How you react to commitments — whether they’re to yourself or others — leaves important clues on how to motivate yourself and coach others to motivate you.

I love it when coaching clients and professional colleagues recommend new tools that help me understand them (and myself) better. So earlier this year, when my colleague Ellen recommended Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies quiz, I couldn’t resist.

The short, simple assessment measures how you respond to outer and inner expectations.

Rubin came up with this framework while writing Better Than Before, which delves into human habits and how to optimize them to improve our lives. Per Rubin, we all fall into four categories: Upholder, Questioner, Rebel and Obliger.

An Upholder responds readily to outer and inner expectations.

A Questioner questions all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if they think it makes sense.

A Rebel resists all expectations, outer and inner alike.

An Obliger meets outer expectations but struggles to meet expectations they impose on themselves.

In a coaching or team management setting, this knowledge is priceless. Here’s how I interpret each of Rubin’s tendencies in teamwork.

As it turns out, I’m an Upholder, which means that once I make a commitment, it’s a vow. When working with other Upholders, a shared standard and timeline will likely be all we need to keep a project moving.

If I’m working with a Questioner, though, and setting a deadline or timeline, I must ensure they understand why a particular standard or expectation is important and reasonable.

And if I’m working with a Rebel, I must harness their raw creative energy and manage any expectations myself — forcing the Rebel to do so will inhibit or demotivate them.

Finally, in teamwork with Obligers, I must make an effort to understand and support the psychological and logistical obstacles they face when managing their own expectations. They may believe they’re underperforming, overworked, or that their role is incongruent with their skill set. If I recognize this in time and address it effectively, I can save them a great deal of psychological turmoil and frustration.

Want to see which archetype you are? Take the quiz to find out how you respond to expectations here.

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