“Pay attention to how you present yourselves to others, and then strive to be the person you claim or wish to be. Rather than changing from the inside out, bring the outside in.” This is Wharton Professor Adam Grant’s sharp advice for people who want to be successful.

How did Prof. Grant arrive at this conclusion?

By studying people who are high-self monitors. Such people constantly scan the environment for social cues, and adjust their responses accordingly. This helps them make social interactions meaningful/ helpful, by dedicating attention and time to finding out what others need.

Studies with more than 23,000 employees show that high self-monitors receive significantly higher evaluations and get promoted faster. They sometimes might be perceived as chameleons. But, they are just modeling the behavior of people they want to associate with, till they internalize it. Prof. Amy Cuddy, Harvard University, says this is a practice of slowly revealing ourselves at the right time and place.

A potent example of this is research by Prof. Herminia Ibarra, Insead. When she studied investment bankers, she found that high self-monitors were more likely to experiment with different leadership styles. They watched senior leaders in the organization, borrowed their language/ action, and practiced them until these became second nature. They were sincere. It made them more effective.

Though high-self monitoring is a personality type, the traits can also be developed. Here are some simple steps that’ll help you emulate the qualities you desire.

  1. Observe: If you’ve joined a new team, look for how people interact with each other, and what common interests they have. Is there someone you consider a role-model? Zero down on one quality, habit or behavior of theirs that you like.
  2. Analyze: Plan how you can develop your target behavior. Does your team brainstorm a lot, but you don’t? Try speaking up more. But, if it’s something complex, like the way a person speaks, or how they strategize, break that behavior into numerous smaller components that are a part of it, and master them one at a time.
  3. Practice: This where the aspired behavior becomes reality. Find situations in which you can practice the new behavior. It may feel chunky or pretentious. But, persist. A 2012 study in experimental psychology found that expecting to know correct answers can actually improve our test-taking abilities!
  4. Seek feedback: This is where you know how well you are doing. Either you continue tuning into the reactions of people around whom you are practicing, or find a buddy to learn with. You can even ask a team member to observe you when possible and give constructive feedback.

These steps help build deeper awareness of yourself, and that is a potent step towards learning. A word of caution. Don’t forget to assess how you feel, as you undertake this process. Frustration may mount, and we would urge you to manage that.

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