Leadership advice

Check your idiosyncrasies

Advice from Jill Geisler, Bill Plante Chair in Leadership & Media Integrity, Loyola University Chicago and Freedom Forum Fellow in Women’s Leadership

We’d like to think we’re very good employees. (Especially when it’s time for annual evaluations, right?)

But none of us is perfect. We all have idiosyncrasies. They’re not career killers like dishonesty or gross incompetence. Instead, they’re quirks – the kind of habits our co-workers cope with and work around, especially when we have plenty of other redeeming qualities. 

At least that’s how it works in normal times. But right now, when teams are operating under excessive stress, let’s not add to it. Whatever we can do to amp up our strengths and tamp down our idiosyncrasies is a genuine gift to our colleagues.

Think about it:

  • If you’re forgetful and tend to double-book yourself, pledge to keep better notes and calendars.
  • If you hate meetings but your remote teammates are hungry for connection, support having more huddles.
  • If you’re long-winded, edit thyself.
  • If you’re terse, upgrade your messages to telegraph a little empathy.
  • If you’re a workaholic, don’t expect others to emulate your 24/7 toiling.
  • If you’re all-business, get to know the partners, kids and pets that populate your employees’ home offices.
  • If you tend to be impatient, lighten up.
  • If you’re a little sarcastic, take the edge off, on behalf of those who might hear only the “tough” in your tough love.

And if you’re not sure whether others think you have any idiosyncrasies because no one’s ever told you, now’s a good time to find out. (Imagine how important that is if you’re the boss!) 

I’m not talking about a quantitative analysis of your quirks. A simple question will do: “Is there anything you need more of – or less of – from me?”

The answers can help you tweak some behaviors and – who knows? – might set you on the road to becoming that almost-perfect employee for these clearly imperfect times.


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