- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

The Wrong P: Why Personality, Not Just Professionalism, Wins In Business

27th March, 2019

The Wrong P: Why Personality, Not Just Professionalism, Wins In Business

I sat waiting for my boss to deliver my end-of-probation appraisal, quietly confident.


I was in my mid-twenties working in marketing for a well-respected Fintech business, and was smashing it.


I’d hit all my targets and then some. My marketing campaigns were pulling in the leads. I was cracking new European markets. And, despite my wonky Ginger Spice highlights, I was on fire.


Or so I thought.


My boss marched in and leaned back ominously in her fat leather executive chair, fixing me with her steely grey eyes.


‘The thing is, Kim,’ she began, ‘People here think you’re cold.’


Gasp! Me? Cold! I’d been called a few things in my time but never cold. In fact, I prided myself on my empathy and warmth.


It was devastating news.


The rest of the meeting past by in a blur and I left with my tail between my legs, crushed.


But soon I began to see where I’d gone wrong. I realised that in my bid to appear mature and impressive, I’d suppressed all my individuality and gone all corporate robot.




I’d focused on the wrong P.


All I’d thought about was being professional, when in fact I should have also shown some personality.


I’d mistakenly assumed that personality and professionalism were incompatible.


That parking my personality at home every morning (especially the sarcastic humour, dirty laugh and penchant for reality TV) would be a positive. That I’d seem more professional and be more successful by being less ‘me’.


Well, dear reader, of course, the opposite turned out to be true.


Corporate Kim was just Cold Kim.


So after the disastrous appraisal I made a big effort to be more myself. To show my warts-and-all true colours at work. And guess what? The more I shared my personality, the more people warmed to me, wanted to work with me and, in the end, promote me.


Cold Kim was never seen again.


But you’re not surprised about that now, are you?


You know that personality is important in business.


You understand that personality and professionalism can sit happily alongside each other like an old married couple eating in companionable silence at a restaurant.


You know what we buy from people that we know, like and trust. That personality sells.


But, I wonder, are you walking the walk?


Are you sharing YOUR personality with your world – your colleagues, clients and contacts – or are you hiding behind a wall of starchy perceived professionalism, all buttoned up and formal?


Well, here’s some advice from Once-Cold-Now-Warm-As-Toast-Kim.


Try loosening up a little. Whip off your metaphorical tie/Spanx and try using your personality to your advantage.


Think about sharing more of:

  • your personal experiences
  • your likes and dislikes
  • the conventional wisdom that you think’s a load of old rubbish
  • your challenges (and how you overcame them)
  • who or what you get inspired by
  • what makes you quirky or different
  • the books you like to read


You get the idea.


You’ll still be professional, but just more ‘you’.


And by being more ‘you’, you’ll help your clients to find you, choose you and buy from you. Or your boss to hire you, evangelize you and promote you.


So learn from Cold Kim’s mistakes and focus on the right P. You know it makes sense.

University of Cambridge


- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

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