Tag Archives: Introspection

Can You Change Your Personality…or is This Just a “Strange” Mystical Myth?

dr-strangeIn the quest to become better versions of ourselves, billions of dollars are spent every year on self-improvement books, seminars, and coaches. Yet with all this effort allocated towards changing our personalities, how much thought has gone into whether we are actually able to change our personalities? Can resolve get us there or does it require the sorcery skills of Dr. Stephen Strange?

In the latest theatrical debut of a comic book character, Dr. Stephen Strange is a brilliant but egotistical neurosurgeon whose life changes after an accident robs him of the use of his hands. <Spoiler Alert> Strange becomes a practitioner of the mystical arts where he becomes the primary protector of Earth against magical and mystical threats.

Making the transition from a man of science to a Sorcerer Supreme takes a tremendous shift in the way a person thinks. By accepting his new role, Strange is making the conscious decision to curb his arrogance and find humility. Is this a personality change or acceptance of his new role?

A 2013 study found that students strategically choose extracurricular activities with the intention of heightening a particular characteristic, such as leadership, intelligence, or communication. A critic of this research, such as myself, would say that that these students are employing adaptive behaviors to build a skill set or boost self-esteem, which does not change their personality. A fan of this research, however, would say that this self-analysis is the first step towards making lasting personality changes.

Another study examined people who had a stated goal of changing their personalities. Over a 16 week period, these participants took part in goal-setting interventions designed to address whatever aspect of their personality they were interested in changing. Researchers asked them to come up with specific, concrete steps and generate an implementation plan with ways to react when facing challenging situations. They then took personality tests to measure growth over time. By the end of the experiment, they exhibited growth in the desired direction. As per my prior critique, I question whether the participants actually changed their personality; however, I do not dismiss that they are on the path to self-improvement.

In truth, I don’t know if you can change the core of who you are. This does not mean you shouldn’t strive towards developing and upgrading your skills. While I may dispute some of the research findings, I believe wholeheartedly that change is possible… not personality, per se, but you are capable of enhancing leadership skills, coping strategies, and decision making.

To experience sustainable improvements, we don’t need to undergo a global search of the mystical world like Doctor Strange. Begin with a personality assessment to form your baseline. Then, examine the gap between the baseline and your ideal self to formulate a concrete plan that will help you reach your goal. Reassess frequently, tweak the plan as needed, and become Self-Actualization Supreme.

Taylor Swift on Six Ways to Increase Self-Awareness

taylor swift bannerWant to solve most of your leadership issues with one competency? It’s not intelligence, technical skills, or flexibility, although these would be nice. We need to focus on self-awareness.

The ability to understand who we are is in surprisingly short supply. Meta-analyses of over 357,000 people in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science found an average correlation of .29 between self-evaluations and objective assessments. This is extremely low considering a correlation of 1.0 indicates total accuracy, and it is even lower for work-related skills. Thankfully, Taylor Swift can rescue us from our lack of self-clarity.

As a father of two girls, I live in a Swiftie household where Taylor Swift music is on constant rotation. I am not complaining (unlike the two year Frozen marathon they subjected me to), and I tend to enjoy her music. Swift serves as a positive role model, managing to balance intelligence, fun, and self-deprecation. With every action, it is clear Swift has a healthy dose of self-awareness. She spoke about this in an interview with GQ magazine:

When other kids were watching normal shows, I’d watch Behind the Music. And I would see these bands that were doing so well, and I’d wonder what went wrong. I thought about this a lot. And what I established in my brain was that a lack of self-awareness was always the downfall. That was always the catalyst for the loss of relevance and the loss of ambition and the loss of great art. So self-awareness has been such a huge part of what I try to achieve on a daily basis. It’s less about reputation management and strategy and vanity than it is about trying to desperately preserve self-awareness, since that seems to be the first thing to go out the door when people find success.

Not sure whether you want to take advice from Ms. Swift? Consider the business facts. A Harvard Business Review study found that teams with less self-aware individuals made worse decisions, engaged in less coordination, and showed less conflict management. In fact, just being surrounded by self-awareness-challenged teammates cut the chances of team success in half. Additionally, the paper A Better Return on Self-Awareness found that 1) employees of poor-performing companies were 79% more likely to have low overall self-awareness, and 2) companies with the greater percentage of self-aware employees maintained consistently higher stock prices.

Self-awareness is not a soft skill, a nice-to-have. It’s playing out in your bottom line. This is about leadership effectiveness.—Dana Landis, co-author of A Better Return on Self-Awareness

To become a self-aware rock star, Swift was able to study VH1 bio pics. To become a self-aware leader, try these six strategies:

Take a personality test. Whether it’s the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), DiSC, Birkman Method, or Predictive Index, a self-assessment is a good place to start on your path towards self-knowledge.

Participate in a 360-degree assessment. This is a beneficial way to collect anonymous truths from those around you. For a little extra fun, compare their responses to your own.

Link self-awareness to success. If you are trying to increase the self-awareness of those on your team, you need to communicate why the capabilities are relevant. Research shows that when individuals see learning as valuable to their careers, they’re more motivated and are more willing to apply new skills to their roles.

Remain open to advice. Harvard’s Sheila Heen states that three main triggers prevent our learning: relationship triggers, identity triggers, and truth triggers. Tackle these triggers and decrease your chances of getting defensive.

Get a coach. A talented, trained coach can cut through your veneer to match who you think you are with who you actually are.

Ask for feedback. If this seems simple, that’s because it is. There are plenty of people who are anxious to tell you about yourself. All you have to do is ask.

Swift was right when she said that self-awareness “seems to be the first thing to go out the door when people find success.” We must shake off the delusions of cloudy, misinformed self-realization and strive to be in touch with who we are now. We can then leverage our potential through asserting our strengths, addressing our vulnerabilities, adjusting to the realities of our circumstances, and becoming a card-carrying member of the Swiftie army.

Rob Lowe on Enduring Success

rob_loweWhen you think about success, are you aspiring towards a quick win or a long-lasting career? There’s no magic formula to ensure a lengthy track record, but Rob Lowe has some advice that will make your success more likely.

Rob Lowe has been an internationally acclaimed actor for over 30 years. His career has spanned the 1980s (The Outsiders, St. Elmo’s Fire), 1990s (Wayne’s World, Tommy Boy), 2000s (The West Wing), and 2010s (Parks & Recreation, The Grinder) – these are just a few of my favorites; to list all of Lowe’s work would be a website all on its own. The point is that Lowe knows something about maintaining a successful career over a long period of time.

In a recent interview, Lowe discussed how when faced with adversity, he’s been able forge ahead.

The main thing for me is if something bad happens, my first instinct is ‘What can I do about it?’ ‘Can I do better?’ What can I not do the next time?’ And I genuinely believe it’s a way forward. But I see a lot of people whose first instinct is ‘I’m a victim,’ ‘society has f–ked me,’ and ‘poor me.’ And that is just not me. Even when I’ve been f–ked over, I don’t go to the victim place.

Avoiding a “whoa is me” mindset may be easier said than done, but that does mean it is unattainable. If it were, you would be sulking over a setback instead of reading a blog about becoming a better leader. Based on what Lowe said, let’s focus on three research-based action items that any aspiring leader can utilize.

Get Introspective

After experiencing a loss, we need to take some time to contemplate what happened. This is not a “feel good” exercise; learning from direct experience is most effective if coupled with reflection. A research study from Harvard found that “intentional attempts to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience” builds confidence and leads to higher self-efficacy and productivity.

Once you decide to get introspective, keep in mind that it’s not enough just to reflect after an obstacle, we need to ask ourselves better questions – questions that are emboldening versus self-defeating, are not designed to beat yourself up, and lead to constructive results. Start with Lowe’s “What can I do about it,” “Can I do better,” and “What can I not do the next time,” and then create a few of your own.

Get Moving

Progress does not happen by standing still. One study found that when compared to sitting in one place, movement had a significant effect on individuals who show signs of despair.

You may not consider yourself prone to moping, but even the most optimistic person will feel the effects of losing a battle. Before you go down the rabbit hole of dejection, focus on action. Use Lowe’s three questions to create a game plan to get back on top. You may not immediately be going in the right direction, but movement is more likely to lead to improvement.

Get Lexiconical

After experiencing a defeat, the nomenclature you choose to use matters. According to Lim Chow Kiat, Group Chief Investment Officer at GIC, her company is meticulous about word choice. For instance, they stress terms like “sustainable results” so employees focus on the long-term success of the company and their clients versus short-term gains. It may seem perceptual, but it sends a message about the leaders’ goals and priorities.

The right words can stimulate or hinder constructive attitudes and behaviors. We need to rephrase loss so it becomes a call to action versus a personal assault. Use words that inspire the team, not attack them.

While unfortunate things happen, this is not an excuse to succumb to victim mentality. If you want an impressive track record of success, brace yourself for the occasional loss. And when they happen, use the opportunity to get better. As Lowe said,

You have to be around long enough to have ups and downs. And everybody has them, even the people who you think, ‘Wow, they’re untouchable’… You know who doesn’t? One hit wonders.

David Bowie on Impression Management

David Bowie Aladdin SaneHow many times have you heard the adage, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression?” If this is true, then I don’t think anyone told David Bowie. This iconic musician has been reinventing himself for over forty years.

In 1969, David Bowie found acclaim with the hit song “Space Oddity.” This could have been the beginning of David’s career. Instead, he ditched “David Bowie” and took on the character of Ziggy Stardust, the self-proclaimed ultimate rock star wearing leotards, makeup, an eye patch, and spikey red hair. According to David,

Ziggy was half out of sci-fi rock and half out of the Japanese theater. The clothes were, at that time, simply outrageous. Nobody had seen anything like him before.

david bowie ziggy stardustZiggy was hugely successful; selling millions of records and concert tickets. Then, as quickly as Ziggy appeared, David shelved that persona for Aladdin Sane, a detached, cool hipster with a lightning bolt painted on his face. David’s ability to create new and original characters has continued ever since – Thin White Duke, Jareth the Goblin King, the Regular Dude with a Regular Dude Band, etc. Each identity has been a reinvention of David with distinctly different music, clothing, and stage presence. Selling 134 million albums, earning two dozen top ten songs, and performing over 5,000 concerts, we can see the power of successfully applied impression management.

Without taking on a completely different persona, which would certainly cause some confusion in the office, a proficiency in impression management is a necessary skill for each of us. Impression management is our ability to influence how we are perceived by others. It has a powerful effect on the opportunities we are afforded, the ways we are treated, and our ultimate success.

David Bowie thinwhiteduke2Perception often trumps reality. If you are perceived as smart and capable, you’ll be on the executive fast track. If you are perceived as dimwitted or unmotivated, you will remain in the lower echelon of the organizational hierarchy. This may not seem fair, but we are all guilty of letting our perceptions shape opinions of others. It is a basic human behavior.

The good news is that we can actively change, update, and/or tweak our image. Here are a few tips to help you manage your impression:

Get introspective. Ask yourself, 1) “how do people currently perceive me,” and 2) “how do I want them to perceive me.” This gap analysis will show you the aspects of yourself that need some work and what you are trying to accomplish.

Live it. The goal of impression management is to establish and maintain an impression that is congruent with the perceptions you want to convey. Therefore, it begins with presenting yourself as the person you wish to be. Want to be management material? Stop hanging out at the water cooler and start brainstorming ways you can improve the organization. Want to be taken seriously? Stop mumbling and speak with self-assurance. You have to live it before others will treat you that way.

Be sincere. Impression management is not about tricking others into believing something that is not true. The idea is to present the best version of yourself. If you feel that you are losing yourself, stop! Go back to your original goals and figure out where you may have strayed.

Remain Positive. A good impression is based on exuding positive energy. Smiling mixed with complimenting, praising, and treating others respectfully is the best way to promote and enforce your “new” image. Positivity needs to be spread around to everyone, regardless of their position, degree of influence, or apparent ability to affect your career. This will help you avoid the slime effect, a negative impression that occurs when people are exceedingly nice to their superiors but treat subordinates condescendingly.

With each of his unique images, David Bowie showed another side of himself. You can dismiss it as performance art, but David was aware that the way he looked and presented himself would influence the way we heard and perceived his music (“Starman” would not have been as evocative if David had been in a tuxedo). Your appearance, communication, and general demeanor have the same control over how others see you. You don’t need David’s spandex red velvet pants…but who am I to say what impression you are trying to make.