Don’t change, be Different
Not Changing but Being Different Is an Extremely Important Concept
As you may know, I have been in this, the people business for a long time.
At age 17, the summer before my first year of university and then throughout my years in academia, I worked in several drug rehab centers in downtown Toronto and then Montreal.
So from a rather young age, helping people “Get Unstuck…” has for me been a journey, an learning odyssey if you will, covering more than half a century.
And of all the concepts that I have learned, authored, developed, espoused or used in that time, I deem this, “Don’t Change, be Different”, to be, for people generally and leaders specifically, one of the most powerful, important and transformational.
Over the course of that time, certainly the last 30 years where the emphasis in my work has been executives and CEOs, I have been privileged to work with some very smart, good, ambitious and successful leaders who have needed or wanted to improve their situations.
But so often they either:
A. Don’t know how to “Get Unstuck…” or
B. Know what to do but don’t want to or think they shouldn’t have to.
In other words, they don’t want to change.
And, this is where I think that what I do, helping people get better leadership outcomes by being more of who they are, is rather unique.
I say this because I actually agree with people who don’t think they should have to change.
In fact, I quite believe that on measure, we can’t change and shouldn’t try to change.
But we can be different, when we need to be.
And as leaders, there are moments when we should be different but being “different” needs to be:
- A matter of strategic choice and
- The best way to get a much different and/or better reaction from the other party than would otherwise be the case.
In other words, you are still the same person but have become the “Agent of Action’ as opposed to the “Agent of Reaction”.
Now here is the good part.
How do you do this, be different and still not change who you are?
An editorial Comment on Gender, Type and Personality
Before we delve into this issue, I need to clarify a rather important point.
As you may know, 2 out of every 3 woman are Feelers and 2 out of every 3 men are Thinkers.
Of course we cannot nor should we generalize by gender, but for our purposes it is helpful to know that the majority of women are Feelers and the majority of men are Thinkers.
So that I don’t need to make that distinction every time I reference men/thinkers and woman/feelers and even though it is not entirely accurate to say so, unless indicated otherwise in this article, the terms Feeler and Women are interchangeable as are the terms Thinker and Men.
Why we Shouldn’t try to Change
We shouldn’t try to change because it doesn’t work; it is too difficult and well nigh impossible to do so
Why do you think we make so many excuses to not change.
Did you know that we started out being exactly and specifically what we are, neurologically and biologically, as an eight week fetus in our mothers’ womb.
Our core personality, our temperament will be the way that it is until the day we draw our last breath.
Although the situations and the systems in which we find ourselves can and do make us react differently than might otherwise be the case (I call this not “changing but getting changed”, science and experience seems to indicate that all things considered, we do have a default neurological predisposition that we tend to prefer and is most comfortable for us.
The key issue is that when we are confronted with a situation that requires us to be different, we need to know how to make that transition by leveraging or finding the motivation within our own personality as we are without resorting to contorting, compromising or jeopardizing our essential nature, person or dignity.
In other words, don’t change, be different.
That exquisite, even elegant process, “don’t change, be different” is the one thing every (aspiring) leader needs to learn, know and do.
What do I Mean by “Being Different”?
By not changing but being different I mean for that moment, I trick my brain to feel like it is still being what it is and yet I create by said action a different or otherwise better reaction in the other party or the situation at hand without compromising my dignity nor my person nor my preferred neurological style.
We consciously and strategically choose to be the agent of action – make the first step – such that the other party becomes the agent of reaction.
I do need to caution you that this strategy will take a few extra minutes to set it up properly, research findings and so forth.
The example I will use for this issue is a Feeling type person, whose normal caring nature (which generally works well for them by the way) tends to make them too deferential.
In other words, how can the “Feeler” when they and need to be tougher, be more assertive (different) and still be who they are (not change); continue to be caring and connective.
For the “Thinker” who tends to naturally be more independent and task oriented, the challenge might be the exact opposite.
When emotional understanding is what the situation requires, how can the “thinker” demonstrate the requisite empathy to and for the target person when said empathy is not what the “Thinker” is at all inclined to do?
A very Interesting Study on Human Nature
Linda Babcock, an economist at Carnegie Mellon University, stared at the data in dismay.
Carnegie Mellon is one of the world’s finest technical institutions, boasting eighteen Nobel Prize winners, including seven in economics alone.
Although it was the twenty-first century, the male MBA graduates from her school had 7.6 percent higher salaries than their female counterparts.
The men and women were equally qualified, but as it turns out, the men were earning substantially more money.
Over a 35 year period she calculated that this gap meant that each woman was losing an average of more than $1 million.
Yet both the men and the women in her study received similar initial offers.
As it turns out, the gender gap, wasn’t due to a glass ceiling.
The discrepancy happened at the time both parties signed their final offers.
Upon closer inspection, Babcock discovered that more than half of the men, 57 percent, tried to negotiate their starting salaries, as opposed to only 7 percent of the women (in other words, 93% of the women didn’t).
The men were more than eight times as likely to negotiate as the women.
The students who did negotiate (mostly men) improved their salaries by an average of 7.4 percent, enough to account for the gender gap.
More Research on Human Nature
Very curious as to her findings, Babcock and her colleagues conducted another study and found once again that overall, the men were 8.3 times more likely to ask for more money than the women.
Remember, 2 out of every 3 women are “Feelers”.
Type is more Powerful than Gender
In a series of studies led by Notre Dame Professor Timothy Judge, nearly four thousand Americans, on average, the Feelers (women and men who were also Feelers) earned 14 percent lower income than their task oriented Thinker type counterparts.
This meant that they were taking an annual pay hit of nearly $7,000.
The female Feelers earned an average of 5.47 percent less money than their peers, for a difference of $1,828.
But the male Feelers earned an average of 18.31 percent less money than their peers; a difference of $9,772.
That is three times greater loss for the Feeler men than the Feeler women.
So your neurological predisposition, what we call temperament, is a more powerful determinant than gender.
It is our nature and personality that is the issue, not our gender per se.
How can a Feeler Be Different but not Change?
In another study Babcock conducted, 176 executives ranging from CEO to COO negotiated compensation for a new position in a software company.
The male executives playing the role of the employee landed an average of $146,000, 3 percent higher than the women’s average of $141,000.
But with a single sentence, Babcock and colleagues helped the female executives boost their averages to $167,000, outdoing the men by 14 percent.
All it took was to tell them they were Playing a Different Role
And the interesting thing is that it is one which was easy for them to do.
Instead of imagining that they were the employee, the female executives were asked to imagine that they were the employee’s mentor.
Interestingly, when acting as if they were negotiating for somebody else as a mentor, they were willing to push harder to achieve their goals, which led them to better outcomes.
Why? Because now the women were agents advocating for someone else.
Feelers love to be advocates for other people.
In fact, they often find it easier to defend or take up others interests than their own.
This is how Feelers can be different but not change and still get the outcome they want or need.
Feelers: Do What you are – be an Advocate
In a similar study, researchers Amanatullah and Morris found that regardless of whether they were negotiating for themselves or others, men (Thinkers) requested starting salaries averaging $49,000.
Women however, when they were negotiating for themselves, requested starting salaries averaging only $42,000, 16.7 percent lower than the men.
This discrepancy vanished when women negotiated on behalf of a friend.
As advocates, women did just as well as the men, requesting an average of $49,000.
Feelers (Women) acting as if you are advocating for others own interests is the key.
Feelers tend to feel guilty about pushing too much for themselves, but the minute they start thinking, ‘I’m hurting my family or my team or my client, who’s depending on me for this,’ Feelers don’t feel as guilty about pushing for what they think is right.
As a Feeler by thinking of yourself as an agent representing your family or team, you will be able to summon the resolve to make an initial request for a higher salary and tuition reimbursement or whatever your goal might be.
How can Thinkers (Men) be Different but not Change?
What can a Thinker who is concerned naturally about independence, solutions and the task first, do when what is needed is first being sensitive to the target person’s feelings?
As a Thinker if you ask yourself logically what will get me the best outcome in this situation, you will find that you can show understanding (don’t try to be understanding; that would be disingenuous).
Then you will find that the logical, solution oriented cortical part of your brain, which is where you really live, your preference, will naturally want to use the best strategy, acknowledging affiliative language, to complete the task at hand.
In other words, when the situation requires it, you will be able to use your cognitive empathy (your learned ability to read and respond more effectively to people’s emotions) which you have in abundance to supplant the emotional empathy which you do not naturally possess.
In so doing, you can be different but not change, and still get the outcome you want and need.
For more on this topic, we recommend the following
Get Unstuck, Stay Unstuck