Regular followers of this blog would be aware of the framework called the Human Synergistics Circumplex. The Human Synergistics Circumplex provides a way to “see,” measure and change the thinking and behavioral styles that drive the performance of not only individuals but also groups and organisations. It breaks down the factors underlying effectiveness into 12 specific styles that are grouped into 3 general clusters and arranged in a circular manner based on their similarity: Constructive, Passive/Defensive, and Aggressive/Defensive.


The circumplex and associated tools we use extensively with clients to drive leadership and culture change. It is focused on driving satisfaction driven styles to enable high performance within organisations and leaders. It very much provides an evidence based approach to a cultural change journey. The circumplex has been a life changing tool for me. It has become a compass for decision making personally and professionally within BRS.

However, some of the feedback we receive is that it’s language and the science behind it is sometimes perceived as being hard to understand and apply in simple concepts. Taking something complicated and making it simple is an art form that few can master. In relation to the circumplex, I heard someone in a recent workshop explain the circumplex and its three clusters and associated styles in a simple manner which I thought was worth sharing:

  • The passive defensive cluster is all about being good. Being the obedient child, keeping people happy, not ruffling feathers and avoiding conflict.
  • The aggressive defensive cluster is all about looking good. Ego, external validation, status, power and competing against others.
  • The constructive styles are about doing good. Doing what is right, pursuing excellence, building mutually beneficial relationships, developing yourself and others and achieving great things by enjoying the journey.

By using this simple concept, I have become better at choosing where I put my focus, energy, effort and time. An amazingly simple but effective compass that has guided me well over the last eleven years since being first introduced to the tool.

Being good, looking good, doing good. What cluster are you spending your time and energy? Can you use this simple but powerful mantra to guide your decision making, where you put your time and energy and where your focus should be? Unlock the simplicity in this concept and watch it guide you to the success you aspire for.