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  • Writer's pictureXecutive Metrix

Focus on the Acts After You Understand the Actor

While sitting at a coffee shop with a new prospective client I received the question, “So how can your firm help me to get my team to change their personalities and work together more collaboratively?”


My response was delivered with nothing short of honesty and care, “We can’t.”


As I delivered this very blunt response, their facial expression reflected utter confusion. I thought to myself, “They’re probably wondering why in the world am I sitting across the table, wasting their time, when I just got through claiming that our Firm are experts in our field.” I decided I’d better elaborate on what our field is all about before they walked out befuddled. So, I shared the following:


It’s a common misconception that we, or anyone, for that matter, can change an individual’s personality. That would be synonymous with changing someone’s DNA. However, what can be influenced for change, and very much malleable, is an individual’s behaviors. Personality and Behavior are related concepts; however, they refer to different aspects of an individual’s psychological makeup and actions that are often used incorrectly and interchangeably.


Personality describes a set of distinctive characteristics and traits that can distinguish individuals from others. What makes individuals unique is the amount of these traits and characteristics they possess. Personality remains roughly unchanged over the course of an adult’s life, and it is largely set in stone, rooted deep within. Behavior, on the other hand, reflects the observable action or inaction of an individual’s personality traits and characteristics to different situations or circumstances.


Understanding this distinction is invaluable for both leaders and individuals on a team for a host of reasons, but I’ll focus on two.

  1. When individuals understand that their personality is largely fixed and deep ingrained, it provides a different kind of reflection in the mirror to working on oneself. Not only does it encourage individuals to embrace the diversity and authenticity of themselves and others, but also fosters a growth mindset. Personal growth becomes established from a set of steady strengths and opportunities that then fosters a more productive and realistic approach to self-development. 

  2. When individuals appreciate that behavior is influenced by personality and external factors, they can approach interpersonal relationships with greater empathy and understanding. Recognizing that someone's behavior may not solely reflect their personality but also their current circumstance encourages patience, better communication, effective collaboration, and enhanced conflict resolution.


Nonetheless, while the thought of changing someone's personality may seem enticing for a more permanent change, the most effective approach seeks to refine how individuals act, not redefine who they are. Taking such an approach boosts performance, paves the way to enriched collaboration, and celebrates the unique identities of each team member.


Our Firm consists of behavioral-scientists skilled in the art and science of modifying and enhancing behaviors, attitudes, and emotions needed to help leaders better align people, culture, and strategy for high performance.


So, to my prospective client, my short answer to the original question is,


“We don't change personalities; what we do is far more powerful.

We unleash potential.”

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