How did last week’s exercise go (picking one strength statement and focusing on it, and simply letting your mind be at rest and listen)? Hard? Easy? Fun? Uncomfortable? Challenging? Interesting? Some combination of all of the above? Well, I can tell you that I faced some hard facts.
Through daily reflection, I realized that my whole darn career has been a series of championing new ideas, businesses, and projects. The other thing I realized is that because the innovation process feels completely natural to me (it is a strength) I am often puzzled, or hurt, when others don’t value it like I do. My back is full of arrows shot by naysayers, people threatened by disruptive innovation, or someone who thinks that I might be implying that their baby is ugly. I have a long list of public hangings to show for it (luckily I have 9 lives!)
What are my choices? Well, I can stop doing it. I can stop being an innovator, an idea machine. I can stop being creative. I can “not care.” But, all of those things go against my Strengths DNA. Because we are strengths-savvy, we know that to try to change who we are is a waste of time, energy, and money.
Therefore, how can I embrace my natural talent AND be more effective? Let’s explore that together.
Looking back on what has worked well and what hasn’t, I can see a few options that would help me maximize my value proposition to the universe.
1. I need to focus on packaging the “new idea” message better so that it isn’t viewed as quite so “out of the blue” or “disconnected from reality.” I must clarify what’s in it for those most impacted. Just because it’s clear in my head doesn’t mean it’s clear to anyone else. I can partner with someone to help me do it if I can’t do it myself.
2. I can do a better job of being a political genius by fostering support from key stakeholders ahead of time. When I was in my Master of Science program in Leadership & Business Ethics, we leveraged a book called Political Savvy (click here for more info). It showed us how to map out the political landscape by noting who would be for an idea, who would be against, and who influences whom (not just who knows whom, but who influences them). It is a leadership tool. I created a workshop on the topic, and used Oprah Winfrey as an example – she had a small inside circle – getting her BFF Gail rooting for you to be on Oprah’s TV show might be way more effective than meeting the producer of the show.
3. I can be prepared for the arrows (I rarely am, and then think, “Never saw THAT coming!”) I wrote exactly that in an email to a colleague this week. It did hurt – the arrow that lands without warning hurts the most. Expect the arrow, and then it’s not so painful. I’ve often wondered about the tolerance of American football players who take a hit from an opposing player that would smash any of us to bits! They bounce up like a Weeble (Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down!) and head right back in for more. Their tolerance level has increased with practice. I don’t support attacks in the work place, by the way, because they hurt people unnecessarily and never achieve the desired outcome. They make things worse, not better, and it demonstrates poor self-leadership. However, they will always be there, particularly in large, politically charged organizations. I can do what I can to prepare for them so that they don’t crush me. In addition, I can detach. I can disassociate myself from the arrow, the shooter, and my value as a person – and still remain engaged in the project at hand.
4. Finally, and this is hard for me, I can admit that the arrow hurt. I can be vulnerable. Vulnerability in itself can be a strength. The topic has come into my world several times this week. In an interview about online communications, my friend Luis Suarez spoke about vulnerability and transparency (Thank you, Rogier, for sharing it with me via your new social business group!) I saw it demonstrated when the coach of the Detroit Tigers was struggling with his emotions when we won the division this week (this 90 second video includes him being picked up by one of his players and carried into the locker room to join in the celebration, where he lasts for about 10 seconds and then tries to moonwalk his way off stage). I had a conversation with a friend about the topic, and recommended that she watch this awesome TED talk on vulnerability by Dr. Brene Brown. Hiding pain is easy. Admitting it hurts is not.
Here’s to being our very best, knowing what that is (both inside and out), being totally worthy and human (even when it hurts).
I learned a lot from my reflecting this week! What about you?