Nature or Nurture – Are You The Boss of You? 1

images (5)Are we born who we are – or do we have the ability to change into someone else? Jerome Kagan, who has devoted his career to studying the emotional and cognitive development of children believes it’s a little of both. His research suggests that introversion – extraversion is only 40 to 50 percent heritable. “To ask whether it’s nature or nurture is like asking is a blizzard caused by temperature or humidity – it’s the intricate interaction between the two that makes us who we are”. After reading Malcolm Gladwell’s take on the 10,000 hour rule I don’t think we are naturally born to do anything. I think you can accomplish what ever you set out to do. You can rewire your brain. I believe you are the boss of you. You and you alone get to decide your fate in life. Only you and you alone get to decide where you end up.

Dr. Carl Schwartz, director of the Developmental Neuroimaging and Psychopathology Research Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital, is convinced that we can stretch our personalities, but only up to a point. “Our inborn temperaments influence us, regardless of the lives we lead. Part of who we are is ordained at birth by our genes, by our brains and nervous systems”. However, he also believes that because we have “free will” – the power to choose – we can use it to shape our personalities. Susan Cain – author of “Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” refers to this as “the rubber band” theory of personality. Picture yourself as a rubber band at rest. Just like that rubber band you are elastic and can stretch yourself. You can rewire your brain. You are capable of developing different habits to get a different result.

Do you marvel at how some people have the ability to motivate others, inspire people to take action and influence the top decision makers and wished you could do the same? You can learn to do that as well. You can learn to be more patient, empathetic, flexible, open-minded or a good listener? You can learn how to communicate and interact more effectively with others? The question is – Are you willing to put in the time and effort to make the kinds of changes you’ll need to make to realize your full potential? One of the best ways to learn a new skill is to observe someone doing it the way you would like to do it and copy them. Think of someone you admire. What is it about the way they act that you identify with?  Do they remain calm in stressful situations? When they speak – do others listen? Are they really good at making new friends? Do they lead by example? When they walk into a room do others take notice? Are they compassionate towards those less fortunate? You and you alone get to decide your fate in life. Only you and you alone get to decide where you end up. Only you and you alone get to decide the kind of person you want to be. Think it, act it, become it …  You are the boss of you. 🙂

(C) Copyright 2013. Brian Smith-PLD. May not be reproduced without permission. Brian Smith works with people who want to learn how to communicate and interact more effectively; and who want to discover how to get the best out of themselves and others. He is available for speaking engagements, seminars and workshops. Visit to find out more.

Team Work Sucks! – In Defence of Introverts Everywhere 8

Gen Y 2I`ll try not to be too cynical here – but give me a break. Do teams really work? I know dolphins do it, whales do it, and even orcas, lions, and wolves do it too but, do we really accomplish more working in teams? I know teams and team work makes for a great sound bite. But in the real world – your world – does it really make that much of a difference? Research conducted by Susan Cain and published in her New York Times – best-selling book “Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” paints a different picture. According to her research not everyone performs up to their full potential in a group setting. I know in a perfect world together everyone achieves more but after reading her book you may change your mind.

Worth Remembering … ” A strength over – used or used in the wrong situation, can become a weakness” – Unknown 

Generally speaking extroverts tend to be assertive, dominate, direct and decisive. They make quick decisions when others on the team cannot. They will confront tough issues or situations, accept change as a personal challenge and keep the team focused on the task at hand. Extroverts work well in a team environment as long as they are in a position to influence the direction the team is headed. They like to be in charge and lead the charge. They may come across to others as being unapproachable and insensitive to the needs of team members. (It’s their way or no way)  However, in a team environment their very vocal – in your face  – out-going and gregarious personality could stifle creativity. Listening to a difference of opinion is not their strong suit. They are comfortable with conflict.

On the other hand introverts – according to Carl Jung – are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling. They tend to listen more than they talk, think before they speak and work more slowly and deliberately – tackling one problem at a time. Other team members may see limitations because they act aloof , appear to be shy and prefer to work alone. They dislike conflict and would rather sit quietly in a corner – not offering an opinion for fear of making waves and getting noticed. They prefer to maintain status-quo and fly under the radar. They need a quiet space  to contemplate and reflect. They aren’t comfortable making quick decisions. They make decisions based on fact not emotion. The course of action taken must be logical and correct as they see it.

Worth Remembering …  “The task of an executive is not to change human beings. The task is to multiply performance capacity of the whole by putting to use whatever strength, whatever health, whatever aspiration there is in individuals” – Peter F. Drucker. 

The tide may be turning. Team work and working in teams may not be all it’s been cracked up to be. Recent studies suggest that the open office concept made popular in the late 90’s and early 20’s is reverting back to the cubicle. Studies conducted by the likes of Marvin Dunnette, Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister have shown that performance gets worse as group sizes increase. (Too many cooks spoil the broth) The “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups. If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is of the highest priority” says the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham.

Can extroverts and introverts work together on the same team and accomplish more? That will depend on the team leader – a team leader who understands the strengths of everyone on the team and gives everyone the opportunity to do what they do well. You can’t put a group of people together, call them a team and expect them to perform without teaching them what it means to be part of a team and how to be a good team player.

Copyright (C) 2013. Brian Smith – May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission.

Put People in Positions Where They Will Be Successful 2

If you were a tree what kind of tree would you be? If you were a colour, do you think you would be red, blue, yellow, or green? What would you think if your Interviewer asked you to draw a pig? Believe it or not, these are the kinds of questions you might get asked during your job interview. Don’t panic; Interviewers aren’t looking to have you committed. They are, however, looking to gain some valuable insight to your attitude, behaviour, and potential in the workplace. Weird science? Perhaps. But today’s behavioural assessment tools are becoming more and more prevalent as companies look for ways to hedge their bets against the high costs associated with hiring the wrong person.

Worth Remembering …

“Whatever the circumstances of your life, the understanding of type can make your perceptions clearer, your judgements sounder, and your life closer to your hearts desire.” –  Isabel Briggs Myers

Behavioural assessments are not new. Personality research dates back to Hippocrates in 400 BC. Hippocrates believed that we each have our own natural, perfect, unchangeable personality style. He believed that while we each have the same factors comprising our personalities, four distinct styles of behaviour emerge. It’s interesting to note that no matter what assessment tool you use – Myers Briggs Type Indicator, Colours or DISC – they all agree that there are four distinct styles of behaviour and that each style reacts to  the same situation differently. And generally speaking we “Fit” into one of the four styles.

Each of the four styles has their own strenghts and limitations; and there really isn’t one style that’s better than any other. It is clear, however, that some styles are better suited for some roles, tasks, or careers. Yes, it’s true that we all have the ability to modify our behaviour to get a different result, but we all have one style that feels most comfortable to us and we use that one style most of the time, regardless of the circumstance. Keep in mind that a strength overused or used in the wrong situation can be a weakness.

Worth Remembering …

“Effective executives fill positions and promote on the basis of what a person can do. They do not make decisions to minimize weaknesses but to maximize strengths.” – Peter F. Drucker 

I use an assessment tool in all of my coaching engagements and workshops based on the DISC theory first introduced by Dr. William Marston in his epic book, Emotions of Normal People published in 1928. In the mid 1950’s, William Clark further developed the Marston theory. He utilized the simple matrix entitled DISC and identified the factors that comprise each of the four styles. I use the tool to help identify the style of the person I am working with – their strengths and their limitations. And it provides my client with a universal language that is easy for them to understand. (They already know what they do well and what they don’t do well – but now at least they have a name for it and a reason behind why they do what they do)

We are who we are – but it doesn’t have to dictate where we end up. We are adults and we can learn new habits. Just stop doing one thing and start doing another. And the more that we do it – the more it becomes us. I believe the key to performance improvement is by understanding ourselves well – and by studying the behaviours of others. Managers spend way too much time trying to change people. What they should be doing is spending the time to find out what their people do well – and then put them in positions where they will be able to play to their strengths.

These are the four  distinct styles of behaviour associated with DISC Theory. Recognize anyone you know? Which one sounds most like you?

D – Dominant Style, Direct and Decisive: These types of people make quick decisions when others cannot; they will confront tough issues or situations, accept change as a personal challenge, and will keep the team focused on task. (In the olden days we called this style the typical “A” Type personality. (I’ll let you figure out what the “A” meant.) Others may see limitations because they may come across as unapproachable. They can be insensitive to others needs. Patience is not your strong suit. D Style persons naturally want to take control. They have a lot of qualities that we like to see in our managers.

I – Interactive/Interpersonal Style, Optimistic and Outgoing: These people like to make themselves available to others; they spread their enthusiasm and positive attitude to others and will give positive feedback to their colleagues and teammates. They are great communicators and have an innate ability to build collaborative teams. Others may see limitations because they can appear to be disorganized. They love being around people so they find it difficult to work alone. They’d rather be liked then to be respected. I Style persons make great sales people – social convenours or teachers.

S – Steadiness Style, Sympathetic and  Cooperative: These types are team players; they are sensitive to other’s needs, approach meeting agendas methodically, and are great listeners. They are very loyal, show up to work on time, and maintain the status quo. They prefer to be non-confrontational. Others may see limitations because they can be indecisive – they find it difficult to make quick decissions for fear of making waves. They have a tendancy to resist change for fear of failing. S Style persons work best in a structured environment where processes have been defined and people are expected to follow procedure.

C – Conscientious Style, Concerned and Correct: These types of people like things done the right way as they see it. They are very thorough and will maintain standards; (as long as they where the ones who developed the standard). They emphasize accuracy and will try to use some diplomacy to get their way. C’s are our very best planners. Others may see limitations because they can be overly concerned with perfection. They prefer to work alone. C Style persons make great accountants, lawyers or project managers.

Worth Remembering …

“Everyone has peak performance potential. You just need to know where they are coming from and meet them there.” – Ken Blanchard. 

Active Listening – It’s Harder Than You Think 3

Active listening; when you read those words out loud what kinds of images conjure up in your mind? Active Listening – What does it suggest to you?  A study conducted by Dr. Ralph Nichols – a communication expert – suggests that individuals listen about 25% of the time; most people recall only 50% of what they hear; and 70% of all misunderstandings happen because people do not listen to each other. It’s been reported that grade school aged children listen to their teacher just 25% if the time? By the time young people graduate from high school they are listening to the teacher just 17% if the time. That number drops to 12% by the time they earn their college diploma. How much do you think they are listening by the time they join the workforce?  How much do you think they are listening by the time they come to work for you?

Worth Remembering …

“There is no such thing as a bad listener. There is only a person with inflexible listening habits” – Doug Larson

Have you ever observed a conversation going on between two people and know that neither one of them was listening just by watching their body language and listening to what was or wasn’t being said? (They where just waiting for the other person to take a breath so they could jump in and take over the discussion) Two monologues don’t make a dialogue.

Worth Remembering …

“We have two ears but only one mouth. Some people suggest that’s because we should spend twice as much time listening as opposed to talking. Others suggest it’s because listening is twice as hard” – Author Unknown

We all suffer from natural tune-out. We listen and speak at two different rates of speed which makes listening difficult at the best of times. According to Dr. Nichols the average person has the ability to speak at a rate of 125 to 150 words per minute. Yet, your mind can comprehend and process information at an average rate of 500 words per minute. If you do the math that adds up to a time-lapse of some 350 words.  What can you do to stay in the moment and avoid tuning out? What can you do to stay focused on the sender and not let your mind start to wander? What new habits will you need to learn to become a more “Active” listener?

Receivers Need to Develop Good Listening Habits

We are adults and we can learn new habits. Just stop doing one thing and start doing another. And the more that you do it – the more it becomes you. And if you do it often enough you’ll have developed a new habit. Habits are great because you end up doing it without even thinking about it.

Patience: Be patient with yourself and the speaker. Do not interrupt. Concentrate on what the speaker is saying. When they have finished ask open and closed ended questions for clarity. (Being patient was a hard one for me. I have a tendency to jump in and finish your sentence for you)

Focus: Send verbal and non-verbal cues to the sender that you are giving them your undivided attention. (I call that the Dr. Fraser Crane – Hello – I’m listening) Be sure to smile – face the speaker – turn off the cell phone – put down your papers, and give the speaker your undivided attention. (I find myself slipping back now and again and positioning my arms across my chest. People may interpret that as being closed and that you are no longer listening)

Open Mindedness: Try not to become emotional. React and respond to what is being said, not to the speaker. As Dale Carnegie said – “I listen to understand … not necessarily to agree”. Respect the fact that people have a right to their opinions and they have a right to express their opinions. As long as they do it respectfully and play nice.

Worth Remembering …

“In the Industrial Age, the CEO sat on the top of the hierarchy and didn’t have to listen to anybody. In the Information Age; you have to listen to the ideas of people regardless of where they are in the organization.” – John Sculley 

Active listening (Receiving) is as important to communication as effective speaking (Sending). I think the receiver is the most important person in the conversation. If they don’t receive the message the way the sender intended – then what ever the sender said means absolutely nothing. Good communication takes two. Be “Actively” involved. What new habits will you need to learn to become a more active listener?