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Is it possible to change your personality? And is it possible to increase your IQ?

Blog by Arjenne Heins, Senior Consultant Talent Management and Leadership Development at ORMIT

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By:  Arjenne Heins
Senior Consultant Talent Management and Leadership Development at ORMIT
Date: 19 June 2015


These two questions are bound to spark heated debates in the scientific community. Perhaps you are familiar with the ‘nature’ versus ‘nurture’ debate on the subject of ‘personality’? Did you know that your answer to the above questions provides an indication of your success and motivation? And then we are not even talking about what the scientifically ‘correct’ answer to questions about personality and IQ is!

Your mindset about developability (i.e. do you think you can change your personality and IQ) turns out to be extremely important in accepting or rejecting change. Now it just so happens that change is the only constant in this world. Indeed, why would you put energy into adopting new behaviour if deep down inside you do not believe that people are capable of change (e.g. “I’m just not the sensitive type”)?

Research by Carol Dweck, professor at Stanford and Harvard, shows that people who do believe in changeability of, among other things, personality put far more energy into attaining their (development) goals. They show greater willpower and are intent on learning from their mistakes. And that makes them more successful in the longer term than people who do not believe in change.

As a manager, your mindset is also of great importance in another respect. Apart from the effects on your own development, your mindset also appears to determine the amount of time you spend coaching your employees. And it determines the quality of your coaching and supervision. Here, too, the same rhetorical question applies: why would you make time to coach an employee or engage in difficult feedback conversations if you do not believe that he/she is effectively capable of change?

I find myself applying these insights on a daily basis in my training and coaching sessions. I really do believe that trainees, and participants in development programmes, get more out of their development programme if they have a growth mindset. I create such a mindset by showing them how learning and developing works in the brain, by giving feedback on the effort they make (and not on the result) and by viewing mistakes as learning opportunities, among other things.

Do you want to know more about mindsets, leadership and change? For articles and background information on Carol Dweck’s research, please visit: www.mindsetonline.com. This website also features a questionnaire that allows you to figure out your own mindset.

When was the last time you actually changed your personality?