Dernière mise à jour : 31 mars 2022
Aging like a fine wine.
I don’t know about you, but there is something I have heard so many times over the last years: “You know… people don’t really change!”
“People don’t change”, does it translate a lack of faith in Human Nature? Does it include all the people? Is it actually true?
Despite the quality of my high-school philosophy classes [sarcasm], I have to humbly admit that I am not able to answer this question.
And now, we have just reached the moment in this article where the readers split into two different groups. Those who are thinking: “Of course people change!”
and the other group who is thinking: “Of course not! People don’t change! They evolve…”
Well, again, I am forced to admit that I cannot chose which one of those two groups I belong to.
The concept of “a change”, in a human being (whether it is valid or not) would mean that at a certain point, a person could be defined by a finite behavioral description or framework. Despite all the personality tests currently trending, can we really describe someone’s personality and set it in stone? I am sure we all agree that people think and act differently depending of their situation, their stress level, their happiness, their tiredness, their knowledge level, or for some of them even their hunger level, for example.
If you take your grandfather’s best bottle of French wine that stayed at 55°F/12°C in the wine cellar over the last ten years and open it. It probably tastes excellent. Let it breathe a few hours, it probably tastes even better. Now leave the bottle uncorked for a week on the kitchen counter. Get yourself a glass and drink it. Awful, right?
[DISCLAIMER - This is by no means the promotion of alcohol or wine. It is purely used as an example to explain the following point in the article. Although, if once in a while, you pour yourself a glass of French wine, it should not hurt. But well, this is maybe a subject for another article – END OF THE DISCLAIMER]
Getting back on the wine topic. Between the moment your grandfather bought this amazing wine ten years ago, the moment you first tasted it, found it excellent and the moment you last tasted it and found it awful… it was the same wine all along…
Simply, during its lifetime, the wine aged, matured and then “turned” bad, depending on the environment and conditions it was put through.
What if people were subjected to similar phenomena?
Putting aside the wine comparison: What if our personality was simply the symptom and outcome of the continuous sequence of situations we are put through? This would mean that the situations we are in, affect us. I am sure we all agree on that.
However, it would mean, as well, that two people would be impacted the same way by a same situation… which is not really the case. A same situational input can actually trigger two different behavioral outputs.
So maybe a more exact statement would be to say that: Our personality is simply the symptom of the analysis we make of the continuous sequence of events we are put through.
It changes it all. “The analysis we make”. It means that we are in control. Yes, you decide what you do, when you do it, how you do it and why you do it.
It puts a significant amount of accountability on your shoulders. If you are awesome, it is because you have decided it. At some point in your life, you have been through situations that you have decided to tackle the right way, you took actions and you managed to shape yourself an amazing personality. The same way, if you are an @$$, it is your fault. Regardless of what you have been through, you decided to enclose yourself into negativity, anger, frustration or jealously and it made you become who you actually are.
The great thing about all this, is that, again, you are in control. When you are in control of something, you can slow-down, accelerate, switch gear or change direction!
Switching the gear of proactive growth.
People who I have worked closely with know that after passing my initial “observation shell”, I am a very outgoing, warm, positive and proactive person, who literally sees everything (good or bad) as an opportunity either to win, or to learn.
However, the same people who know this version of me, probably would not have recognized, ten years ago, the initial version of my professional self: negative, pessimistic and frustrated.
What changed since then? I simply realized that I did not deserve anything less or more than anyone else and that there was no place for entitlement.
If I wanted to achieve what I wanted to achieve, it would be based on my ability to care about my environment, make the best out of any situation, and genuinely bring value to people. This combination of behaviors, more than a personality change, became a lifestyle.
But where to start? Can we really rewire ourselves? Yes!
Step 1: Know where you are.
Based on my personal and managerial experience, I feel very comfortable to state that in a group, a company, a team or more generally in society, people (we) are usually spread across five “categories” of behaviors:
Category A: 5% - Top People. They are what I call the “Amazing 5%”. Very high EQ, Self-Awareness, Ability to bring value continuously, Ability to self-question and enter into a continuous improvement approach despite their level of Excellence. Ability to inspire.
Category B: 20% - The High “Value Makers”. They are on track to be part of the “Amazing 5%”. They aim at reaching Excellence. They are able to learn continuously, help and support all the other categories and show the example.
Category C: 60% - The Operators. They are the “Doers”. They belong to a system or an organization that brings them something and they accept to bring something in return.
Category D: 10% - The Swingers. They are operators who usually got bored. They are still part of the “Doers” but might very easily be influenced by the “Detrimental” category and join them from time to time.
Category E: 5% - The Detrimentals. They are usually former members of one of the four categories above but got disappointed. They are now acting proactively against the organization or group they belong to.
(NB: Percentages stated are rough estimates)
Caveat: These five categories are not about putting people into boxes. It is about landscaping yourself and your surroundings in order to create awareness.
Your rewiring process needs to start with your self-assessment. Where do you think you are? Are you already at the top or are you part of the detrimental team?
This exercise can be hard to do on your own. I would definitely advise you to do it with a close friend, a colleague or even your boss. You need to be as objective as possible and ask yourself questions like: Over the last six months, how did I feel? How do I feel about the organization I am in? Have I done my best? Who did I inspire? What did I improve? Have I done the maximum of what I could have done?
Step 2: Define your North Star.
Great news: No matter what category you belong to, you can reach the top. It all depends on one thing: YOU. (Yes,… again.)
When I started my career, after two years in the company I was working for, I felt completely frustrated and undervalued. I felt I was owning my scope of work, I was working mostly on my own and my level of responsibilities was not stimulating enough for me. I was probably in the Category D turning Category E. In order not to fully jump into Category E, I presented my resignation to my boss.
Three years later, I was managing a team of a hundred people and generating millions of dollars… for the same company.
How did that happen? Simple. While presenting my resignation to my boss, I realized it was actually the first “real” conversation I had with him. He shared with me the vision he had for the company and I realized there was so much more I could do. I simply never had the opportunity to get more involved, contribute more, extend my scope of work and simply realize what was actually possible. We defined together objectives and a roadmap… which we had never done before. It changed the game completely. I was not anymore executing tasks for a company, I was now part of a strategy I needed to deliver for.
We had simply defined my North Star, my personal mission statement. I became useful, challenged, stimulated, motivated and recognized. My daily routine was not anymore to ask myself “what I was doing here?” but instead “what I could do in order to move a step closer to my objectives”.
No matter which one of the previous categories you are part of, you need to set your North Star. It is the ultimate achievement you are willing to deliver, personally or professionally. No matter what it is, in order to put most chances on your side, you need first to aim at being part of Category A.
Not everyone will be a Category A but everyone should aim for it.
Step 3: Walk towards your North Star, step by step.
If your journey towards your North Star was a race, it would be a Marathon. Or probably even an IronMan. Did it feel like a little Sunday hike? Well, you have set your North Star with no ambition. Set it again.
The journey needs to be long, consistent. It needs to be painful, you need to sporadically doubt while moving forward. Why? Because if not, the victory will be tasteless and you will fall back into bad habits. Take pride in progressing one step at a time. It is the only way to secure your progress.
In order to help moving things in the right direction, you need to take care of your surroundings. Who are the people around you? Are they Category A or B? Or at least, are they aiming at being part of them?
If not, you need to consciously surround yourself with people who have a positive impact on your change process.
In the past, I have actively banned/dismissed people from my network because I simply could not stand their continuous inflow of negativity and pessimism. And you know what? It feels like a breath of fresh air!
Last but not least: Ask feedback and adjust continuously. The beauty of going after your North Star… is that you will never reach it. The North Star is not your destination, it is a trajectory. It is the direction you need to follow in order to continuously improve. Embracing people’s constructive feedback will help you fine tune your approach and learn from others. Humbly accept that you will forever be a “work in progress”.
Step 4: Inspire others.
Happiness is only real when shared, and so are great discoveries.
As soon as you will have significantly progressed in your rewiring process, it is your duty to transmit this new ability to others. You need to become a self-improvement prophet, especially if you are in a management position. A great professional (or leader) is defined by the other great professionals he/she helped shape.
So many people live miserable existences… simply because they don’t know. They don’t think it is possible. They believe entitlement and ungratefulness is just a standard of living. Show them yours.
Show them what is possible. Show them what you did. Help them understand who they really are, what they can really bring. Help them define their North Star. Encourage them to be ambitious and to dare not to “be ok” with the status quo.
Before you will know it, they will inspire others…
BONUS: "I was too lazy to read the entire article so I need a short recap… Man, it was really too long!"
People don’t change they grow.
You are the master of the analysis you make of the situations you are put through.
The way you process situations is under your control.
Define where you are and where you want to be.
Consistency creates automatism that becomes… you.
Become a self-improvement prophet and inspire others to become a better version of themselves.
Message to the managers:
Shake yourself up and go talk to your teams. You are missing out on great talents. Take the time to do it, it is worth it. Your team is the solution to most of your problems. Help them help you.
Message to the teams:
Shake yourself up and talk to your manager. You are missing out on great opportunities. Take the energy to do it, it is worth it. Your manager has the keys to unlock most of your frustrations. Help him/her find them.