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Know Your Score

The Kolbe index will help you identify your team’s strengths and weaknesses.

By Helen Thompson

Is “conation” in your management vocabulary? This psychological component of the mind isn’t generally part of idle conversation, but it’s an important one to understand. You’re probably familiar with cognition (what we know, measured as intellect) and affect (what we feel, measured as personality). But how does one measure conation (what we do)?

Kathy Kolbe, the creator of the Kolbe Index, was curious about this. We have IQ tests and personality tests, ranging from formal IQ tests, to clinical diagnostic tools, to variations of the Myers-Briggs (all you ENTPs and ENTJs, line up here), including quirky internet quizzes that will tell you what type of doughnut you are. But the Kolbe Index was designed to measure conative styles, or people’s preferred or instinctual way of behaving or acting—and that’s a powerful tool for building a good team in your office.


How it works
The Kolbe Index ( evaluates a person’s conative style in a series of 30 questions that ask how you’re most and least likely to respond to various scenarios. It provides the answer by giving you a score in four categories.

  • Fact Finder: How do you gather information? Are you more of a generalist, or do you tend to be a specialist?
  • Follow Thru: How do you organize information—sporadically or sequentially? “Vision” sorts fall into the former category, while “detail-oriented” people fall into the latter.
  • Quick Start: Are you an instinctual innovator? How do you deal with the unknown? Perhaps you’re methodical, or perhaps you can’t live without a challenge.
  • Implementor: Are you an instinctual demonstrator? How are you with tangible solutions? This spectrum ranges from abstract to concrete.

While the numbers assigned to each quality are 1-9, it’s not a better-or-worse thing, says David Kolbe, CEO of the company his mother started. “Because it’s a test, it implies you can be better or worse,” Kolbe explains. “That’s not the case. Your organization is better when you have all these talents represented.”

Putting it to work
Jan Pinney, CLU, ChFC, agrees. He was one of several financial advisors who recommended using the Kolbe Index when Advisor Today featured an article last November on running a top-flight business. In fact, nearly every producer we interviewed for that article had recommended it. “I think most of us in the industry tend to be high quick-starts,” says Pinney (a 6-5-9-1).

He adds that he keeps the Kolbe scores of his 35-person staff handy whenever he needs to delegate. “As a management tool, it helps me choose who to ask to do something.” People with high “fact-finder” scores are good for research; people with high “follow-thru” excel at work that requires a lot of diligence and organization. “And don’t ask me to hang a picture,” he says, noting his 1-score in the hands-on implementor quality. “I’ll either put the hammer through the wall or hit my thumb!”


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