When it comes to personality traits, the words “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” come to mind.
We can talk about our greatest strengths and weaknesses from now until the end of time, but that doesn’t mean that how we see ourselves is how others see us. While we should proceed with confidence with our perceived strengths, it is important to develop enough self-awareness to know how we portray ourselves to others.
In leadership roles, we need to know how others see us so we can determine if we’ve unintentionally built barriers that prevent us from developing our high-potential employees (HIPOs).
The Positives and Negatives of Personality Traits
Every personality trait has positives and negatives attached. For example, being bold and daring can encourage you to take chances that lead to accomplishments you would never have reached had you stayed in your comfort zone. Alternatively, you are more susceptible to failure when you take these risks. On the other hand, being conservative and reserved may keep you safe from failure and loss (to an extent) but will add limitations to how far you go in life.
There is no right or wrong way to be; there are just challenges and benefits associated with each. The same mindset applies when you are in a leadership role. While your traits may lead you to a place you want to be in your career, they can also limit the growth of your high-potential employees who have different skills and personalities.
Perception is Key
How we see ourselves isn’t always how our peers see us. For example, you may consider yourself friendly and approachable as a leader. Some individuals may enjoy your openness, and appreciate the casual conversations that can take place. Others may find you too relaxed or not authoritative enough to hold a serious conversation about growth opportunities. You and two other people can all have very different perceptions of one of your personality traits.
Let’s look at a few common personality traits, and the different ways they can be perceived:
An imaginative leader may be innovative, eccentric, and unpredictable. While they may come up with brilliant, business-changing initiatives, they can be hard to connect with on a personal level. Often, there are a lot of fantastic ideas with limited follow through, and the individual can get bored or distracted. Their lack of awareness about the perceptions of others makes them unapproachable by their subordinates.
At the other end of the spectrum are diligent personalities. Diligent personalities are the epitome of “attention to detail” on a resume. They are meticulous and have high standards in their expectations of work quality. As an employee, this is a great personality trait to have. As a leader, it can result in being labeled a perfectionist, micromanager, or someone who disempowers their staff rather than giving them room to follow their own path and grow.
Dutiful personalities put a lot of stock in the hierarchy at work. They are consistent, hard-working, and dedicated to their task. Again, these are fantastic traits to have as an employee. However, as a leader, these strengths can be weaknesses. Dutiful personalities often won’t challenge the status quo or rock the boat. They may see a problem but accept it as “that’s just the way things are.” For a subordinate who wants to make changes and advance, it can be extremely frustrating as they know their ideas will only go so far.
Personality Assessments and Coaching
There are a substantial amount of different personality traits, endless combinations, and a sliding scale of how much of that quality someone has. Life is rarely black and white, and personality traits are no exception. You don’t have to be 100% dutiful or 0% dutiful. You could be any number in between.
Personality assessments are one way professionals can pinpoint different aspects of their personality, and determine how each point can be a strength or a weakness. For example, you can determine what percentage of each personality trait you possess, to identify what needs development.
Identifying strengths and gaps doesn’t mean you have to change your personality to be successful; you just need to find a way to bridge the gap and communicate effectively with your people.
Working with a coach can help you develop your self-awareness and work on how you convey different aspects of your personality to your high-potential employees. Coaching can also help you identify their unique personality blend and determine how to speak their language.
You may be thinking “why should I change myself for the comfort of others?” which is a fair point. Remember, you aren’t changing your personality traits, just the way you communicate.
It is also important to remember, that if you limit your high-potential employees, they won’t be able to take your business to greater heights as they learn and grow. In fact, they may decide that their skills would be more useful for your competition.
The tough love fact is: nothing changes if nothing changes. Refusal to learn and grow, or help others learn and grow, might make you outlast your usefulness in an organization.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Your path is a work of art that may not appeal to everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a masterpiece.