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There is no way around your personal shadow if you want to be great in business | May 24, 2013

After having consulted with both business owners/leaders for over a decade, there is a clear personal quality shared by all of those who go on to become truly great leaders. This quality is what I call “shadow insight”. A brilliant psychologist named Dr. Carl Jung coined the term “shadow” to describe those parts of the self that we do not wish to recognize, or be honest about. Our “darkest” or ugliest parts. We would rather keep these parts of ourselves in the shadows, in our closet. Often, these are embarrassing parts of ourselves that may get us into trouble at work.

These are parts that can derail us from otherwise attainable goals. Business psychologists have over the last five years increasingly used the term “personality derailers” as a concept to capture what Dr. Jung (with his term “shadow”) recognized approximately 100 years earlier. Business psychologists regularly steal from psychological scientists. Personality derailers are those preferences, traits, or habits that “derail” our development and/or impede our success. They are not just idiosyncrasies, but they are so off-putting that they can take other people’s focus off our strengths and keep us from getting that promotion or reaching our dreams. Unfortunately, a truck load of great qualities can be derailed by just a few glaringly unknowing qualities. We all know people whose shadow vastly dims their brightness.

It is amazing to think that while humans have been on the earth for thousands of years, they have only recently begun to create advanced scientific processes for a 360° view of yourself. As many of you know, this process has come to be called a “360”. A 360 is a behavioral science driven process where a professional chooses to open themselves up to hearing about what others really think about them. This process also involves using superior behavioral science tools that will unveil that professional’s personality profile of strengths that could be accelerated and skill gaps that need to be filled in.

A comprehensive 360 will truly give a person breakthrough insight that can bring them to their next performance level. They can only go to that next performance level if they take the results of the 360 and apply them in a disciplined and systematic way. To do this, they need a business consultant who is a truly seasoned behavioral scientist who can help that person prioritize which qualities to target first, given their on the ground situation.

There is no way around this truth: if you want to be great in business, you need to be great with people. The best business people are those who have the best people skills and who cultivate loyal relationships and can get others to work their hardest. They understand that building loyal and passionate relationships with peers and team members is the most potent way of succeeding and elevating their team and organizational performance.

Too many business people will only go so far as looking at themselves with a 180° assessment. In other words, they over focus on the positive half of their personality (“sunnyside up”), and ignore the other 180° of weaknesses, skill gaps, and personality thorns.

Meanwhile, next-generation professionals see the writing on the wall: business performance is increasingly tied to personal well-roundedness. Gone are the days where the caricature of the best leaders was the lone cowboy who ruled because they have the biggest gun or the most charisma. We have shifted into a new paradigm and now the best leaders are those who are the most resourceful, and know how to assemble the best teams because no one person can do everything.

The best leaders surround themselves with people who are as smart or smarter than they are, versus trying to be the “big dog”. In order to do this, a leader must know their own limitations and seek team members who will fill in those skill gaps. You need a 360 to precisely identify the full collection of gaps.

So, who is getting 360’s these days? The vast majority of Fortune 500 companies invest large amounts of money in having their leadership undergo 360s. Within the next five years, the question will not be “Have you undergone a 360?”, it will be “who did you use for your 360?”. WARNING: Any consultant can say they can do a 360, the question is who has the deep behavioral science expertise to uncover the underlying problematic dynamics that when corrected will unleash breakthrough performance. There are a dizzying array of tools out there. Choose carefully, by interviewing a particular consultant about why they chose the tools they use. Did they talk about science, or simply about liking something? Examine their background in the science of personality. A great 360 is akin to brain surgery, choose carefully.


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If you or your organization are faced with a workplace growth challenge, email Tom and he will consider writing a blog about it.

Meet the Expert: Dr. Tom Brunner is a capable executive level consultant who has worked with local and nationally known organizations including Carondelet Healthcare, Tucson Electric Power, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Discovery Channel. Tom is a published behavioral science expert and is the Founder and Principal of Performance Edge Solutions. He is a licensed psychologist and a member of the Society of Consulting Psychologists. He has been an invited speaker at national conferences and local organizations such as University Medical Center, Tucson, AZ. Tom is humbled by the fact that in 2010 he was awarded the Arizona Psychological Foundations Early Career Psychologist Award. He is the senior author of a personality tool that has been adapted into seven languages. To see a 60-second video introducing his consulting firm click here, to read his bio click here, and to review his recent blogs, click here.