People don’t have bad characteristics
My dad calls me to ask how I am. As is usual I reply with a short ok and ask him to tell me how he is doing. My counter-question is brushed off with a grunt. He tells me how his boss made him go to this Dale Carnegie training thing and how that’s all just a load of bullshit. Well actually just the trainer is full of bullshit. This trainer had the audacity to avoid all argument (Rule number 10 in the golden book [pdf]) and when my dad points out that rules conflict (number 10 and 24) she says that that is how Dale Carnegie wrote it and that’s why it’s true. He laughs about it and relishes the reactions of the other participants, who seem to enjoy his appearance at these meetings immensely.
But then he starts to talk about another episode, one that really upset him; the participants were to make lists of bad properties of people. My father was discontent with the exercise and when one person listed rebellious as a negative property he, well, rebelled. He tells this story with much gusto and I can very well imagine him dropping into the strong german accent he has when he is excited or upset about something. “You would all be still paying taxes to the queen if someone hadn’t rebelled. Well, I didn’t put it this way; I said: ‘I would not be here today if the people of the eastern block in Europe hadn’t rebelled’ I said instead” This of course is true, no matter how big the influence of politicians like Gorbatsjev and Kohl was.
My dad informs me that he believes that people have lots of characteristics and that some are stronger than others and that that makes them fit better or worse in certain contexts and that your objective as a manager or leader is to help enhance the characteristics that further your cause and to dampen those that hinder it.
This is a very fundamental thought, even if all you manage at the moment is yourself. So let’s take this and reformulate it to fit the self-improvement terms:
You are a great person. Sure some of your characteristics make life hard for you at the moment but then there are all these other ones that make life easier and better and are just as essential for you being you as those things you don’t like about you. So go out and refine your strengths and mittigate the effect of your weaknesses
Microaction: List three characteristics that will help you reach your goals and think about how you can refine these strenghts.[/box]
Picture by my dad, who develops the software used to design the ribs in the wings of that A380 and who fervently believes technology will save the world and give us all a brighter future.