One of the best things about coaching colleagues is the gift they give back; you’ve both had the chance to watch each other in action. There’s no better way to judge someone’s amazing talent than through a “live audition.” This gift of observation is precious when people make the time to talk about it. I experienced this recently – here’s what went down.
My colleague Khalid Raza is an emerging leader (aren’t we all, by the way? We continue learning until we are dead!) He’s working with intent (boy, does that speed up the process!) to understand, develop and communicate his strengths, improve his effectiveness, and navigate the ups and downs of success. He has hired me to be a guide along his strengths and self-leadership journey (which is also a blessing for me – it gives me the opportunity to do what I do best).
We spoke a few weeks ago and before we started talking about him, he asked about my new situation of working 3 days a week (it’s a challenge trying to do everything in 3 days that I used to do in 5!) I don’t even remember how I answered the question, but whatever I said triggered something, and he interrupted me in mid-sentence (his Activator kicked in!) He said, “Do you know what you do better than anyone else? You turn a negative into a positive and use it to your advantage.”
I was stunned. I was so surprised by his observation (it is not one I would not have made of myself) that I said, “Wait a second, I have to write that down.” I wanted to make sure that I captured it so I could process it later. He went on to say that my ability to “maneuver the vantage point” was something he was struggling with. He listed a few examples of how he had seen me do this in some of the global initiatives we worked on. He said I had been able to pacify people, get people to do their best even if they didn’t want to, and keep people engaged even when the technology failed us during global webinars. When I heard him explain what he meant, I realized he was right. Then we talked about how he might leverage his strengths and plan his own path to accomplish the same goal.
Afterwards, as I noodled over our conversation, I realized that Khalid’s observation was also reflected in how I responded to an executive who came down on me with a lot of force. She may have felt that the global project that Khalid and had launched was trespassing on her territory. It wasn’t fun, but I did turn it into a positive and use it to my advantage – eventually. It became one of those road signs that helped me realize that I was in the wrong place to achieve what I was put on this earth to do. In the end, I saw it as a gift (though I’ve never managed to like it, nor do I believe she showed maturity or effective self-leadership).
When I look at Khalid’s observation through the lens of my strengths, this is where the picture becomes especially intriguing. If you were to say to someone that they were able to turn a negative into a positive, wouldn’t you think they had the strength of Positivity? Helping pacify people, doesn’t that sound like Harmony? Getting people to do their best – that is something I am more familiar with – it’s my job as a success architect. But generating pacification and a “glass overflowing” point of view? Me? Positivity is #24 for me. Harmony is #32 (out of 34). Not exactly my “strengths zone”, is it?
So, what is happening inside me? What self-leadership motors are whirring away, fueled by my strengths?
Well, a couple of things.
- I’ve faced some hard times in my life, and there isn’t much that anyone can do to me that’s worse than what I’ve already been through. That reality helps me keep things in perspective.
- Self-Assurance is in my top 10, so I’m relatively confident. While being whacked by an authority figure might be discouraging and unpleasant, it isn’t the end of the world. And just because they hit hard doesn’t mean that their point of view is correct. If I ultimately decide that the leader, instructor, or executive is not correct, or is exhibiting poor self-leadership, it becomes an example of how NOT to lead. I can pocket the experience as rocket fuel for my journey. I can observe it, but I won’t dwell on it, and I don’t let it undermine me.
- I get ideas from things that go wrong. A few years back, in a performance review, my manager said, “I don’t need more Maureen Monte’s on this team! I need more minions that will do some work!” I learned what she valued – execution (which I am actually good at). Yet, in that role, my most powerful value proposition was building relationships with client executives. She didn’t see it (we were an 80 person team that she managed from some 1,200 miles away). She could see bar charts or reports, but she couldn’t see me forging partnerships. Once I realized that building relationships with clients didn’t matter to her, I only showed her things that did (but I kept building those relationships and I still enjoy those friendships today – two and a half years out of that role.)
The above process highlights a simple truth: I am at my best when I get to blend Ideation, Learner, Strategic, Individualization, Context, Achiever, and Maximizer. All of those strengths are at work as I “turn a negative into a positive and use it to my advantage.” Using my strengths gives me energy, and with great gusto, I revise my plans. To others, it may appear that I’ve turned a negative into a positive, and leveraged it to my advantage. To me, it’s a course correction based on data and experience.
Thank you, Khalid, for making time to share your observations with me. I’ve revisited our conversation multiple times, which means it’s a gift that keeps on giving! As a reminder, if you haven’t seen Khalid’s blog focused on social business, HR, and employee engagement, please do – visit http://khalidraza9.wordpress.com/ It is very good.
CALL TO ACTION: Approach a colleague, close friend, or your manager and ask them what they observe as you go about your work. Listen, and then do the same for them.
I’ll bet that you will discover your own shiny diamonds in the discussion! Of course, enquiring minds always want to know what you’ve learned (the comment section below is free of charge!) ;-)
Maureen –Ideation ~ Strategic ~ Learner ~ Achiever ~ Individualization ~ Maximizer