You can pick your attitude, change your posture, tell yourself better things, achieve more (or less) connection to people, be more punctual, more relaxed or more structured.
You can choose to be(have) a certain way.
Don’t be fooled by your father who said: you’re just like me, son. Or teachers who tell you you are good or bad. Don’t look at your piers’ behaviour and decide act like them. Sure, we could have a very long discussion about Nature vs Nurture. Some believe you act like you were made, it’s all personality. Others even believe that destiny will decide what you achieve.
Of course, personality, DNA and things like IQ and EQ have a huge effect on who and how we are. But apart from those building blocks, we are formed to behave the way we do by our surroundings and experiences. From a very young age we observe the actions of others, that’s how we teach ourselves how to behave. We see that actions have consequences.
And, as humans, we are efficient. We learn a lesson in a certain setting and phase in our life and we copy that lesson to any future context that seems similar. Therefor, we behave in ways that used to be ‘right’ but as the world around us changes and we grow we need to redefine our behaviour.
Social instincts & fitting in
Our caveman instincts tell us to minimize the chance of being cast away from a group, leaving us vulnerable. So, we want to fit in. I wouldnt suggest we throw this principle overboard. Shall we at least be honest to ourselves that much of what we do is to conform to a group? Becoming more aware of this largely unconsciouss process will give us a chance to choose our actions and occasionally wonder if we are still who we want to be.
Back to Nature vs Nurture. I wish I had a euro for every time I heard somebody say: that’s just who I am. My experience in coaching has tought me an important lesson: if you CHOOSE to focus on nature (I was just born this way), you are in danger of not taking ownership and not choosing who (or how) you want to be.
I choose to focus on Nurture, the part of us that acts and thinks the way we do because we taught ourselves to do so. If we are programmed to behave a certain way then we can reprogram ourselves. Hence, the term neuro linguistic PROGRAMMING. How? It starts with becoming highly aware of every little thing that we do and analyzing the effect of what we do on ourselves and on our environment. Here’s a powerful example of how you can make a meaningful change with something simple:
For an entire day, smile at people as much as you can without feeling like an idiot. I don’t mean show your teeth to everybody with a huge grin, just radiate positivity. I bet you will notice that people will be more open to your presence and they will smile back. You might even notice that it will become easier to influence people.
Now let’s take it one step further in self awareness: notice the effect that smiling more has on your own mood. Not to mention what others smiling back at you can do to your state of mind and confidence.
To the managers out there, this might work especially well for you. Have you noticed your team members aren’t really opening up to you? Are they a bit passive in your one on ones? Do they tend to shut down, not take ownership and become uncreative?
Most managers I know have come to this conclusion at some stage. Our natural reaction is to wonder: what’s wrong with them? How can I make them more open and creative? And as such, looking for the solution in our team members. I have learned that much (maybe even most?) behaviour is in some way a reaction to something or someone.
Using this conviction, could it be possible that your team members are reacting to some aspect of your actions, communication or body language? Or, If you are already doing well in these areas, how much more could you get out of your team members if you tweak yourself further?
Managers and leaders, you might not realize that you are frowning a lot. You might have genuinely understandable reasons for the frown but we really have to be careful. I believe we have the responsibility to realize that something as simple as a frown can diminish self confidence of people around you and deter them from opening up to you. Because as their leader, your demeanor has a huge effect on them. Even the more mature and confident people are effected by you.
Try smiling. A lot. There’s no need to always look so serious. The people around you already know you are the person in charge, they look to you for answers and support and they know that you mean business with your business.
So try not to exude seriousness all the time. Save that for when it’s crunch time. Smile and see people open up to you. I dare to suggest that the sometimes heavy burden of leadership will feel lighter too.
Beware of ‘terminal seriousness’ in your organisation.