Secret Sauce Series: Lydia Handzova

I met Lydia Handzova almost two years ago through my Succeed With Your Strengths workshops. First impressions are everything, and Lydia brought some serious “first impression” horsepower to our events. She was friendly, engaging, knowledgeable, and eager to make a difference. Never in a million years would I have imagined that Lydia had overcome some amazing challenges in her life. Let’s hear her story, and learn how she’s using her secret sauce to remove obstacles and make a big dent in the universe!

Lydia is a force of nature. For proof, one need only review her top 5 Strengthsfinder results. She has Activator (impatient for action), Significance (eager to make a significant contribution), Communication (speak, write, or otherwise effortlessly impart information), Individualization (everyone is a human snow flake – one of a kind), and finally, Lydia has Restorative (roadblock remover).

In a nutshell, Lydia’s secret sauce helps her push people to get started and focus on what matters, remove roadblocks to success, see each person as special, and communicate effectively. Lydia was born in Slovakia, and is currently a project manager on a business transformation project (imagine how useful Activator, Significance, Restorative, and Communication would be to overcoming resistance to change! Plus, her Individualization would help her identify how to speak to each person in a way they could hear the message. That is a secret sauce leveraged to great impact!)

Ms. Lydia Handzova

Ms. Lydia Handzova

Our interview was conducted via Skype, so I could see Lydia’s energy as well as hear it, making it even more fun.

Lydia shared that the experience of identifying and embracing her strengths has made a big difference in her life, helping her understand why she does what she does, and re-framing her talents in a positive light.

“Before I took the Strengthsfinder, I felt guilty about being so pushy,” said Lydia. “Whenever I go to any kind of new group, I am the first one to speak. In school, I felt like the teachers would encourage me with their eyes to go ahead and share! Then, I conducted an experiment. I tried to keep silent, even if it was unbearable, and wait for someone else to speak first. It was horrible for me!”

“How did it turn out?” I asked, pretty sure I knew the answer.

Lydia cackled. “They called on me to speak anyhow! All my efforts to look like an introvert, to not be significant, it failed! Now that I know I have it, I’m quick to speak first – it breaks the silence and removes the awkwardness in new teams or projects, and then we can move onto the good stuff!”

Lydia spoke about her Activator, and how she was eager to initiate projects but had a more difficult time bringing them to completion. “I like to start things, and someone else can make it blossom.” (There is a partnership opportunity in that self-awareness!)

I have another example,” said Lydia. “I was in a summer camp when I was a child, there were some competitions and we got points for achieving certain things. I competed in every event. At the end, I won almost every single one. I couldn’t stop myself. I was the child that was saying, ‘Please choose me, I know everything!’ I realize now that it was not very nice, and kind of annoying. I was not the most beloved until I was like 15 in school!”

“Before you knew your strengths, that behavior was a problem?”

“Yes,” she agreed, “It’s still something to balance, and I try not to overdo it. That can turn into a bad thing.”

We talked about the strengths maturity process – just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Using our strengths-based secret sauce in a responsible and productive manner is an important part of the journey. Then, our conversation got really interesting.

“Did I tell you about my leg?”

“Your leg?” I repeated, slightly confused.

“Yes. When I was 10 or 11 at school, I was in the cafeteria having lunch. One teacher saw me walking with a tray and said, ‘What’s wrong with your leg?’ I said, ‘Nothing.’ The teacher asked again, and I began to think, what is wrong with this teacher? I said, ‘Nothing!’ again, only louder. I couldn’t figure out what she meant. Her face was angry and then she walked away. I sat down and ate my lunch. Then, on the next day, I realized what she meant! I thought, oh my God, it’s because I don’t walk properly. I didn’t understand because she wrongly formulated the question!”

Still puzzled, I asked, “What should the teacher have asked you?”

“She should have said, ‘Why do you stumble?’ I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (CP) at six months old, and I had surgery when I was four so that I could walk. My coordination is not smooth, and sometimes I fall.”

I sat silently, absorbing how difficult it would be to walk awkwardly and fall.

“People look at disabled people and think, ‘poor person, life must be horrible because they don’t have what you have,’” added Lydia, “But, if you are born that way, it’s normal. If you have an accident and you lose something, it’s more difficult. If you are born a certain way, you don’t think it is wrong until someone points it out.”

“Still, you must have had tough childhood,” I said.

“My mother was pushing me to overcome everything. You have to do it, there is no ‘I’m tired.’ You have to do it. She would say that. I never went to a school for disabled children, apart from nursery where there was special treatment to help me to learn to walk.” Lydia paused. “But, that wasn’t the worst part.”

“What was the worst part?” I asked, attempting to conjure up what that might be.

“The fact is that every CP case is different. It’s about how big of an area of your brain is effected with lack of oxygen, how long, when it happens. It didn’t affect my intellect at all. I did have people ask if I was mentally okay.”

“Ouch, that had to hurt.”

“It did, especially because I was enrolled in a very prestigious high school. One of the other students asked me if I was mentally affected! I had to pass all the tests to get into this really hard school – same as her!”

“You’ve overcome a lot of obstacles in your life, Lydia,” I observed. “Is that your Restorative at work?”

“Yes,” she agreed. “But, I also believe everybody has something they must overcome – not just a physical disability – you need to find your own space. Nobody is going to create it for you.”

“That’s true,” I nodded at those wise words. “Everyone is fighting a battle of some sort, whether we can see it or not.” I paused again, my mind sifting through what I’d learned from Lydia. “Do you still fall?”

“I do,” she said. “I’ll share one example of my total stubbornness. I fell on my way to work and bruised my mouth. I sat in a meeting with an ice pack on my lip, and my second line manager asked if I wanted to go home. I said ‘No!’ That is my mindset. You cannot go home. You cannot stop. The manager said that the others at work might conclude that I am forcing you to stay when you are wounded! I agreed that it was a good point, but I still wouldn’t go home.”

“Would you go home for the flu or a cold?”

“Yes, I would,” said Lydia. “But, not for falling down!”

I stared at Lydia’s blazing hazel eyes, electric smile, and boundless energy, which had no trouble making their presence known through my computer screen, and cried, “Lydia, you’re a rock star!”

“I’m trying to be!” She said with a laugh.

I shook my head in amazement, grateful for the opportunity to interview this ball of fire named Lydia Handzova. “Anything else you’d like to share with our audience?”

“Yes,” she replied, thinking for a moment. “I want people to know that it’s okay to focus on what’s great about you. You posted articles about nurturing strengths versus fixing weaknesses. I always thought I needed to improve what was wrong with me. If thought that if something I did was easy, it probably wasn’t good. Now, I know that’s not true. Instead, I focus on improving my strengths so that I can be more efficient.”

“Lydia, I couldn’t have said it better myself. This is exactly how we build our secret sauce – focus on our strengths, and mix it with our skills, joys, passions, and experiences!”

There’s nobody like Lydia.  Want to connect with her? She’d love that!  Click here.

The next time you think, “What is wrong with me?” answer the question as Lydia did when her teacher demanded to know what was wrong with her leg. Nothing.

“Why do I stumble?” That’s a better question. We all stumble. It’s a normal part of life. Grab an ice pack, and keep moving on the path. We’re refining our strengths, becoming more self-aware, and there is no growth without falling once in a while. Embrace it. Learn from it. Tweak your approach. Understand your secret sauce (you have one!) And then, following Lydia’s example, go forth and dent the universe.

Maureen (Ideation ~ Strategic ~ Learner ~ Achiever ~ Individualization ~ Maximizer)

4 thoughts on “Secret Sauce Series: Lydia Handzova

  1. I need to say ladies, that it feels very surreal, yet very good, that two women who I consider being role models and I need to still learn a lot from are sharing compliments about ME. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    • Lydia, thank you for your willingness to share your story, for inspiring others who are struggling with internal or external challenges. Your journey is remarkable. Your refusal to be a victim when life isn’t all sunshine and roses is an example for us all, and I am so very proud of you. Onward!

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