"I Am Who I AM" - The Popeye Syndrome: 5 Keys to Interpersonal Success

April 15, 2009 -- Sal Silvester

"I am who I am."

I can still remember sitting in front of the TV after school watching my favorite spinach-eating character flexing his "musKles" and saving the day.

But, my perspective of Popeye's quote, "I am who I am" recently changed when I heard a client use the phrase to describe people who had no interest in adapting and no interest in working with others who were different from them. "I am who I am, and if you don't like me - who cares."

Is that an effective way to lead?  Is that an effective way to collaborate with team members? Is that an effective philosophy in your personal relationships - with your significant other, family members, or friends?

My answer is a resounding....Nein!  Non!  Nyet!.... NO!

In a time when doing more with less is the norm, just working on the right things is not good enough. We have to be working on the right things...together. And, being responsive to people who are different from you is a characteristic that is critical to your success in the workplace.

So, how do you overcome the Popeye syndrome?

Here are 5 keys to interpersonal success in the workplace:

  • Get in tune with your strengths. What do you do well? How does that help you be successful in the work place? Build on those strengths and learn how to further develop them.
  • Understand your limitations when your strengths are overused. For example, if you have a style that is demanding and results oriented, you are probably good at tackling challenges head on, keeping people focused on deliverables, and driving projects forward. But, overusing that strength can result in a perceived lack of patience and consideration for others (see my previous blog post on Mattering versus Marginalizing). Go back to your strengths, and think about which strengths are creating your greatest limitations.
  • Learn about others’ styles. We all have different preferences and priorities. Consider learning more about your personality style and the personality styles of others. From there you can begin to adapt how you communicate, direct, delegate, recognize, and motivate others. At 5.12 Solutions we use two tools to help clients through this process – DiSC and MBTI. Consider joining us for our upcoming DiSC webinar.
  • Consider how others are different from you. Gender and ethnicity generally are the first things that come to mind when considering diversity in the workplace. But there are a number of other ways in which people are different – age, religion, ability, physique, marital status, job function, etc. How do those differences impact how you work with people? How do they impact how you communicate? Simply gathering more information and developing a deeper understanding of those who are different from you can greatly impact how well you work with and lead others.
  • Examine your perceptions. We all have biases and prejudices. We all carry around stereotypes. Sometimes the perceptions that we hold of others are so deeply rooted, that we don’t even know they exist -- and they impact our decisions and actions. For example, if you are a supervisor trying to fill a new position and believe that people over the age of 50 are “slow to change”, that perception may impact who you select for the job. Challenge your perceptions; examine your own stereotypes.

The skeptics in the audience may be saying, “you are telling me who to be” or “I can’t change my personality” or “that’s manipulative” or “I won’t be sincere if I adapt to others.” Believe me, I have heard all of these and more in my workshops.
Be careful, you may be getting tangled in the web of the Popeye syndrome.
The most effective people in the world have a strong sense of self-awareness on how they communicate, how others respond to them, and how they respond to others. They have also learned to value peoples’ differences and how to adapt their own style to those differences.
How do you challenge the Popeye syndrome within yourself and with others?

Categories: