Originally published in full on the PRSA-NCC Blog

We all have things about ourselves we’d like to improve, but, fundamentally, there’s nothing wrong, broken, or in need of fixing about any of us. What we consider to be “negative” traits and behaviors we’d like to improve are aspects of ourselves that simply need to be recognized, brought to the surface, and strengthened. Most often, our success depends on the ability to make that shift to the strongest parts of who we are quickly and adeptly.

Think of aspects of your (or anyone’s) personality as existing on a spectrum. Limiting traits are on the lower/weaker end and more productive traits are on the higher/stronger end. To reach our full potential, we need to learn to evolve low-end traits to the highest end of the spectrum, so they actually become personal strengths.

This level of growth often takes some coaching, but every aspect of your personality has a gift to give you. The key is to stop looking outside and start strengthening what’s within. Below are four examples of how personality traits perceived as negative are nothing less than strengths in disguise.

Personality Trait Spectrum


Self-Doubt –> Skilled Inquiry

If you’re running self-doubt as information or evidence, then it becomes a block. But one of the most important skills of successful leaders is asking questions! Give the Inner Doubter a new job—helping you build powerful skills in inquiry.

Complaining –> Requesting

Recently I worked with a team in the midst of an organizational change that had not gone well. As a result, lots of people were frustrated and complaining. What do leaders do when we notice we’re caught in complaining? Answer: create a powerful request! The aspect of the personality that notices when things could be improved is an important part of who we are. We want to embrace it and give it a job that supports our success by making requests that improve things in our offices and our lives.

Inner Critic –> Inner Coach

The consistency of the Inner Critic is unmatched in its ability to support our success when it is shifted into the Inner Coach. The inner conversation that was negative switches over into one that is encouraging, supportive, and helpful.

Relentless self-improvement can mask feelings of not being good enough and keep us from realizing the gifts of who we are. As we grow as leaders in our lives and our workplaces, let’s embrace and evolve our personalities. Here is a coaching exercise to get you started:

Coaching Exercise: In what parts of your personality do you think “this needs to change about me” or “this needs to be fixed”? See if you can name one talent or skill you have related to it.

Tags: , ,