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What Kind of Vibes Are You Giving Off?

You probably don't know yourself as well as you think you do, and your behavior gives off distinct clues you're not even aware of -- but others are.
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There's a funny word we often use to describe people: "Normal."

We don't always use that exact word, but it's what we mean when we say things like "Jason's just a regular guy"; "Melissa's your average, everyday worker"; or my favorite, "Brian puts his pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else."

The truth is that none of us really know what's going on under the hood with Jason, Melissa, or Brian. And that's probably the only real way to determine if they're actually "normal." Unfortunately, even getting inside someone's head doesn't necessarily work. Think about it. How many of us really know ourselves?

That's probably what led David Thoreau to write, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." After two years, two months, and two days alone at Walden Pond, he finally figured out that most of us struggle with who we are, how we fit into society, and what we modern folk call our issues.

Moreover, there are so many factors that determine our effectiveness and level of success in business, in the working world, that the word normal is rendered essentially meaningless. That's why I say it's a funny word. I can think of no adjective less accurate or meaningful in describing a human being.

Why is that important to know? Because, we're all constantly assessing and being assessed by each other. And the sooner you begin to realize that your behavior gives off vibes you're probably not aware of, the sooner you learn to recognize those vibes in others, the more successful you'll be in business and in your career.

Wait, I bet I know what you're thinking. Isn't success all about knowledge, abilities, and experience? For people who are okay with relatively mundane careers, sure. But for tomorrow's business leaders and executives, you can pretty much assume there's a large pool of highly intelligent, capable, and experienced up-and-comers.

The differentiator, what sets stars apart from the pack, really comes down to behavior.

You see, some of us are very good at assessing people. Accomplished people usually have a knack for it.  We tend to group people in one of two categories: keepers or write-offs. If they're keepers, we bring them in, work with them, mentor them, and nurture them. If not, we write them off. Simple as that.

To give you an idea of what differentiates keepers from the pack, here are a handful of behavioral characteristics that business leaders and executives are trained to look for in up-and-comers:

Keeper: Fire in the belly, competitive spirit, courage to take chances, expresses thoughts clearly, cuts to the chase, "how can I help you" and "can do" attitude, strong work ethic, smart multitasker, disciplined, achievement oriented, enterprising, makes things happen, makes commitments and gets them done, problem solver, decisive, passionate about work, hard worker, humble, sense of humor.

Write-off: Know-it-all, easily rattled when confronted, noncommittal, entitled, "it's all about me," thin-skinned, fearful of taking risks, divisive, boastful, overpromises, makes excuses, points fingers, acts out, flake, insubordinate, has to be right, trouble compromising, troublemaker, waits to be told what to do, unwilling to go the extra mile, fails to meet commitments.

Now, another reason why I think the word "normal" is funny is because most people are unaware of the vibes they're giving off. To them, they're "normal." Well, guess what? To those who interview you, review you, do business with you, work with you, you're not just "normal." You've either got what they're looking for, what it takes, or not. You're either a keeper or a write-off.

That's what largely determines whether your career and your business takes off or not.

So, this might be a good time to find out which of these vibes you give off, don't you think? If you're afraid to find out, that's okay. It's normal. Face your fear and do it anyway. Just remember which side of the fence courage is on.

If you think you know yourself and don't need to find out, that's called denial. That's fine; suit yourself. But I'll give you one guess which side of the fence you're probably going to end up on.

IMAGE: Getty Image
Last updated: Jul 22, 2013

STEVE TOBAK | Columnist

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, an executive coach, and a former senior executive of the technology industry. He's managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a Silicon Valley-based strategy consulting firm. Contact Tobak; follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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