Conation is the part of the mind that determines how we take action.

It’s our instinctive strength. When you approach a problem or a project, what is your first – instinctive – way to approach that problem? Is it to just jump in? Do you start experimenting? Would you rather gather facts? Do you have to lay out a system? When you are free to operate within your conative strengths, you are your most productive, stress-free version of you.

But what if you are not?

That is called conative stress. Conative stress occurs when you are asked to act outside of – or even contrary to – your conative strengths. Try an experiment by yourself. Take out a pen and a piece of paper. Place the pen in your non-dominant hand, and write your name in cursive. How did you do? If you are like me, it took you longer. The letters were sloppier, and it was uncomfortable. Now, imagine that you had to do that day in and day out on the job. Do you feel some stress or frustration?

That is a brief experience of conative stress. Conative stress is taking action outside of your natural instincts or your natural strengths. This matters in an organization because – over a period of time – conative stress leads to mistakes, procrastination, ineffective delegation, and frustration at all levels.

I’ll give you a personal example.

Last year, I was working on a couple of different business ventures and having to move at a fast pace. There was uncertainty, a number of moving parts, and little closure on any of it. However, my natural strengths drive me to systematize and create a plan of action. I also instinctively strive to stabilize in the face of risks and uncertainties. This lasted for several months, leading to a period of conative stress. The stress manifested itself as burn-out, low energy, being tired. I experienced this in spite of healthy sleep patterns, regular exercise, and keeping my time spent on work to normal business hours. I knew that I was under conative stress. My brain was having to write left-handed, even though I am a right-handed writer.

We see this happen in organizations time and again. The perception that an employee is not meeting expectations, not completing tasks on time, and not owning their role is often a misdiagnosis. Assuming the employee is smart enough to do the tasks, has a good attitude, and is otherwise committed to their organization, the answer may lie in gaining a better understanding of their conative strengths. With that knowledge, a business owner or manager can better identify the right tasks for a given employee – or identify the right employee for any given task.

How do you learn another’s conative strengths?

The first step is the Kolbe A Index. After a 20-minute online assessment, we can help you – and them – better understand how they instinctually take action. Conversely, knowing their conative strengths also informs how and when they will experience conative stress.

Diagnosing conative stress is a key component to building a productive, engaged team that positions the company for a better future. Contact us to learn more about how you can uncover conative stress in you and your organization.