We bring to the workplace our thoughts of what “normal” is. In the past, I have often heard “Susan, be like this person” or “Susan, be like that person”. This feedback has led me to feel that I needed to be someone else.
I have resisted this. I am not like everyone else. I am loud. I am enthusiastic. I am over the top. I always want to change things up. I am out there.
“OK – calm down. Breathe. Be like ‘normal’ people. Be the same — not different.”
I have failed miserably at “same”. The little voice in the back of my mind murmurs, “Hmmmm – you are not measuring up”. I knew that all of the feedback I was receiving was actually true. I knew that I could be loud. I knew that I could be assertive. I knew that I have this craving urge to change things. I was (and still am) very self aware about all of this.
That was the struggle. I was of the belief that the way to build relationships, and therefore achieve success, was to be like others. This thought stemmed from past feedback and experiences.
Back in the 80s, I was hired to be part of an instructional team of 17 facilitators. The entire team was sourced for similarity — similar backgrounds, similar experience, similar personalities. And that worked for this team … until our initial project ended.
As work diversified, I was assigned to team with a colleague on a curriculum development project. We discussed direction and approach during our initial brainstorming meeting. I offered to write up some draft objectives for our review the next time we met. We knew that this overview document would be a rough cut.
During our next work session, the following conversation ensued.
Susan: “This is what I am thinking — what do you think?”
Colleague: “Susan, you need a comma in this sentence.”
Susan: “Yes, thanks. But tell me, what do you think about this approach/concept?”
Colleague: “And there should be a period here and I don’t think these two words go together.”
This “dialogue” went on for a while. I was saying look at the big picture concepts. My colleague was focusing on the details. I left that meeting thinking that I would never be able to work with this person. We didn’t see things in the same way.
Shortly after our conversation, we had an opportunity to attend a leadership course with the other members of our team. During this workshop, we were introduced to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator®. Comparing my results to my colleague’s results — yes — we were the exact opposite. I was an ENFP – a big picture external focus; my colleague was an ISTJ – a detailed inward focus. At that moment, it clicked with me. Now, I know why we were so frustrated. It had nothing to do with our ability to work together, but it had everything to do with seeing things in a different way. Even though we were hired for our similarities, we were different.
This was 30 years ago when this epiphany hit. Since then, I have grown more and more willing to embrace differences and different preferences in others. But what I have not done during that time is grown more comfortable embracing my difference. I felt like I had to be like everyone else. This person is doing this — so I had to do that. This person is making this career move, so I need to make a similar move. I would see my perception of personal success and failure in others’ moves and promotions. I never saw my “worthy” self as one that I truly am.
Fast-forward to the summer of 2104, when I was introduced to the Sally Hogshead’s Fascination Advantage®. This content focuses on our personal branding from an external viewpoint. How do others see us? What makes us different?
I learned that our ability to influence is subject to commoditization, competition, and distraction. I learned that we each speak a specific language that allows us to fascinate, stand out and be heard above the noise. I learned that when we are communicating in our preferred language, we are at our best — delivering our highest value.
On that July afternoon, I learned that I speak the language of relationships and creativity. I learned that I am an out of the box thinker. I am energetic. I am enthusiastic. I learned that my “quicksand” was the language of stability and routine. I get dragged down when asked to repeat tasks and processes. I avoid the status quo like the plague.
These are the same comments that people have said to me all of my life. But now, I see this as a good thing. My focus on relationships and passion for creativity are how I deliver my highest value. This is how people see me at my best. It’s ok to be enthusiastic, energetic, relational, creative, a re-inventor. It is ok to be different.
“Different is better than better.”
– Sally Hogshead
[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Being different flavors the pot.[/inlinetweet] Picture a fruit salad. Pineapple chunks. Strawberries. Grapes. Pears. Apples. Singularly each has a unique taste – each is different. When you put them all together in a bowl, you still taste the individual pieces, but they all contribute to the overall mouth flavor.
Now think of yourself and each of your team members as individuals, with unique contributions. When combined, you retain your uniqueness, but you also contribute to the value and performance of the team. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Yes, there are Is in team.[/inlinetweet]
Identify what makes you different. Embrace it. Leverage it. Be proud of your uniqueness.
How does your difference deliver value? Please share.
“A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes
I had the honor of co-facilitating a team of professionals for a one-day retreat entitled Inside – Outside – Insight. As the name implies, this workshop focuses on internal awareness (Your Outlook), external balance (Your Energy), and the insight one gains from tending to both (Your Passion).
As I reflect on this experience, the “teacher” became the “student”. Following are my insights.
1. Silence provides the opportunity for enriching insight.
During the Outlook section, the participants and facilitators took a 15-minute walk. Not a difficult activity. But, the instructions provided a bit of challenge for the extraverts in the group. We were to walk together – only in silence – for the entire 15 minutes.
What would we have missed if we had talked? From my perspective, I would have missed:
- The clear cerulean blue of the sky on a beautiful day.
- A huge ancient oak tree in a yard – with limbs so large they seemingly reached to embrace the neighboring houses.
- The sounds of people experiencing Saturday afternoon in an historic downtown setting.
This mindfulness – being in touch with the here and now – is so very vital to our mental and physical health. Whether it’s a few minutes of quiet time, a short silent meandering walk, or time spent meditating, silence opens our minds to think beyond our everyday pressures and challenges.
Give yourself this gift. Schedule a “silent period” each day. And then, as you exercise this priority, see what insights you gain and how your mental energy expands.
2. We must train our minds to be “mindful.”
That does seem contradictory, doesn’t it? But we have so many demands pushing at us – always thinking of the next minute, the next day, the next week, the next month. In these thoughts, we lose today.
So, start your day with thoughts of what it will bring. End your day with thoughts of what you achieved. Please pay attention to what is going on around you – and celebrate the “here and now”.
Tomorrow will be here much faster than you want. Will you have memories of today?
3. Be grateful, smile, and laugh.
It is always the right time to say thank you, to share a smile, and to let out a good belly laugh. These are the three no-cost actions that can keep one centered.
Three life lessons:
- It is never too late to say thank you. Never!
- It is always appropriate to share a smile with everyone. And even if it is not “shared”, it is always appropriate to gift a smile to others.
- And what about a good hearty laugh? Don’t the clouds part? Don’t you gain a boost of energy that can only come from a brief moment of unadulterated joy?
Regardless of who is around you, these three acts create a bond that is impenetrable. There are so many things in this world that can turn one’s outlook gray and dismal … but a smile, laugh, and/or thank you can quickly erase the storm and give hope – even in the direst of circumstances.
So my three lessons learned are simple – yet important. Doesn’t it seem as if the easiest things are often the most overlooked?
Make a pact with yourself to spend some time in silence, be mindful, smile, laugh and be grateful. Commit to a daily practice – and make it a habit. Then, reflect on the impact of these new behaviors … and let me know the difference this has made in your life.