If your audience is sceptical, tell the story behind your product. Why and how you’ve gone to such lengths to develop it. This is the story of the ODC. An insightful profiling tool that takes 10 minutes to complete but took its creator, Willem de Jager, 15 years to perfect.
“I was struggling with the idea that companies all wanted their people to make switches – switches that you could predict they were not going to make. I always say that you can have a cow sit like a dog, but you cannot have it bark like a dog. There is a limit as to how far you can stretch people.”
Willem de Jager, creator of the Odin Development Compass (ODC), CEO and founder of the Odin Company.
The Odin Development Compass, ODC, is a beguilingly simple online exercise.
In the space of 10 minutes – the time it takes to make and drink a cup of coffee – it brings you piercing insights into how you behave and perform at work.
It helps you to see what’s happening when you’re in the flow and having a good day.
Crucially, it sheds light on what’s really going on when, in Willem’s words, you feel stretched. You’re trying your hardest but things aren’t going to plan. With a simple table of adjectives and nouns, the ODC consolidates your career to date. What you thrive on. What you shy away from. How you behave when you feel stressed.
It means that, going forward, you and your teams are much more sure-footed about how you use your respective competencies. You’ll make the most of your collective strengths to tackle whatever lies ahead.
And when you use it, as I did, to look back at the pattern of your career, you gain sudden clarity about frustrations that have been niggling you for years. Frustrations you’ve never really put your finger on. Until now.
In my case, the revelatory word was ‘decisiveness’. And the image that’s stayed me is of a Neptune-type figure, holding a trident. That’s another story.
Like many products, this insightful tool faces several challenges.
Competition. The market in personal profiling is already teaming with products and consultants. Some are very good. Most claim to bring you new insights and improve your performance.
World-weariness. While anyone can use the ODC, its target clients are typically leaders and senior management. They’ve had their fair share of coaching, profiling and mentoring. Some are a bit jaded by it all. They issue Willem with ultimatums along the lines of “You’ve got three-quarters of an hour!’”
Incredulity. The ODC begins with such a quick and simple activity, it seems too good to be true. First you look at a succession of silhouetted figures in different poses. You’re instinctively drawn to some. You’re put off by others.
Then you work through an array of competencies. You whittle them down to a shortlist of ten. Ten competencies that you feel best represent you. And that’s it.
As Willem points out, people are often perplexed by its power. “One guy said five times, ‘I don’t get it. I don’t get it. How do you do it?’”
Q: How do you win the trust of a wary audience?
A: Tell the story about your purpose. Why you began and why you’ve kept going.
It’s clear from the many business interviews I’ve done, that ‘purpose’ is rarely about the money. In fact, it’s usually your purpose that keeps you going when the money is running out and things aren’t going to (business) plan.
Coaches and mentors call ‘purpose’ different things. Your ‘why’. ‘Cathedral building’. Or in Willem’s case, ‘mission’. “More and more I began to understand that I’m on a mission. Looking back, it’s always been there.”
Powerful though your purpose is, it’s sometimes hard to nail it down and articulate it properly.
Begin by telling the story of how you came to do what you do. Then you’ll start to see why you’ve kept going. And the story of your purpose will emerge.
How Willem de Jager’s journey began.
The ODC is shaped by Willem’s extensive experience as a senior interim manager. He was working in the Netherlands, guiding different organisations through change:
“It started about 15 years ago. I was struggling with large companies, where I was working doing projects and assignments. I struggled with the idea that these companies all wanted their people to make switches – switches that you could predict they were not going to make.”
“And I always say, ‘You can have a cow sit like a dog, but you cannot have it bark like a dog.’ So there is a limit as to how far you can stretch people. And I thought, ‘It’s such a shame.’ It’s actually the other way round. You should start with the essence of people. Because if the people in your company aren’t capable of stretching, your company won’t be able to stretch either. You can put a lot of pressure on it. That will stretch it a bit. But in the end people will burn out. Not the effect you are looking for, business wise.”
The ODC also grew out of a demanding personal journey.
During this time Willem began five years’ of studies to become a Jungian analyst and therapist. He’s very candid about how painful the process was, although worth it in the end: “What it brought me is the belief of how important it is to really, really get into the essence of people.”
Willem’s studies helped him to hone the ODC’s distinctive use of archetypal images, framed by Carl Jung’s model of archetypes in personality. Your gut responses to these images reveal, at a deeper level, what’s driving your behaviour. They uncover your real essence.
Willem splits your responses into four groupings:
- Your ‘natural strengths’, the things you naturally do very well.
- Your ‘natural potential’, talents you’ve overlooked but would find easy and rewarding to develop.
- Your ‘fragile strengths’, when you put a lot of effort into doing something but the results are disappointing.
- Your areas of ‘resistance’. Usually these are competencies you ignore. You know it’s just not worth the effort.
So the ODC goes much further than the standard verbal questionnaires, where you consciously select what you think you’re good at. You get real clarity about capabilities you’ve never properly noticed. Your untapped potential.
The Eureka moment. When the ODC become central to Willem’s career.
In 1999 Willem got the chance to apply Jungian insights to his day-to-day work.
At the time he was a senior manager in a large IT company. It outsourced work to people from different cultures. Willem’s role was to create an environment where members of staff understood each other better.
As part of this, he developed a management game called ‘Inner Travel’. It involved three days’ of workshops. It gave people the chance to explore in depth what drove them professionally and personally. At the end they had to meet their boss to say what they wanted to do with their life and whether they would stay with the company or leave it.
“So we gave them the awareness and the opportunity to really make a decision as to where to go. A few of them left, but most of them repositioned themselves within the company. It gave the company a major boost.”
Willem’s approach not only benefitted individuals by giving them a deep understanding about their own capabilities.
It also brought lasting benefits to the company. It allowed managers to reconfigure their teams on the basis of what they were naturally good at.
This realisation – that organisations really thrive when the people in them are happy working to their natural strengths and full potential – gave Willem a deep sense of purpose. Inner Travel was the start of a fifteen year journey to research and develop what is now the Odin Development Compass.
“It was great. I really found my mission there. I found that you can only really change things or move people if you drill down to the real essence of those people.”
How a sense of purpose kept Willem going…
Like all journeys, there were highs and lows. Not least the financial crisis in 2008. It brought the progress of the previous decade to an abrupt halt.
“That’s where the process of creating the product and bringing it to market shut down. That was a harsh time… We had a few years, 3 or 4 years, that were really hard times. But I kept developing. So what we ended up doing is investing our own money in the company and just taking enough for what we needed to stay alive… Then in 2011 we went up again. And at the same point, the bank called me to say they were going to sell my house. That’s the point where we got up again. I didn’t lose my house.”
Fast forward four years, and the ODC now has a proven track record in the Netherlands. It’s been used by the Dutch Air Force and governmental investment bodies as well as individual business leaders and their management teams. Now it’s being launched in the UK.
And it’s not just geographical expansion. Willem is currently working on different applications for the tool. That’s the thing about purpose. It has a long shelf-life:
“My real mission is to bring the instrument to younger and younger people. Imagine if you could bring this to 20 year-olds, or even younger. And we could help them by picking out the really good studies for them. What a change that would be for society.”
The story about your purpose works at several levels.
What you say. How you say it. The fact you you’re prepared to say it at all.
Be open. When, like Willem, you’re willing to talk about the lessons you’ve learned to get to where you are, you establish trust with your audience. If you’re honest about the challenges you’ve faced (like the 2008 crash), a sceptical audience is more likely to believe you when you talk about the good things you can offer.
Describe your journey. In Willem’s case, this was years of study and product development. Yours might be different. But as you describe it, your audience will get a vivid picture of your commitment and qualifications. Trust will grow.
Tell it with feeling. When you talk about your purpose, you’re at your most engaging. Your words will be charged with particular emotions. Enthusiasm, nostalgia, indignation, passion… The story behind your purpose is unique but the emotions themselves have universal appeal. That’s what your audience warms to.
Your sense of purpose is a powerful thing. Tell people about it.
Interested in how Willem and his team could help your organisation?
I’m working with the Odin Company to bring out the stories behind the Odin Development Compass.
Odin has teamed up with Totem Consulting in the UK. Totem offers courses to become an accredited ODC adviser as well as in-house training for HR teams. You can find out more here.