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Behavior: is it really “just who you are”?


Being a leader is tough. You’re under a microscope in a critical world that can be unrelenting in it’s expectations for you. As if that weren’t enough, you get evaluated annually with 360 degree feedback, performance reviews, culture and employee surveys that all measure – directly or indirectly – how well you’re leading.

But you’re taking the easy way out and you may be on the road to failure if you don’t take this feedback and evaluation seriously. Even if it stings when the feedback indicates that your behavior is what’s getting in the way of your greatness.

Moments of anger or defensiveness are normal when you hear such things, but don’t reject the feedback; it’s too important to your success.

Consider the implications when you refuse to change an unsuitable behavior with the words: “That’s just who I am”. What this means is that you’ve decided that you’re not willing to change. “Just who I am” is defensive in nature, and defensiveness won’t get you where you need to be. You’ll be stuck until you change your beliefs that your behavior and you (at your core) are not the same.

The truth is that you’re a wonderfully complex human being who is the sum total of your genes, your upbringing, the culture you’re in, your beliefs, values, education, attitude, and plenty of other things including your behavior. If you’re open to seeing that behavior can be changed while you still stay “you”, you’re on the road to becoming the best leader you can be.

How you behave is what others actually see about you. It can be how they define you, and it’s natural to be defensive when you get feedback that’s less than favorable. However, you’ll be able to see the light of change when you:

Listen and absorb the feedback, even when it stings. Stay silent, and stop judging what you’re hearing or reading for now. Let it settle before you act, and think carefully before you reject it.

Stay open and ask yourself “is this true for me?”. You are what you believe, and if you’re willing to change your beliefs, new worlds can open. What you are reacting to is simply others’ perceptions of your behavior. What beliefs are keeping you from really absorbing their message?

Become curious about the feedback you receive. Sometimes this is enough to stave off defensiveness. The questions you ask yourself or others about their perceptions may assist you in recognizing that you may need to change.

You aren’t your behavior, but your behavior is what others see and it can be changed without changing the core of who you are. You’ll be better at making real personal change when you realize that the feedback you receive is not “just who you are”.



2 Responses to “Behavior: is it really “just who you are”?”

  • Roberta Gulley:

    Mary Jo,
    I am so happy that you have become successful in pursuing your dream. I whole heartily agree with this article…it seems such common sense, but, still not an easy path for many to incoporate into their personal and business lives. I have always believed that both must come together when it comes to the decisions and changes in thinking that this article talks about.
    I have many good memories of you and working together.
    Take care, Bobbi

  • So nice to hear from you after all these years Bobbi. I have similar good memories of working with you! Thanks for your comment on this.

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Mary Jo Asmus
Mary Jo
A former executive in a Fortune 100 company, I own and operate a leadership solutions firm called Aspire Collaborative Services. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. I am married, have two daughters, and a dog named Edgar the Leadership Pug who exemplifies the importance of relationships to great leadership.
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