Secrets of a Brighter Workplace


Tips on how to understand, recruit and keep the best people for your business


Stories from the psychologist’s chair

How self-awareness breeds success

how self awareness breeds success

Much of the work I do involves discussing with candidates how their personality profile impacts on their behaviour and performance in their role.

What fascinates me is that while a lot of behaviour is predictable once you have a sense of someone’s personality, it can impact on their success in a role in often quite surprising ways.

Let me tell you the stories of three people I’ve met recently – Neil the rule-breaker, John the introvert and Diane the open-hearted manager.

Their very different personalities result in very different behaviours and levels of performance.

And their individual success (or lack of) depends very much on their self-awareness (or lack of) of those very personality traits and behaviours.

Meet Neil – the rule-breaker

I find the personality trait of rule following really interesting – because it can result in some very predictable behaviours and yet lead to surprising and unpredictable outcomes.

Take Neil. He had a low preference for this trait which meant he tended to view rules as flexible, things to be broken or at least worked around. When I see someone with this profile I can predict with confidence they’ve got a lot of speeding tickets – and so it was for Neil too!

You might think then, that Neil was not the sort of person you’d trust with a lot of responsibility. But what was interesting about him was that actually he was a really successful leader. And he was a successful leader because of (not despite) his rule breaking tendencies.

As a rule-breaker he wasn’t afraid to challenge the status quo, to push at boundaries and shake things up a bit. He was an agent of change.

But of course, not all businesses want to be challenged and managers can be frustrated by someone who considers deadlines and procedures as optional.

Neil agreed that some might see him as a dangerous maverick and be resistant to changes he made. That’s why, he told me, he put a lot of effort into bringing people on board, to communicating his ideas and getting people’s buy-in to any change.

And it was this self-awareness and recognition of other people’s perceptions of what he was doing that made him the success he was.

John – the introvert

I find that introverts can often be more effective managers than extroverts. Surprised? Here’s why.

The world is built around extroverts. People who are confident and comfortable in social situations get noticed and get on. The traditional job interview, for instance, is the perfect environment for extroverts who love being the centre of attention and doing all the talking. Pity the poor introvert then who, shy and reserved, finds it difficult to talk about themselves and would be much happier at home with a book.

You might say this about John, a self-confessed introvert I met who’d rather spend time in his shed than go out to dinner with friends. You wouldn’t think he’d make great management potential. But he was a really successful manager. How was that possible?

John understood that there was an unavoidable expectation for him to be sociable at work. As a manager he needed to engage with, communicate with and lead his team. He needed to be an extrovert at work. And the only way to do this was to do it in a structured way. So he scheduled in meetings and 1-2-1s and PDPs- all those things that every manager should be doing, he did (at least in part) in order to overcome his shyness.

He also understood that some of his team might be introverts as well and therefore wouldn’t necessarily approach him with issues or ideas. The structure he created meant he catered for their reserve too – in a way that extroverts often miss because they assume everyone’s outspoken and confident like them.

For John, just like Neil, this self-awareness was the key to his success. He recognised he needed to adapt his natural behaviour at work and developed tactics and strategies to do this.

Diane – the open-hearted manager

I met Diane and straightaway I really liked her. She was one of those people you just warm to. Friendly, open and trusting there were no sides to Diane. She shared her feelings and thoughts openly and honestly from the moment we met. She described herself as ‘wearing my heart on my sleeve.’

But she was finding being a manager a challenge. She trusted people to do what they say they were going to do and she expected things to go well. Unfortunately some people took advantage of this and Diane felt let down and disappointed.

I didn’t want to turn her into a cynic – trust and optimism are lovely qualities in a manager. But we discussed how she might provide a bit more structure and support to people to make sure they did what they said they would do. Setting deadlines and expectations of what was required for instance.

By building her awareness of how her behaviour impacted on those around her, Diane was able to find ways to improve how she managed people.

I love this side of my work – finding out what makes people tick and helping them see that too. It’s really great when someone gets a new perspective on why they react to certain things in a certain way and how that can be managed better to improve their performance.


Thank you for reading this article. I post regularly about recruitment and people development issues – to help you create a brighter workplace. To get future blogs sent direct to your inbox, sign up here.

One Comment

  1. realtekh says:

    nice……….thank you for your sharing

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