When Halloween rolls around, it invites the question: if you could be anything for one evening, what would it be?
The tradition invokes a feeling of fantasy. Whether your answer is a super hero or a villain or something in between, the very act of asking the question and imagining a response reminds us that we have the ability, even if for a simple costume party, to explore aspects of ourselves that want to be expressed.
And the invitation to step into a new way of experiencing the world (or projecting what the world experiences of us) doesn’t have to wait for Halloween or stop when it’s over.
Have you ever secretly dreamed of becoming something different than what you are right now? Maybe you’d like to be more of a strategic player, become more visible, make a bigger impact, or lead more people. Perhaps you have visions of learning a new skill, working in a different industry, or serving a different customer base. Or maybe you’d simply like to step into a new way of living and leading – one that allows you to be more confident, calm, and engaging, or less stressed, pressured and anxious.
Regardless of the change you seek, you would not have the desire if you didn’t also have the capability to achieve it. As Napolean Hill once told us, “Whatever you can conceive and believe, you can achieve.” Moving from thought to reality requires that we embrace three simple, yet powerful truths:
- You don’t have to be born with an innate talent to do something in order to learn it,
- You don’t have to eliminate anxiety and doubt in order to perform well, and
- You don’t have to sacrifice who you truly are in order to become who you want to be.
Let’s dig a little deeper into each of these.
You don’t have to be born with an innate talent in order to learn it.
On its face, this statement seems fairly obvious. After all, none of us knew how to walk or talk when we were babies. Many of the things you know how to do today were things you had no idea how to approach at some point in your past. While it is true that some of the things you learned over the course of your life came more easily to you than others, with practice and persistence you were able to increase your proficiency and improve your desired results.
You may think you don’t have the aptitude to learn or become certain things. But the problem may be more in what you are believing than anything. In her ground-breaking book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck discusses two different approaches to learning a new skill. Some people operate from a “fixed mindset”, considering talent to be an inborn trait for some (but not others). Others operate with a “growth mindset” which allows for the possibility of learning something that doesn’t come naturally to them. Her research shows that those in the latter group consistently outperform those in the former.
The fundamental difference comes in how those mindsets impact your behavior. With a fixed mindset, you’ll dread failure because you believe it is a reflection of your innate abilities. However, with a growth mindset you’ll be more likely to see things not going well at first as an opportunity to learn and grow in ways that improve your performance. A fixed mindset will lead you to quit before you even start, while a growth mindset will impel you to continue to practice, learn and improve.
The words of Henry Ford come to mind, whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.
But that doesn’t mean it will come easily, which leads to the next fundamental truth we must embrace.
You don’t have to eliminate anxiety and doubt in order to perform well.
Chances are that whatever you aspire to become is something that is beyond your current zone of comfort. If it wasn’t, you’d already be doing it. As I wrote in The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader, anytime you endeavor to make a change in your life, you will be met with resistance. Whether that resistance takes the form of anxiety or doubt or plain old yellow-bellied fear, no amount of careful learning and preparation will completely alleviate it.
Many of us (myself included) have spent years attempting to hone and refine our skill from a mental level before ever attempting to execute. The irony is the that most impactful and effective way to learn is often to simply do. In doing, we discover what works and what doesn’t and gain an intuitive feel for what we need to adapt to achieve the success we desire. Through trial and error our skill and effectiveness grow.
But the anxiety and the doubt and that little voice in your head that incessantly rattles on in ways that lead you to question your ability and your nerve will continue. If you can see those feelings as signs of progress that you are stepping up your game, you can perform in spite of them – and maybe even begin to appreciate them.
You can also learn to recognize that little nagging voice for what it is: a product of your thoughts and nothing more. As you stop giving it so much of your energy and attention, you may find that you can coexist with it in the same way you tolerate any other irritating but seemingly harmless disturbances, like a rattle in your car or an annoying commercial on the radio.
Sometimes that little voice will ask, “who do you think you are?” which leads us to the third fundamental truth we must embrace to move from desire to reality.
You don’t have to sacrifice who you truly are in order to become who you want to be.
The idea of dressing up implies that we are putting on a mask that eclipses our true identify. But often the things we desire to explore are actually innate parts of ourselves that are ready to emerge. We are drawn to people who exemplify the qualities we want to emulate. Sometimes we are even envious of them.
It is important to honor our own evolution by giving credence to our desire to grow and change and allowing those desires to guide us. They key to being authentic and true to ourselves is to listen to the beat of our own drummer rather than allowing the sheer force of our accumulated patterns, habits and the expectations of others determine our identity. Often the way we have behaved or expressed ourselves over the course of our lives is more a product of what we’ve always done than who we truly are.
So when the idea of trying something new, or exploring a different way of showing up in the world is appealing to you, indulge yourself and see what happens. Finding your own authentic expression is a matter of fine tuning. Try something and see how it feels. You can start by emulating what someone else has done. And then add your own twist. Let go of or tweak what doesn’t work and do more of what feels good to you.
This is what the most impactful of leaders have done throughout the course of history. They start by leading themselves – listening and indulging the desires of their hearts, believing in their ability to grow, evolve and achieve, and finding their own unique expression. And in so doing, they serve as leaders to the rest of us.
So don’t let the fantasy and fun of Halloween stop when October ends. Ask yourself what you’d most like to become and don’t be afraid to see where it takes you. In the words of George Eliot, “It is never too late to be what you could have been.”
If you are interested in more strategies for getting clarity on what you would most like to accomplish, create or become, as well as steps to help you close the gap between desire and reality, download my special report, Why Real Leaders Don’t Set Goals (and what they do instead).
According to Gallup, employees who exercise their strengths on a daily basis are three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life, six times more likely to be engaged at work, 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs.
But sadly, in many organizations people are not given many opportunities to do what they are best at.
Worse, some people are routinely put into situations that are dissatisfying to them, leading them to shut down and leaving an untold amount of talent, energy and potential untapped in many organizations.
Identifying what people are skilled at and ensuring the roles, projects and initiatives they work on are a good fit requires discernment and dialogue. Having a better understanding of behavioral styles and what motivates people with each of those styles can really help.
In my last post, How to Create Synergy and Collaborate with People’s Differing Styles, I explained that there are two continuums that people fall on: task versus people orientation and introversion versus extraversion. If you overlay each of these continuums, you will create a matrix with four quadrants that make up each of the four behavioral styles of the DISC Behavioral Style Model.
D = Dominance (Task-oriented + Extraverted)
I = Influence (People-oriented + Extraverted)
S = Steadiness (People-oriented + Introverted)
C = Compliance (Task-oriented + Introverted)
Today, I’ll provide you with some tips for leveraging the strengths of people that operate with each of these four behavioral styles. Remember, sometimes people operate with more than one, so you may want to check out recommendations for all that could potentially apply. See my last post for an overview on how to determine which style others most likely operate from.
Matching Work to Task Oriented, Extraverted Individuals (Style = Dominance)
People who are extraverted toward task are energized by challenges – the more daunting the better. They thrive in turnaround situations where they can make sweeping changes to save a struggling enterprise, venture or initiative.
They like to be in charge and tend to be very directive and decisive. They come to life in situations that require them to get others to act on things quickly but will quickly get frustrated if they are not given authority along with responsibility.
Those whose primary style is Dominance are big picture people who get bogged down with too many details and frustrated with anything that keeps them from taking quick, intense action. Inefficiency will drive them crazy and they will feel hemmed in when surrounded by constraints that get in the way of progress.
They prefer to work autonomously and will feel stifled by managers who hover and appear to be overly controlling.
Matching Work to People Oriented, Extraverted Individuals (Style = Influence)
People who are extraverted toward people thrive on social interaction. They like (and want to be liked) by everyone they meet and often possess the kind of charm that can win others over in a relatively short period of time. The excitement and buzz they generate around things they believe in allows them to be highly persuasive, which lends itself well to situations where influencing others is paramount.
Natural cheerleaders, they excel in situations that require enthusiasm and optimism. They have the ability to infuse energy and lightness into the dreariest of environments and often rely on humor that allows others to loosen up and get unstuck and revitalized.
Those whose primary style is Influence are also big picture people who get bogged down in details. They are highly creative and visionary people who get excited about things even though they may not have data that suggests their optimism is merited.
Because they tend to take things personally, they can be deflated by people who are overly skeptical and negative. They work best with people who support them and provide them with the data they need in a way that doesn’t rein them in or dampen their spirits.
Matching Work to People Oriented, Introverted Individuals (Style = Steadiness)
People who are introverted toward people are extraordinary listeners who hear and notice things others do not. They also have a natural tendency to diffuse tension among people who are overly stressed, frustrated and worked up – sometimes without even saying a word.
People whose primary style is Steadiness love to contribute and be of service to others and are content to operate in the background rather than the spotlight. Their ability to understand and connect with others allows them to serve as a bridge between people who are having difficulty seeing eye to eye. They gain and sustain support and buy in from others because of the solid level of trust they cultivate.
They are also very insightful, but often are unlikely to share their observations and ideas with others because they are uncomfortable drawing attention to themselves and tend to underestimate the impact they could potentially have. They do best in settings that encourage them to provide input but allow them time necessary to organize their thoughts before having to present them to others.
These people are steady, thorough, easy going and warm hearted. They can be depended on to deliver and follow through consistently, though often at a slower, more methodical pace.
Matching Work to Task Oriented, Introverted Individuals (Style = Compliance)
People who are introverted toward task strive for perfection, order and consistency. They thrive in situations where processes and procedures are clearly spelled out and place a high value on data that allows them to achieve and maintain a high level of accuracy, precision and security.
People whose primary style is Compliance have a high attention to detail. They prefer to rely on the tried and true rather than reinventing the wheel and tend to be somewhat risk averse. Because of this, they excel at making sure work is up to or above standard and nothing significant gets overlooked.
They often enjoy doing research and analysis – a welcome complement to other styles who would rather work at higher levels and surrounded by people. They do best in an environment that allows them to spend the time necessary to ensure things are done right the first time, where processes and standard procedures are clearly spelled out and enforced and high quality is essential.
Because they tend to be driven by logic and data, they can get frustrated in situations where people are overly emotional for reasons that do not appear to be rational.
What You Can Do Right Now
Think about the people who report to you or serve on teams you oversee. Use the information above (and/or see my recent article on recognizing styles) to identify what is likely to be the predominant style of each person. Ask yourself whether the projects they are currently working on and/or the roles they are playing are well matched to those styles.
You don’t need to drastically reengineer people’s jobs to ensure the work they are doing is a good fit for them. Sometimes the smallest tweaks make the biggest differences. Use your insight to begin a conversation with them that will open the door to better understanding and utilization of their talent, energy and styles.
If you would like to utilize the DISC Behavioral Style assessment to see how you and others in your organization score in each of the four behavioral styles, contact me at Diane@DianeBolden.com or give me a call at (602) 840-3627. The assessment is completed online and will provide you with a comprehensive twenty plus page report that provides a tremendous amount of insight – including a full page on Keys to Motivating and another on Keys to Managing.
And if you are interested in learning more about behavioral styles and how you can leverage them to dramatically increase your individual and organizational effectiveness, consider enrolling in my new self-study version of Communicating With Style: DISC Behavioral Style Workshop or bringing this workshop in house.