People like to do things they’re good at. And, they usually will avoid things they feel they aren’t very good at.
There are dozens of communication, psychological, and sociological theories surrounding this idea. But, really all it boils down to is that people prefer to move toward pleasure and away from pain.
We see examples of this behavior every day — and, it makes sense right?
We tell our children to play off their strengths and to work toward careers that will display those strengths. Then kids grow up believing they can only succeed in careers/ positions they have an innate aptitude for. So, a little girl that loves to read and write disregards her math classes, because she’s not as good at them and probably won’t need them for her career as an author anyway.
We divide people up by their skills into niche positions in specific departments. You’re good with numbers? — finance is probably best for you. You’re charismatic and persuasive? — let’s get you on the sales team.
We even do it in the world of sports by telling athletes what they can and can’t do. If you’re not a team player, you’ll probably be more inclined to play individual sports. And, if you’re a little on the shorter side, you might not pursue basketball or volleyball.
Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying it’s bad to play off your strengths. You should absolutely gravitate toward doing something that you’ll be successful in and happy with.
But, here at Profile we believe, “the greatest leaders are those that become great at behaviors that are not natural to them.”
This means that in addition to playing off the strengths that come naturally to you, you must also develop skills in things that don’t come as naturally to you.
For example, let’s say a CEO of a Fortune 500 company got to where they are today by keeping a sharp focus on their goals, working day and night, and choosing to have a more successful career than a successful social life. But, now they’re the boss of hundreds of people that look up to them for leadership, direction, and inspiration. The CEO has never really had to be social; instead, they lived in familiar and comfortable habits of being an introvert. And, up until this point, being a focused introvert has led them to obtain a successful career that plays off their strengths. But, now they have to adapt — they have to learn to be social, to be an occasional extrovert and talk to their employees, lead meetings, and foster company morale.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to adapt our behavior this drastically, especially when we either don’t realize our behavioral drawbacks or don’t know how to go about improving them. And, of course, because we like to stick to doing things that we know we’re good at.
Therefore, the first step is always self-awareness. You have to be able to pinpoint and identify the areas of your behavior in which you need to improve. This may be achieved simply by someone telling you that one of your behaviors is causing problems at work, in school, or in your social life. For example, if a couple of different people at work and in your circle of friends have mentioned your tendency to be a know-it-all, then that’s probably a behavior you need to work on. Becoming more self-aware of areas you need to improve can also be achieved by our preferred way here at Profile — personality and behavioral assessments. These assessments can inform you what behaviors and personality traits are naturally strongest in you and which are the weakest. Though, these are just a couple of the many ways you can become more self-aware of the behaviors that are potentially holding you back.
The second step is that you have to actively accept and surrender to the fact that this behavior (or lack thereof) is, in fact, a problem. A lot of the time we don’t like to think there are things we’re not good at or that our behavior is a problem, and we like to accept that fact even less. For instance, let’s say someone is told by their friends or peers that they can be domineering and bossy a lot of the time. At first, that person’s feelings will probably be hurt. Then, after the initial pain of being told a negative thing about themselves, they may become defensive, and say things like, “I’m not bossy, I just like things done a certain way,” and attempt to justify that negative behavior. Instead, we should all take these observations with a big ole grain of salt, and thank our peers for informing us of areas that could use some work. Criticism (as long as it’s constructive) is the greatest tool in your belt for self-improvement. So, listen to people when they tell you how your behavior affects others, even if it’s hard to hear, and even if you don’t necessarily agree with them. Because they might actually be on to something.
And, lastly, you must adapt your behavior to improve yourself. Once you have identified your problem behavior, and then actually accepted and surrendered to the fact that the behavior is an issue, you must learn to adapt that behavior. Unfortunately, this is the most important and most difficult step, because adapting our natural, trained behavior is inherently difficult. It can be achieved on your own through continued awareness of the issue, dedication, and lots of hard work. But, an adaptation of your problem behavior can also be attained through the use of help from either peers or professionals. If you know and accept the fact that a certain behavior of yours is causing issues, then you can ask those around you to keep an eye out for instances where that problem behavior shows its ugly face. Then, when people around you notice you acting out that behavior, they can help you identify what you’re doing and you can become more aware of when and why you act that way in different situations. However, you can also seek professional help in learning to adapt your behavior through the use of behavioral consultants and specialists. These people can not only help you navigate the difficult tasks of identifying your problem behavior and accepting that the behavior has a negative impact on your life, but also provide you with the tools needed to begin adapting that behavior. Consulting with a behavioral specialist is a great way to identify, understand, and adapt the behaviors that are holding you back from achieving true success or becoming an effective leader.
Remember, it’s not bad or your fault for gravitating toward behavior or positions that favor your strengths. But, the greatest and most successful leaders excel when they embrace all parts of themselves and actively work to adapt and improve the behaviors that do not come naturally to them.
So, remember: identify, accept, and adapt. That’s how you improve behavior. And, actively improving your behavior is how you become a great leader.
Chad Q. Brown’s Profile is a retained consulting firm incorporating distinct team building and talent strategies utilizing proprietary technology and behavioral assessment infrastructure. Our mission — help people get better at people.
Chad Q. Brown