This post is a contribution from Scott Timmins, an HBDI® Certified Practitioner, Principle Consultant at Pinnacle Blue and former Australian Defence Force Aircraft Technician.
I have always been someone who likes to start projects, has new ideas for the way things could be done, and love the sound a deadline makes as it whooshes past my ears. But for many people this world would look like chaos. This is where I shine.
My innovative, creative and holistic self thrives in this sort of chaos. In fact, I am probably responsible for most of it. So why did I join the Army, one of the ‘greenest’ organisations you could imagine?
At 15 my parents came to me with a solution to my flakey lifestyle – join the Army where I would have structure, discipline, and procedures. I could stop ‘floating’ around with no clue of what to do and get a trade. After all, it was important that you had a safe and secure job for life.
What I saw was an amazing adventure which would take me all over the world. I saw this as another project I could start and then leave when I got tired of it. So, in 1990 I packed my bags and joined the Army as an apprentice mechanic.
Now if you do not know anything about the Army, here is my ‘Soldiers 5’ for you:
- It’s run by the book – in fact many books and they all have to be followed for fear of punishment.
- You learn by numbers – when you’re taught how to march they do so by numbers. “Left foot forward 75cm – 1, right foot forward 75cm – 2”. I thought I had already learnt the art of walking at about 2 years old.
- Everything has its place, and every place has its things – weekly room inspections consisted of the Platoon Sergeant walking around with a ruler, measuring the distance between my socks and handkerchief (5cm).
For some this world was perfect. Structure, daily routines, and clear detail around what could and couldn’t be done. It provided a sense of order that many people thrived under. I initially struggled with the organisation and structure, but after the first 17 years things got easier, mainly because I left the Army for a new adventure.
Yet over those 17 long years, I developed amazing organisation skills. I understood the importance of detail and how to collate lots of data and produce high-quality reports. I had developed a strong competence in green, but no real preference for it. To those I worked with I was a high green on the HBDI.
This was a challenge for me because others saw my competence as preference. I would be given tenders, policy reviews, quality assurance checks and an assortment of detail-focused work. Why? Because this was something I developed over 17 years in the Army. It didn’t matter how much I screamed at them “no, I don’t like detail”, it would always fall to me to complete.
My story is something I share with participants during HBDI sessions as it highlights how your competence doesn’t equal preference. It demonstrated that when working within my preference, I experience a sense of flow where everything energises me. But in my least preferred quadrant (green), I went home mentally exhausted.
Whilst we can all become competent in any quadrant if we work hard enough, it is our preferences that are our strengths. As leaders we should be exploring not only what people are capable of doing (competence), but what their preferences are in relation to how they like to work, interact and communicate.
It’s these strengths that we should be leveraging off more because when we do, people start to work smarter, not harder. Whole Brain® Thinking is not just a model, it’s an organising principle that allows individuals, leaders, and organisations to gain a better understanding of how their strengths can help them achieve more.
We sat down (virtually) with Scott to quiz him on Whole Brain® Thinking, the HBDI and more.
When did you have your ‘aha’ moment with Whole Brain® Thinking?
“In 2010 I attended a training program which had the Whole Brain® Model at its foundation. Whilst it was only an introduction, I could see its potential. It wasn’t until 2015 that I got involved in Whole Brain® Thinking workshops with clients. It was in the first workshop that I realised how simple this model was to people, how quickly they picked it up and how much they could use this in their everyday life.”
How has the HBDI changed your day-to-day?
“Everyday I employ aspects of Whole Brain® Thinking. Whether it is meeting with a client who wants technical accuracy and value for money, to my family telling me every aspect of their day, it’s all around me. My wife and I use the HBDI as a language to help us work together on the things we are diagonally opposed. I also use the HBDI when designing learning and development programs.”
How do you handle pressure and burnout?
“As a high red it’s really easy for me to say yes to everything. I don’t want to let the team down or see someone else doing it tough. At times this has led me to taking on too much work. As green is my least preferred, I have to work really hard to see these things through. My strategy is twofold:
- I try to do all my green work first up in the morning. My brain is fresh and ready to go so if I get right into it I have more success. If I wait until the end of the day I’m tired so I will let it slide.
- I try to make it fun. When I have work to do that I don’t like doing I will leverage off my high yellow and get creative. Rather than using the same document template we always use, I will make a new one.”
Who is your role model?
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
“Over the years I have had to fire a number of people. It’s always difficult and sometimes personal. I never realised it at the time but I had been applying the Whole Brain® Model. I would gather my facts and make sure they are accurate. I would look at all the details, policies and procedures. I would empathise with them and apply emotional intelligence strategies to make them feel supported. I would also look for other opportunities both in and out of the organisation.”
What advice would you give to your younger self?
“I find this the hardest question as I rarely dwell on the past and I try to remain grounded in the present. This is because what has happened in the past has made me who I am today. But if I had to, I would tell myself to stay true to you. Leverage your yellow/red and find a career that compliments your preference.”