Life Orientations Training

Life Orientations Training

Life Orientations Training, or LIFO Training for short, is an applied behavioral science system designed to foster individual and organizational productivity. Common applications include leadership development, interpersonal communication skills, and team building [ [ The LIFO Method ] ] . LIFO Training wokshops and performance coaching sessions typically begin with participants completing a LIFO assessment in order to identify their relative preferences for four basic orientations to life, or behavioral styles. The assessment is typically followed by a series of learning activities organized around six developmental developmental strategies intended to help individuals and groups be more productive in their work, exert greater influence when dealing with key people, and collaborate more effectively in groups.


Life Orientations Training was developed by Stuart Atkins, Ph.D., Alan Katcher and Elias Porter, Ph.D. in the late 1960s, based on a synthesis of key concepts from psychoanalysis, self-actualization theory, client centered counseling, group dynamics, and his experience as a behavioral scientist and organizational consultant. Atkins introduced it as a structured tool to supplement organizational development, T-groups, and sensitivity training. These group methods were intended to help people improve themselves by studying each others' behavior, thoughts, and feelings and providing candid feedback to one other. As a facilitator at National Training Laboratories and other institutions, Atkins was concerned by the number of participants in his sessions who objected to these methods as too unstructured, personal, and embarrassing for people who work together.

Responding to these concerns, Atkins, with consultant Elias Porter, Ph.D., developed the Life Orientations Survey and the Life Orientations Method based on Porter's "Person-Relatedness Test" [Porter, E.H. (1953) "The Person-Relatedness Test." Chicago, Science Research Associates. ] which was in turn based on the work of Erich Fromm [Fromm, E. (1947) "Man for Himself. An inquiry into the psychology of ethics." New York: Henry Holt &Company, LLC. ] . In 1968, the Life Orientations Survey was presented by Atkins and Allan Katcher, Ph.D., in the Human Factors in Management course at UCLA and with such diverse clients as the American Cancer Society, Mattel Toys, General Foods, U.S. Steel, and the State of California.

Atkins extended the Life Orientations Method beyond diagnosis to include six developmental strategies for improving performance, which he called Confirming, Capitalizing, Moderating, Supplementing, Extending, and Bridging. To simplify and aid memory, the Life Orientations trademark was shortened by Dr. Atkins to LIFO, a contraction of LIFe Orientations.

Atkins and Katcher started licensing organizational trainers in the LIFO Method and developing workbooks to accelerate learning. In 1976, Katcher began to focus his LIFO practice internationally, appointing agents in many countries, and focusing on executive coaching, teambuilding, and OD applications. Atkins directed LIFO programs in the United States, with emphasis on the developmental strategies applied to management development, individual productivity, communications, and teamwork. He named this developmental emphasis LIFO Training.

More than eight million people in 28 countries around the world have participated in workshops incorporating LIFO learning activities. Worldwide rights the LIFO Method were acquired in 2001 by Business Consultants, Inc. ("BCon"), a training and consulting firm headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. The same year BCon established [ Business Consultants Network] , a wholly owned American company, as the sole source for the LIFO Method and LIFO Training worldwide.

The Four Orientations

Four basic "orientations to life" (also termed "behavioral styles") are recognized: Supporting-Giving, Controlling-Taking, Conserving-Holding, and Adapting-Dealing. These are patterned after Fromm's four orientations (receptive, exploitative, hoarding, and marketing) and matched, respectively with Freud's Psychosexual development stages: oral stage, phallic stage, and the anal stage, with the fourth orientation having no counterpart. These are viewed as givens and choices after childhood, not as fixated character structure. [Atkins, Stuart. "The Name of Your Game", pp. 266 - 293. Los Angeles. Business Consultants Network. 2006.]

Rather than viewing them as personality types, Atkins conceptualized the four orientations as dimensions of human experience, each of which consists of a cluster of related values, goals, behavioral patterns, and communication preferences. Due to its forced-choice structure, the results of the LIFO assessment indicate a person's " relative preference" for each of the four orientations. Atkins reports [Ibid. pp. 53 - 54.] that only about nine percent of a sample of more than 3,000 subjects had a single most preferred style. Fifty-five percent had two most preferred styles, fifteen percent had three most preferred styles, and five percent had an equal preference for all four styles.

There is also a "Leadership-Management Matrix" pairing the scale of "Leadership Skills" (Directing vs. Inspiring) with the scale of "Management Skills" (Planning vs. Doing). [ [ Consilium ] ]

The Contextual Nature of Behavioral Choices

LIFO theory posits that behavior is strongly influenced by context: that is, individuals tend to behave differently in different siituations. The LIFO Survey is constructed to measure the relative frequency with which subjects choose each of the four orientations, or behavioral styles, under two sets of conditions: "favorable" -- when things are going well -- and "unfavorable" -- situations in which the subject experiences stress or conflict. Research indicates that approximately one-half of the people who take the LIFO Survey exhibit a different mix of style preferences (that is, they behave differently) under favorable vs. unfavorable conditions. In addition, there are a variety of different forms of the LIFO Survey that measure behavioral preferences in different roles, such as leading, selling, coaching, learning, and parenting. The results of these surveys suggest that individuals frequently exhibit different style preferences in these different roles.

Communication Congruence: Intention, Behavior, and Impact

One of the distinctive features of the LIFO Survey is that it is designed to help individuals gain insight into the congruence, or consistency, between their intentions to act a certain way, the way they actually behave, and the impact of their behavior on others. LIFO theory posits that a person whose survey results indicate a higher degree of congruence is perceived as more authentic. The person's thoughts, words, and actions are perceived as being in alignment: what the person says and does is in keeping with how he or she thinks and feels. Others may not agree with the person, but they feel that they understand the person clearly.

The relationships between intention, behavior, and impact are analyzed by examining the 12 subtotals of a person's LIFO Survey results. Since the total number of survey items is relatively small, some critics question the validity of this numerical analysis. LIFO practitioners counter that interpretations arising from this analysis should only be used as starting-points in a coaching process designed to help clients gain greater understanding of their communication patterns. Close self-observation and feedback from others are encouraged to validate or correct the hypotheses generated by this analysis.

ix Developmental Strategies

Determining participants' relative preferences for the four basic orientations composes a relatively small portion of most LIFO Training sessions. Greater emphasis is placed on applying that information through the following development strategies:

* Confirming. Build participants’ confidence, self-esteem, and mutual regard by helping them understand, articulate, and appreciate their values, goals, and strengths.

* Capitalizing. Enable participants to identify situations that make it easier for them to use their own special strengths to the fullest.

* Moderating. Help participants avoid wasting time and energy or having a negative impact on others through the excessive use of their strengths.

* Supplementing. Show participants how to get help from people with different strengths and viewpoints to fill in their blind spots and provide a wider perspective in planning and solving problems.

* Extending. Help participants use their underutilized strengths more frequently in order to demonstrate greater versatility so they can deal more effectively with a wider range of people and problems

* Bridging. Increase participants’ skills at communicating with people who hold different values or view things differently by matching their approach to the other person’s preferred ways of communicating.


Despite its origins in depth psychology, self-actualization theory, and client centered counseling, LIFO theory and developmental strategies are described in everyday language that is relatively free of jargon. This makes is accessible to people with a broad range of educational and cultural backgrounds. It is most commonly delivered as part of supervisory, management, and executive development workshops designed to improve:

* Individual performance
* Interpersonal communication
* Group collaboration

It is also used to help set performance improvement goals, structure feedback, and formulate individual action-learning plans in executive coaching programs.

Other Styles-Based Approaches

Other popular "styles-based" approaches to understanding human behavior and performance have earlier theoretical origins than the LIFO Method. The theoretical foundations of the Meyers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) and the DiSC assessment were developed in the 1920s. The first DiSC-based assessment was published in 1930, the "Briggs-Myers Type Indicator" was first published in 1942. Will Schutz's FIRO Theory and related tools also pre-date LIFO. Elias Porter, Ph.D. separated from Atkins and Katcher; and in 1971 released the "Strength Deployment Inventory" a further development of his original work.


External links

Theoretical Background
* [ From Freud to Rogers to Maslow: The Origins and Theoretical Background of Life Orientations Theory and Training -- by Stuart Atkins, Ph.D.]

* [ Business Consultants Network] -- Publisher of LIFO Training materials

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