Recently, I received a call from a potential client who said that he had received feedback that his personality wasn’t the right fit for a senior leadership role. While his manager wanted to see him progress, other managers are concerned that he doesn’t have the right temperament for the work.
He was both grateful for the feedback and concerned about what he should do next. We discussed his situation, and hit on the following three points:
Decide If It’s Important
It’s easy for all of us to react when someone puts an obstacle in front of us. I know people who’ve made major career or life achievements because someone in a position of power told them they couldn’t do something (and I can relate, as I took satisfaction in running a marathon when I was once told I couldn’t run distance).
That said, we all need to decide what feedback is important and when we might just say “thank you” and set it aside. Many of us obsess over what we don’t have instead of what we do. Years ago, I read Soar With Your Strengths and it challenged me to spend a lot more of my energy on what I do well.
Determine if you actually want to get into the next position or if you are happy with what you are doing and could explore other creative areas in life. If my connection had been fulfilled and didn’t want to advance, that would have ended our conversation.
Flex Your Style
Most of us have a favorite place in our homes where we love to be. I cherish the reading and writing time I get in my leather chair in our bedroom. I’d love to spend more time there, but that’s not realistic given my other obligations to family and career. Plus, I’d miss out on other opportunities and interactions in life.
When I talk to people about flexing their styles a bit to meet the needs of others, I often hear the objection, “but then I’m not being myself.” I suppose this is a valid point for people who are always right and don’t care much for the preferences of others (no successful people that I know). Just like it’s not realistic for me to sit in my chair all day, it’s not realistic to always do things the exact way we would prefer either.
There’s a difference between flexing and compromising. Palm trees survive hurricanes by bending in the wind. Buildings survive earthquakes by swaying. Both are firmly grounded, but also adapt to different environments.
Highlight Results, Not Personality
Many senior leaders in organizations have a preference for data and results over personality (of course there are many exceptions). Even senior leaders who are wowed by powerful personalities have learned to ground themselves in facts in order to dialogue with and influence their peers.
If you rely on wowing people with bells, whistles, and great personality, it won’t often fly without hard data to back you up. The more senior the audience, the more work you should be doing to cite evidence, data, and prior results that support your case. Failure to connect as this level could leave you perceived as someone who seems energetic, but isn’t really ready for prime time.
What’s one way you could flex yourself a bit this week? Share your thoughts below.