Be yourself

“It resembled some kind of Stalinest Show trial”. This description was not of a bad buying audit or tricky new business pitch. The incident in question referred to someone’s experience of part of a training course. Following a profile report the attendees of this particular training programme had to explain their profiles to each other, and give their future intentions for behaviour modification.

For many of us training has become a luxury in the current economic climate when many companies have cut their training and development budgets down to the bone. For the lucky ones whose companies have continued to invest in them it is surely churlish to complain about the kind of training that they’re receiving. And yet some people are left feeling that team training and personality profiling can lead to them having to apologise for those profiles and try to reverse them. People can be left to feel that they’ve been stuck in a box, labelled and well and truly told off for the label that they’ve been stuck with.

It’s fair to say that whatever your profile is at some point you’ll be urged to compensate for it in order to progress further in your career. Even if your career path so far is based on your current profile someone in some training scheme is going to challenge you with one of the following suggestions: “Don’t be so “Tell”, be more “ Ask””. Meanwhile in another feedback session someone else is hearing: “Your career will only take off if you stop Asking and do more Telling”. Or “You focus too much on how everyone is feeling.. just jump to actions”, or “Quit doing, empathise more” – you get the picture.

In this month’s issue of Market Leader Roisin Donnelly (corporate marketing director of Procter and Gamble and president of the Marketing Society) writes:

“The best advice I ever got…. Was to be yourself and always focus on building your strengths and not on trying to fix your weaknesses. Be your own brand”.

This is an inspiring message from one of the UK’s outstanding business women. And it is worth dwelling on. It mirrors the most motivating instruction I ever got from my boss Stephen Allan who once said to me, when I was agonising over how act in some meeting: “Sue, just be yourself”.

Whilst it is true that communication is key to our progress, and understanding is key for good communication, it is also true that we should work to our strengths and in classic marketing style focus on our areas of strength rather than spend all our effort on our area of weaknesses. Really great organisations become really great by getting the best out of different types of people. Use the training to help you understand your, and your colleagues’, strengths and weaknesses but when it comes down to it there’s one piece of training advice that is invaluable, and which you may rarely hear from a professional trainer.

Just be yourself.

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