There is said to be magic in threes, which is very true when you consider the third component shaping our behavior. The first two components, personality and cognition, are fairly well known. Most of us are familiar with some form of personality assessment, such as the Meyers Briggs, or cognitive ability assessment, such as the Wonderlic. They are commonly used to evaluate candidates and team dynamics. Even the NFL uses a cognitive ability test to select players. Although insightful, personality and cognitive ability alone are not consistent predictors of success. Some organizations are turning to complex tools that assess random beliefs or memories statistically linked with success. But, improving your chances of optimal performance, selecting the right candidate or building the most productive team doesn’t have to be random or unpredictable. The third component of our processing and behavior, “conation,” has an impressive track record of optimizing performance. Many would argue that applying the insight it provides is even magical.conation brain-1

Although the word isn’t well known, the concept of conation was identified as the driving force for all human action centuries ago. It represents the innate, natural way people get things done, instead of what we know, or how we convey our feelings. Kathy Kolbe has spent three decades using conation to improve individual and team performance around the world, and she has the data to prove it works (the Fact Finder in me wants to add more here, but I’ll get to that later). Through Kolbe Corp. she has created a number of indices to measure conation, including the Kolbe A Index that measures an individual’s “Natural Advantage,” the Kolbe B Index that measures the instincts an individual perceives as required for a job and the Kolbe C Index that measures what co-workers or supervisors perceive as required for a job.

What’s Best for You? 

Kolbe has found that when individuals are free to get things done in line with their Natural Advantage or “Mode of Operating” (M.O.), they experience less stress and frustration and are generally more productive. They can be true to themselves. As one client from Hershey Foods put it, understanding the Kolbe elements “puts me back into an environment where I am Magic Johnson playing basketball instead of Magic Johnson playing baseball.”

Magic baseball

As the foundation, the Kolbe A Index identifies an individual’s innate “Action Modes®,” or how they naturally get things done. There are four Action Modes®:

  • Fact Finder behavior is the instinctive way we gather and share information; it comes from our need to investigate
  • Follow Thru behavior is the instinctive way we arrange and design; it comes from our need to create a sense of order
  • Quick Start behavior is the instinctive way we deal with risk and uncertainty; it comes from our need to experiment
  • Implementor behavior is the instinctive way we handle space and tangibles; it comes from our need to create something tangible

There is a range within each Mode. Although anyone can operate across the range, the Kolbe A Index identifies where someone is most likely to engage first and excel. The combination of ranges across Action Modes is what defines a person’s M.O. It is where someone shines; it is Magic Johnson playing basketball instead of baseball.

Everyone Shines in a Different Way

chartKnowing our natural strengths allows us to seek out situations where our inclinations work for us instead of against us. Knowing our own M.O., or sweet spot, is just the beginning, because at some point we need to work with others. If we appreciate where we do our best and recognize where others are at their best, we can achieve synergy.

Bringing it Together

For me, I appreciate that I am a “Fact Finder” in the range where I flourish explaining things. I am a natural consultant and teacher. I can readily provide you with a detailed reference for every point I have made in this article, although I won’t because others have taught me to appreciate the value of simplicity. And, although I am more on the “Counter-act” end of the Follow Thru continuum, I can successfully work with those on the “Initiate” end who thrive on work plans so structured they leave me numb. I’d rather be numb than over budget.

Clearly problems can occur when M.O.s are too different, but they can also occur when they are too similar. Teams that are too similar result in “conative cloning” and experience a lack of momentum and an inability to innovate. A team made of too many Fact Finders, for example, could get lost in “analysis paralysis;” never believing they have enough information to take action. The right amount of appreciated diversity leads to the most productive teams.

Every player has a position to play and a team needs different types of players. Of course, different positions are best filled with different M.O.s. That is where the Kolbe B Index and Kolbe C Index come into play. Through measuring the perceived innate requirements for a position, they expose misalignment between an individual worker’s own perceptions of his or her job performance and the perceptions of the worker’s supervisors and co-workers.

The Kolbe Indexes work together with a number of graphical reports related to team performance, leadership analytics and selection. Used appropriately, they can unlock the magical third component of individual and team success.

About the Author-

Tina Stout is an organizational psychologist and Kolbe Certified Consultant™ with Leadership Alignment Consulting Group. She can be reached at to help you learn more about the Kolbe Indexes and how they can make a difference for you.

Learn more about Kolbe System or Wisdom™, the support for their approach, and take the Kolbe A Index for yourself at