Pick Your Battles While Remaining True To Yourself

Throughout my early career development I had bosses and mentors make mention that one of my strongest attributes was that I am a very passionate person.  Sometimes it was a good thing, sometimes not so much.


One of my early mentors told me that, especially with my passion, I had to learn to pick my battles carefully or I might steamroll everyone.  Yes, it was a compliment – but a lesson as well.


One of the most challenging ideas I had, and continue, to learn is leveraging my personal strengths to gain the greatest benefit to my company, my staff and the goals at hand.  Learning how to read situations and recognize when one attribute is preferable over another because ultimately it is not about me – rather it is about the value I can bring to others.  Much of this value is derived from my personality.


I think this is one of the biggest challenges people have when they begin a new job or feel like something has gone off track in their current position.  It is not just your skills and expertise that brought you to a company or position; it is also an element of your personality.  But finding balance between personality, strengths and corporate needs is a delicate balance.


Some things are more obvious – for example apparel.  I have a thing for shoes – some of my favorites are pointed toe, strappy sandals and boots all with three inch spiked heels.  In a very conservative environment I realize that some of my shoes are not appropriate so they don’t get to come to the office, others can be downplayed with the right outfit.  It is a balancing act.


For young women especially I find more and more that they have difficulty understanding balance.  Yes, you want your personality to show through; however there is a line between that and shoving it down everyone’s throat.  Error on the side of conservative and bring in smaller elements of your personality.  Allow your coworkers to get to know you for the value you bring rather than your unique style.  Your value will gain you respect, promotions and a secure future; whereas your style could lead to misinterpretation.


I’ve had young people argue with me that that is their personality and others will just have to get over it.  Aren’t they cute?  Listen up youngsters – if you are a talented, committed team member then I will allow for some slack on the unique personality.  However, if you are too busy shoving your personality down my throat with a “take it or leave it” type attitude I’ll ask you to leave.  You have not earned the right to shove anything in my face.


Professionalism – that means working, being part of a team, getting results – takes precedence in the work world over your too revealing or inappropriate clothing.  Deal with it – it’s called the real world.


Speaking of dress, I’ve also had staff members that, after a few years in the job, their professional attire had become more relaxed and on the verge of too casual.  Let me tell you a secret – in management meetings these things were noticed.  The decline of professionalism in dress was openly discussed and questioned as a direct correlation to their decline in commitment to their job and company.


Other elements of balance are more challenging to recognize and manage.


For example I am a pretty outspoken, take charge person.  Part of that is how I was raised, part was through business development and another part is due to life experiences.  But what I have learned is sometimes I need to just shut up and let others lead because I bring more value as a supportive team member than the leader.


If you find that you are in a state of continual battle in your current position it may be that you, too, need to learn this lesson.  It is ok to let go of the reigns and learn from others.  We all have things to learn from others and we cannot listen if we are always talking.


I will admit it is a hard thing to do – trust me, this I know.  Let me put it this way, one of my favorite male co-workers ever looked at me one day and said, “Can I be the guy today?” when we were working on a project.


On the flip side, sometimes we loose faith in ourselves and therefore loose the ability to use our personal/personality strengths and try to adopt others’ behavior to get through.  I’m an example kind of girl, so let me use one here and see if that helps clarify this idea.


I was recently in a situation that was going along all fine and dandy and then one day it wasn’t.  Instead of stopping, stepping back and remaining true to my intuition, skills and expertise to regroup, understand the challenge and proceed in a favorable manner – I got stuck.


In my stuck state I started listening to the analysis and opinions of others who do not approach challenges the same way I do and I begin to morph into their mindset.  Stupid.  What this did was to alter my behavior, the situation got worse – but luckily my vacationing mind just came back and said, “what the hell are you doing?!”


Kind of like if you know your boss is wrong and normally you would take them aside and gently explain your opinion yet something recently made you question yourself personally.  So asked the opinions of others and they said the boss would not want to be corrected.  So you keep your mouth shut and play dumb.  Then the project falls through and your boss calls you out for not communicating like you normally do.  You knew better – but you got afraid so you adopted someone else’s behavior.


This is where your personality is a key part of why you are there.  People do depend on you for certain elements that you bring to the table.  When you stop being true to some of your most valued traits the result can be that not only do you suffer, but the team does as well.


If you find yourself derailed or seemingly stuck in your position take a moment to think about what you have read here – have you changed something about yourself that is actually causing you to bring less than your best to the table?  Recognize it and fix it immediately.


Here’s the rub, though: it will take more time to get others back on track in seeing you for what you are and what they were used to rather than what you recently were.


In other words if your attire has been slackerish and you start dressing professionally again expect a few comments and the expectation that it won’t last.  Don’t pay any attention – you just keep doing your thing.


If you morphed into the wallflower and you start speaking up again – in a positive and productive way of course – then expect some surprise from coworkers and bosses.  No worries, just keep being true to yourself and they will eventually see, and be glad, that your brain is back from vacation.


Alternatively if you had turned into the steamrolling office grump then do not be surprised if others around you keep expecting the other shoe to drop when you start being a cooperative, engaged team member.  Reassure them that you are there to help and support and eventually they will forgive you for your temporary digression.


We all slip and fall at times, but it isn’t the fall that is important – it is what you do when you get back up that counts.  Remember, you are there for a reason.  How do you bring the most value to your organization by means of your skills, expertise and personality?  Get back to basics and move on!



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.


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