Kolbe testing, StrengthsFinder, and interviewing technique: what’s their real value?


Many of the professional mentors at TwoBrain use these tests in their own business. They want to put the right people in the right seats. Used well, they can certainly help. But they can also become a crutch: pigeonholing people can create excuses for lack of progress if you’re not careful.


For example, someone whose test identifies them as an “originator” might see an excuse to never complete anything. “Oh, you know me…I’m a great originator but horrible with checklists!” Of course, a good manager won’t allow them to use a designation as a crutch. And knowing your team’s strengths and weaknesses can help you identify missing links.


For example, the term “TwoBrain” refers to the right and left hemispheres of the brain, and how they work together. I tend toward right-brain thinking (creative, empathetic; I’m an idea machine, but slow to finish projects.) My COO, Mike Lee, is a left-brain thinker (analytical, systemic; he asks all the questions that I skip.) Together, the whole is far better than either of us alone would be.


And Kolbe testing, or StrengthsFinder: they can help you find opportunities for this kind of synergy.


Here are some pairings we recommend for maximum effect:


Founder Phase: hire someone who loves to do the stuff you hate. Usually, you’ll be replacing yourself in lower-value roles, so that means hiring someone who loves to clean, or can follow checklists well.


Farmer Phase: hire someone to manage operations. Most of the time, this is a left-brain, analytical thinker who loves building spreadsheets and checklists. They might need some training in the management of others, but they should replace you as overseer. This is usually the entrepreneur’s first management-level hire, so their role must be clearly defined, with regular evaluations planned and KPIs determined in advance. This will probably be a COO or General Manager, but if YOU love spreadsheets and checklists, hire a sales person instead.


Tinker Phase: build a team around complementary traits. You’ll need a COO (mostly a left-brain thinker), a CSO (mostly a gregarious empath) and a CFO (probably another spreadsheet fan.) Make sure your team is in balance.


Thief: you must hire an entrepreneur to replace you as CEO. Their skill must be in managing the complementary (and competing) personalities within their domain.


Now, these personalities aren’t always going to get along. It’s laughable to think they will.


Your COO and CSO see the world through different lenses. Their approach to solving the same problem could be massively different. But ultimately, if the team is well managed and progressive, these differences shouldn’t stop progress. Disagreements should be balanced (both sides should be heard) but ultimately the CEO must make decisions to keep the company moving forward.


John Ratey, Harvard Professor and author of “Spark!”, called this “competitive collaboration”. He used CrossFit as an example: “I want to climb the rope first, but I also want you to get to the top.”


A leader’s responsibility isn’t to reach consensus between different thinkers. Reaching for consensus usually leads to stalemate or paralysis. Leave that to the bureaucrats. Instead, give each side equal attention, and then make a clear decision. Get in front of all parties at the same time. Tell the team your decision, and the next steps each of them should take. Spare their feelings, but don’t sacrifice growth to do it. In other words, be tactful.


A real leader counts on diversity to move the business forward. He knows that everyone on the team wants what’s best for the business, even if their opinions on tactics differ. He defers to them when they’re right; kindly corrects them when they’re wrong; but ultimately keeps the team moving forward. These are skills that are trained in the Tinker phase of our mentorship program, but even Founders can be on the lookout for people with complementary traits.


The most important takeaway is this: you don’t need a clone. You don’t need to wish there were two of you. You need to find someone who complements your strengths.