Change How You Are, Not Who You Are

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by BrillianceInc.

Change for Good

As an Executive Coach, my job is to help people change for good. Not everyone is ready for such a project.  Some people just want everyone around them to change instead. And others worry that if they change their behaviors, they’ll come off as inauthentic—a fake. Truth is, if you’re unable to adapt your approach to people and situations, your relationships will suffer and your career will hit a wall.

Authenticity Misunderstood

Authenticity is about being real…not rigid.  That is, it’s not about stubbornly holding on to valued personality traits—or even beliefs—that aren’t working. The most successful leaders adapt to people and situations gracefully and appropriately.

Authentically Adaptive

I once had the pleasure of working for an inspiring leader who made the difficult transition from mid-level manager to C-suite executive.  Three of his most prized personal qualities were:

  • Passionate
  • Gregarious
  • Intelligent

Culled while growing up in the Middle-East, and honed for business in New York City, these traits were part of a mixture that propelled him to success. It wasn’t until he landed a job in Northern California, in a company culture known for being ‘nice’ and agreeable, that he rain into trouble.

With the help of a coach, he came to quickly see that people were misunderstanding his intent. People thought he was intimidating, closed-minded, and a poor listener. His communication style was masking qualities and values such as being open to influence and deep care for others. He could have claimed that these traits were “part of his DNA,” but he cared more about being effective than being rigidly right.

You Are Bigger than Your Personality

Contrary to what you might have heard, your MBTI, DiSC – or any other personality inventory score—is not etched in stone, and is certainly not an excuse for poor adaptability. You are responsible for your beliefs, values, and behaviors. And you can change them.

Assess Yourself

Authenticity requires a deep understanding of yourself. Adaptability requires a deep understanding of others: what they need and how you affect them.

Before you can make any changes, you must first get an objective assessment of what is and isn’t working. Here’s one way:

1. Make a list of valued traits that best describe you.

2. Find someone you respect, who can be objective and honest with you. If you don’t have such a person, consider using a neutral party like a coach.

3. Ask this neutral person: When does this quality work well? When does it undermine me?

For example, let’s assume you describe yourself as passionate. They might tell you that this trait:

  • Works well when you devote passion to developing your team.
  • Undermines you when you devote passion to winning an argument.

Authentic Advice From an Undercover FBI Agent

Still doubt whether you can be authentic and adaptive at once? This post was inspired by LaRay Quy, who wrote 5 Ways to become a more authentic leader. I suspect that if she can figure out how to call up her authentic self while serving as an undercover FBI agent, we normal folk can too.

“People can spot inauthenticity from fifty paces. Show up as yourself consistently. Unless of course, you are a jackass.”

– Susan Scott, Fierce Leadership

photo credit: michealcardus

More:  Presentation Style, Authenticity in Crisis, Just Be Yourself


3 thoughts on “Change How You Are, Not Who You Are

  1. Denise Green

    I’m so honored to be your guest post! Henderson Group helped me, early in my career, figure out how to best channel “who I was” into my presentations so I could speak — and most importantly, connect — with my audience with confidence and authenticity. All my best! Denise

  2. LaRae Quy

    Hi Denise

    Great advice about getting someone you trust to help you develop a deeper understanding of yourself. Others often see us for who we really are (and love us anyway . . .)

    In contrast, many times we’re too busy trying to be what we think others expect us to be that we fail to notice our own greatness.

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