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September 6, 2019 //

Stop Expecting Corkscrews to File Your Nails

“We don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are” – Anaïs Nin.

Hence we fight. We fight with our spouses, partners, friends, families, colleagues, teammates, neighbors – expecting all of THEM to think and behave as WE do.  

I, for one, HATE to fight. It turns my stomach inside out. BUT I’m not immune to getting irritated when others do not respond to a situation… like I would respond.  I don’t always recognize that that’s why I’m agitated, but inevitably Ms. Nin’s quote shines a light on my “judge-y” thinking. And often times, that helps me step back and reassess… but not always.

So, I’ve made it a kind of life’s work to find additional mechanisms of working with others (within my interpersonal, leadership and team-member roles) as harmoniously as possible.

The answer… at least for me… has been Personal Assessment tools.  Examples are Myers Briggs (which identifies personality types), Insights (which identifies energy types), DiSC (which identifies behavioral types), FiRO-B (which identifies interpersonal needs/types) and StrengthsFinder (which identifies natural talents or “themes”). I’ve taken ‘em all… plus some!

First of all, Personal Assessments are fun.  I think it’s a universal desire to see what makes us tick. Even clicking on Facebook’s less-than-scientific “take this test to find out…” links are more than a little tempting… I’ve {cough} heard.

But more to the point of this Blog, these Assessments (when taken in tandem with others with whom we live/work) are unbeatable at shining the light on why OTHERS think and behave as they do, and moreover LEGITIMIZES that thinking/behavior. In short, it helps us fight the natural tendency that Anaïs Nin so deftly points out in her quote.

As example, my Insights Profile tells me that I lead with Blue and Green Energy — which means… (a) I tend to detach myself in order to focus on objective data (Blue)… BUT (b) I also have deep roots in the need to help and please others (Green). Oh brother. [By the way, this is not the first time I’ve discovered opposing sides of my brain — I did, after all, spend the last 30 years as a Chemical Engineer (left brain)…and as a Playwright/Actress (right brain)].  

Likewise, my top 5 (out of 34 total) StrengthsFinder natural talents (AKA “themes”) are Focus, Communicator, Relator, Focus, Individualization, and Empathy– of which the first Strength is in the Executing Domain, the next Strength is in the Influencing Domain (Blogging anyone?), and the last three are in the Relationship Building Domain.  So again, I have “battling” strengths: “Get it done at all costs…BUT first make sure everyone agrees with it…AND make sure everyone loves me too.”  Oh boy… such is the life of an “extroverted introvert”. But at least I know WHY I’m so tired by the end of the day.

But here’s the point: One of my top five StrengthsFinder themes is NOT “Significance”.  In fact, I had never even considered Significance to be a “natural talent”.  But what I had done, is grown “impatient” (think understatement) with anyone who seemed “hungry for recognition” (e.g., constantly mentioning who they know, or who they’ve seen, seeking the limelight, making sure their names are associated with this or that, etc.). I’m guessing we all know someone like that in our families or at work; but for me, it was always a scalding hot button.  If I caught even a whiff of that behavior, I exited stage right, and would physically cringe if I was voluntold to work with anyone exhibiting it.  THEN I studied StrengthsFinder, and learned the following “Those high in Significance need to be noticed. And not just for themselves, but for their work, their success, their projects and programs. They want to be plugged in to things with exceptional value and a lasting impact. They are all about leaving a legacy”. 

And the lightbulb went off. Of course, not everyone is going to leave a legacy that impacts the world… but where would we be if Thomas Edison or Betty Ford had NOT had the Strength of Significance? We’d be stuck in a dark room with a bunch of drunk people, that’s where. (Plus, come to think of it, I would have had to find a different metaphor with which to begin this paragraph). So, I thought, I’d better learn to appreciate Significance-strong people!

As a result, I now have infinitely more patience with those that exhibit the behaviors of “Significance.” AND those who have also studied StrengthsFinder have the same increased tolerance of ME (a snowflake who is more interested in how people “feel”). What’s more, I don’t ask them to get “stronger” at MY natural talents or vice versa, as that would be an incredible waste of time and energy. Instead, we appreciate and understand each other’s strengths, and find ways to balance them to our collective advantage.  VOILA… the Swiss Army Knife mentality is achieved… and magic ensues.

Case in point: The colleagues/managers with which I’ve had the closest relationships have had Empathy as their 34th (lowest) ranked Strength (as compared to it being in my top 5).  StrengthsFinder undoubtedly enabled (perhaps even empowered) those relationships, by eliminating the intolerance of the associated behaviors and paving the way for respect… and negotiation (with a little friendly ribbing along the way).

NOW… in my opinion… this process is even more important in the Agile world, where SUCCESSFUL TEAMWORK IS PARAMOUNT. So, I have been honored and privileged to begin teaching CFAL’s Building High Performance Team Building Workshop, where Gallup’s “CliftonStrengths” (formerly “StrengthsFinder”) Assessment Tool, is used as the framework.  In so doing, I’ve watched (in just one day) while the most “impatient” of teams (again, think understatement) completely changed the way their team members (and their leaders) think about each other, interact, and collaborate.  It’s been pretty splendid.

So here’s my challenge for you… as a leader OR as a team member. Are you satisfied looking at the world as YOU are… or do you have higher hopes for yourself and your teams? Do you have confidence that Personal Assessments such as StrengthsFinder can contribute to a higher level of team/relationship-building? Why or why not? Please leave your replies below!

One Response

  1. Kelle Giachello says:

    This is a wonderfully crafted message. Kudos to the author. I am a firm believer in assessment tools like these and have seen the power they have to bring teams together.

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