Personality traits are funny things. For one, it’s almost impossible to be objective – especially about ourselves, but even about other people’s personality traits. And for another, there’s a flipside to every negative or positive attribute. Not just an opposite, but an alternative way to describe them. This means you can turn any negative into a positive and vice versa.
The inspiration for this article came when I was thinking about how the importance of the personality trait “perseverance”, and I remembered something one of my school teachers said about me. Upon hearing that I’d climbed Mt Everest, she’d reacted with something like; “makes sense, she always was stubborn”.
On first hearing this, I was offended and defensive, but then I realised that “stubborn” and “persistent” are almost the same thing. The exact word someone chooses to use depends on their outlook and perhaps the end-result (ie whether something ended up being successful or not).
It got me thinking about the way we often criticize our own personality traits. Many of us are very quick to get down on ourselves and focus on some negative personality trait that we feel might be holding us back. But in reality, the word that we choose to describe that aspect of ourselves matters.
- Are you slow to get things done? No, you’re meticulous and careful?
- Are you a dreamer? Actually, you’re a big picture thinker who can think of the best strategy.
- Are you a chatterbox who wastes time socialising? No, you’re a great networker who uses your connections to advance your business.
- Are you a disorganized mess because you leave everything to the last minute? No, you’re spontaneous and do your best work under pressure.
- Are you rigid and inflexible? Actually, you’re a fantastic planner who follows through and sticks to the plan.
- And of course, are you too bossy? More likely, you’re a strong leader.
One thing I’m fairly certain of is that most successful entrepreneurs are not particularly balanced. Many exhibit extremes of some traits, and the absence of others – which allow them to shine and be different from others. Great businesses are built by founders that exhibit literally ALL types of personality traits.
While building my new business - a productivity tool for teams - I'm focusing on seeing my own traits in a positive light. For instance, I'm choosing to believe I have a strong vision for the product (rather than consider I might be too fussy or closed to other ideas).
It’s important to know yourself, but reframe things so that you don’t feel bad about your own nature. Rename your personality traits to turn any perceived negatives into positives. Embrace your quirks and treat them as the strengths they can be. And then compensate for any true weaknesses – either with other team members or by deliberately filling in the gaps later.
This article was first published at DoTheThings.