I have been an Executive Coach for many years, and during that time I have conducted countless 360° feedback interview assessments – where I gather information on my clients’ strengths and development areas from their colleagues, peers, direct reports, and managers. In almost every assessment, the results are the same. For each client I end up with a list of four to six strengths – the things that they’re really, really good at and the way they bring value to their company and their colleagues. And for each client, invariably, three to four of their strengths are also their development areas, because they use their strength too much.

We all have a style with which we engage in the world. Some of us are assertive and louder in volume. Some of us are quieter and more prone to thoughtful conversation. Some of us are direct and decisive – quick to move forward and to push for action. Some of us are really, really nice and never say no. For every style, my clients are appreciated because of their style, and they are also tolerated because of their style.

Your style is most likely helping you and hurting you as well. When we overplay our strengths, they hurt us. We become known as the person who always does X, or never says Y – and we are viewed as inflexible, whether or not we are. Your style could be the very thing that’s keeping you from moving forward (and upward) at your company. Your style may be what’s keeping you from successful interactions with your colleagues and clients, and even your friends and family.

So what do you do about this? Do you have to change who you are? The answer to that is obviously “no,” which is good because it’s extremely difficult to change who you are. You don’t have to change who you are, but you do have to become aware of your tendencies and habits, and be willing to flex to different approaches and styles when necessary. To have greater self-awareness and push yourself out of your comfort zone to try new things.

A great first step is to gather feedback about your style from the people who know you well – those who live and work with you on a daily basis. Get a sense from them as to what you “always” do that works for you and what you “always” do that doesn’t. Be open to their perspective and be willing to admit that there might be other, even better, ways to solve problems and interact with people. Ask for the feedback, and for guidance on how you could be more effective. And then pick a habit or two and try a new way. Be prepared to practice new ways of engaging with the world and new style behaviors – get out of your own way so that you can go further.

How has your style helped you? How has it gotten in your way?
Please leave a comment.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For support in practicing new ways of engaging with the world, contact Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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