have helped us understand our world view, they have also provided a framework for developing a more substantive, helpful understanding of how we view ourselves. From how we see our own uniqueness and individuality, to our mental constructs of our roles and future potential, acumen capacities have provided wonderful insights into self- awareness and growth opportunities.

  1. Acumen capacities are a powerful way to become more successful in helping clients make decisions around hiring, promotions and succession planning.  

In the hiring process, there are often identified nuanced traits in candidates that would not have been visible in any other manner. There has also been success in significantly improving and customizing interview questions to draw out the future potential and possible challenges with candidates and employees based on their acumen capacities.

Conclusion

Understanding and measuring acumen capacities is one of the most rewarding and impactful practices when it comes to individual performance. Since acumen capacities are directly related to performance levels, our aim at On Purpose Leadership Inc. is to help individuals grow both personally and professionally by gaining clarity with regard to their acumen capacities and its impacts and effects on their decisions, actions and performance.

 

On Purpose Leadership Note: The above is adapted from an Article by, and we give our thanks to, Ron Price. On Purpose Leadership is an Approved Provider partner of TTI Success Insights.

DISC Assessment Key to Unveil Leader’s Achilles Heel

Behavioural assessments help uncover interesting insights about a person’s behaviour. Our suite of assessment tools includes one such assessment DISC which when combined with our Motivators or Driving Forces Assessment provides tremendously valuable insights. The information gained from an assessment such as DISC can be used to improve performance or help a person find a job that may be a better fit for their natural abilities.

Understanding the Model

You can get more info on the DISC Assessment here. However, let’s explore the graph here to give you a better understanding of the highs and the lows (see DISC graphic). There is a midline (also known as the energy line) at 50 and any factor above is considered “high” and any factor below is considered “low.” High is not good and low is not bad – this is just a continuum. If you fall in the “extreme” range (0-10 or 90-100), these factors are much easier to observe but more difficult to adapt. If you fall in the “tends to be” range (40-50) these factors are harder to observe but much easier to adapt up and down depending on the situation.

D assesses how you approach PROBLEMS and CHALLENGES: If you are above the midline, you are more FORCEFUL (jump in and address issues immediately). If you are below the midline, you are more ACCOMMODATING (think it through, ask questions, make sure everyone agrees).

I assesses how you influence PEOPLE to your point of view: If you are above the midline, you are more OPTIMISTIC (excited, persuasive, and convincing). If you are below the midline, you are more LOGICAL (factual, sceptical, more of a realist).

S assesses how you respond to change and PACE: If you are above the midline, you are more STEADY (thoughtful, methodical, don’t enjoy quick change). If you are below the midline, you are more DRIVING (multitasker, very flexible, open to change).

C assesses how you respond to rules and PROCEDURES set by others: If you are above the midline, you are more COMPLIANT (follow rules, detail-oriented, perfectionist). If you are below the midline, you are more INDEPENDENT (an out-of-the-box thinker who may ignore “unnecessary” rules).

Your Strengths can become a Vulnerability

So often, what endears a leader to others can become their very undoing. Someone with urgency and precision can be a master at completing tasks but may find themselves lacking when it comes to the human element. Someone else who is supportive and caring may have a hard time having difficult conversations when these conversations need to be had. While others who are great with details and processes may tend to be methodical micromanagers. For every yin, there is a yang and uncovering those vulnerabilities can help shore up a leader’s ability to rally his or her team to become engaged and highly productive.

Example #1 – High Directive with Low People Skills (High D/C and low I/S)

Phil is a young professional with high potential who works in the operations department of a mid-sized company. Phil’s boss thinks he is fantastic because he gets everything done quickly and with great precision, which makes the boss look good. Although Phil is already in a management role, his boss would like to see him promoted to a higher leadership position.

All is not perfect though. One of Phil’s direct reports recently left the company and there are complaints from others about his management style. The claim is he has unrealistic expectations, is overly critical, condescending and does not care about them personally. I have been asked by Phil’s boss to assess and possibly provide coaching to him on his “people skills”.

As I began to work with Phil, it was evident his “get it done now (D) and get it done right (C)” style has its benefits, but also some vulnerabilities. When working with someone who has a very intense dominance and compliance personality, it’s all about completing the task quickly and to perfection. A person with this type of behavioural combination can set expectations so high, they may never be met. Before long, the staff become disengaged because they feel they are fighting an uphill battle they can never win.

Phil and I worked on his demands of his staff and his ability to use a more consultative and collaborative style with them. We explored ways in which he could become a little more invested in them and include them in the setting of standards and ways to achieve goals and desired outcomes. He is slowly becoming more connected with his staff.

Phil has begun to delegate more and to take a personal interest in those for whom he has responsibility. And that little shift in thinking from his “Direct Reports” to “Those for whom he has responsibility”, made the world of difference in Phil’s outlook, expectations and communication and management style and practices.

Building connections with his staff went a long way towards Phil’s success although it was challenging at first – he said he felt disingenuous, because he just wasn’t the kind of person interested in small talk, however, once he took the time to find common interests (i.e. kids playing sports) it no longer felt like he was forcing small talk and instead has begun looking forward to the conversations.

Example #2 – Supportive and caring, but averse to confrontation (High I/S and low D/C)

Jenny is a new manager in a fast-paced work environment. She was promoted because of her customer service skills and how willing she is to always help others when needed. Everyone loves working for her, especially since the former manager was known to be a bit forceful and direct.

While Jenny is well-liked and respected, her team was not meeting the metrics needed to be successful and were starting to get customer complaints. Her boss suspected that Jenny was not holding her staff accountable and not having the needed performance conversations. Complicating matters was the fact that staff for whom she now has responsibility were her peers just a couple of months ago and going from peer to leader has been somewhat of a challenge for Jenny.

During a recent team dynamics session, the team was asked to share what they appreciate most about Jenny. It’s evident how much her friendship and support is of value to them.

The next phase of the team dynamics session had the group engage in an exercise which required each person to share with Jenny exactly what they need from her to be successful in their role. Majority of the group commented that issues were not being confronted directly and tough decisions required were not being made fast enough. These were creating delays and negatively impacting working with their clients. There was also a common undertone that Jenny was not addressing some team issues which is creating some teamwork issues.

Jenny through hard work and candid conversations has come to recognize and acknowledge that her positive and connective (I), as well as her caring and supportive (S) style that has gained her admiration of her staff and colleagues, are the very same attributes that are keeping her from helping her team produce the results for which they are accountable. Jenny has come to understand that people want and need feedback and performance conversations (even the negative ones) to grow in their roles and performance. She realizes having these conversations increases her credibility with the very people that adore her and helps her become more ineffective as a leader.

Conclusion

Both the examples above feature people who were doing well before using DISC and coaching, however, high performing leaders are always looking to improve. Although it’s often easier to observe how a leader’s strengths contribute to results, it’s more difficult for them to accept and take action to change those behaviours that limit their success.

Increasing your awareness of these vulnerabilities may be the most important part of the process as these vulnerabilities can be the Achilles Heel to the leader. Understanding behaviour styles help a leader choose behaviours that contribute more to their effectiveness and success, especially when they are willing and able to adapt their behaviours to fit the needs of those for whom they have responsibility.

Nowshad (Shad) Ali, CPBA, CPVA, TriMetrixHD, CEQA, CFRE

President, On Purpose Leadership

Highly rated coach, facilitator, trainer and speaker.

Expert in organization growth, individual and team excellence and hiring and retaining top talent.