You can modify your personality. I indicated that in the previous blog article, and mentioned the comments of neurologists and others in an earlier blog article titled, “Are you a highly sensitive person?” The personality or character of leaders can help produce a highly engaged, motivated workforce. Employees don’t quit companies, they quit people whom they dislike. The book, “Love your job,” by Kerry Hannon indicates that employees who have more supportive supervisors are less likely to quit, and 67% are more fully engaged. And a global workforce study concluded that only slightly more than half of employees say their leaders inspire them and make them feel energized about their work. Here are a few examples of character traits that help keep employees energized about their work.
Trust and respect. Trust is an essential part of all healthy relationships. Do management and staff in your organization trust one another? Do you know what your employees are doing when you are not looking? Are they being honest in their reporting or simply saying what you want to hear? Are you getting all the facts, or are they being filtered to make them look better? Is there criticism, cynicism, or negativity evident? A lack of transparency? How about bickering, animosity, discrimination, lack of cooperation etc. among some of the teams? Employees at high-trust companies report less stress, more energy at work, high productivity, and greater engagement, according to research outlined in the Harvard Business Review. You must trust others to be trusted in return.
Thankfulness and gratitude. Thankfulness and gratitude are two different words, and have subtly different meanings, even though they are normally used interchangeably. Some dictionaries define thankfulness as “pleased and relieved,” or something similar, while gratitude is defined as “showing an appreciation of kindness.” The difference is that thankfulness is a feeling, and gratitude is an action. Thankfulness occurs when you recognize a benefit that comes your way. You might be thankful you won the lottery or thankful it didn’t rain on your golf game. You are thankful for something. But you can also be thankful to someone because of something they said to you or did for you. When you are thankful to someone, it usually results in gratitude, which prompts you to act accordingly by giving them something in return, whether it is a “Thankyou” note, gift, or a favour of some kind.
The lack of gratitude on the part of supervisors could be one reason for a lack of gratitude on the part of the employees, and for poor performance. Janice Kaplan in her book, The Gratitude Diaries, said that when asked in a survey how grateful they were for a variety of things, “Your current job” finished dead last. Only 39% expressed gratitude for their present employment. And Kellie Wong, in her article, Organizational Culture: Definition, Importance, and Development, states that 76% of employees don’t feel especially recognized by superiors. She says that “experts agree that when an organization makes appreciating employees a part of its culture, important metrics like employee engagement, retention, and productivity improve.”
Empathy and compassion. Doctor Henry Cloud, in his book, Integrity, describes empathy as “the ability to enter another person’s experience and connect with it in such a way that you experience to some degree what the other person is experiencing. Everyone can empathize with people unless there is some malfunction in his or her brain. Everyone has mirror neurons, those specialized neurons in our brain that fire regardless of whether we or someone else is performing a specific action. This enables us to relate to the person to the degree that we even have a fair idea of why they are performing that action. For example, when you are grabbing a cup of coffee, a specific mirror neuron fires to tell your hand to reach out and grip the handle of the cup. And when you watch a friend pick up her own cup of coffee, the same neuron also fires as if you were also picking up her cup of coffee, even though your hand is not moving at all.
This empathy with others includes emotions. For example, when someone observes another person crying, mirror neurons respond by eliciting the feeling of sadness. And if you cringe at the sight of someone else getting hurt, empathize with your friend who is grieving, and or feel uncomfortable when a co-worker is upset and anxious, blame it on these specialized brain cells.
Compassion, however, is when those feelings or thoughts include the desire to help. Research has shown that when we feel compassion, our heart rate slows down, and we secrete the “bonding hormone,” oxytocin, and regions of the brain linked to empathy, caregiving, and feelings of pleasure light up, which often results in wanting to approach and care for people. It is the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another person’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering. Compassion involves action on your part.
Integrity and honesty. When we think of integrity, we often think of matters related to morals and ethics. The Oxford dictionary defines it as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.” When it comes to integrity, as with all traits, you must walk your talk. Don’t pad expense reports, charging for a steak when you have a hamburger, or flying first class, or overstating your mileage when you drive. And don’t cheat on your income tax or fail to tell the store clerk they missed charging for an item, Or whatever. You must model the trait you are strengthening. And in turn you are a model for others to follow.
We all like to be thought of as being trustworthy, honest, and reliable. Any single trait such as honesty or kindness is not enough. As Dr. Henry Cloud points out in his book, Integrity, a leader might get compliance, but is unable to capture their people’s best efforts. All the traits mentioned must work in tandem. You must connect with the individuals by being empathetic and know where they are coming from, their experience and concerns, and what their body language is telling you. To connect, you must have empathy, know your workers on a personal level, be honest and transparent, speak kindly with sensitivity and respect, and have earned the reputation of being fair and trustworthy. A tall order, but it is possible by continuing to focus on all the traits that you want to develop. In my e-book, “How to Build Character,” to be published in October by Bookboon.com, I discuss about 14 traits in greater detail, and more information on changing your personality.
I arrived at the belief that you can change your personality after reading almost 100 books and articles written by scientists, neurologists, researchers, and others with impressive credentials. And I have been able to modify my own personality over the years. It is possible through the power of intentional thinking, to not only impact the wiring of our brain’s neurons, but also modify the genes themselves. The way we think, feel, and act can change those innate personality traits as well.
Through neuroplasticity, your brain can sometimes heal itself, assign a different area to take over the functions of a damaged area, or even make you a better tennis player by imagining yourself going through the motions. And it can develop your character as well.