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.
I am a great believer in strengths-based development. As a matter of fact, a colleague and I attempted to start a “Strengths Revolution” a few years ago. (Let me say, the proposal did not garner a lot of upper management support … but we certainly had the revolutionary passion!) I believe that we gain much more productivity through focusing on strengths – as opposed to trying to correct weaknesses. As a matter of fact, I believe that your weaknesses are nothing more than your “strengths on steroids.” So, strengths-based development allows you to understand how your strengths can turn into weaknesses … therefore resulting in awareness and improvement of weaknesses.
Reading the strengths-related works of Marcus Buckingham, Curt Coffman, Donald Clifton, Paula Nelson, Tom Rath and Barry Conchie are well worth your time. And I particularly enjoyed taking the assessment in the StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. The result was a detailed analysis of my top five strengths: Activator, Strategic, Adaptability, Connectedness, and Futuristic.
I am also a believer in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®. I have often used this assessment to help with individual self-awareness, team building, and organizational effectiveness improvement. I always find enjoyment in the discovery process as I watch workshop participants come to the “aha” moment where they say, “Yes! That really is me.” I enjoy pairing opposites and allowing them to share their differences, thereby reinforcing their learning about Type® and preferences. I am an ENFP. For those unfamiliar with Type®, that would translate to Extravert, Intuition, Feeling, and Perceiving. In short, I get my energy from the external world, enjoy seeing the big picture, initially think about the human impact when making decisions, and can be open-ended and spontaneous.
Knowing what I know about my strengths and knowing what I know about my Type®, I have been wondering – is there a correlation between the two? I believe there is. Let’s see if you agree.
- The Activator strength is described as one of action. Activators make decisions, take action, look at the results, and learn. As Rath says, “action and thinking are not opposites.”
- I correlate this strength with my Extravert preference. In Introduction to Type®, Isabel Briggs Myers describes the MBTI® Extraversion preference as one where people learn best through doing or discussing and readily take initiative
- Rath describes the Strategic strength as a perspective that allows one to see patterns where others simply see complexity. As Rath states, “Mindful of these patterns, you play out alternative scenarios, always asking, ‘What if this happened?’”
- The person with an Intuition preference in the MBTI® is continually asking, “What if?” Myers listed “Focus on the patterns and meanings in data” as one of the characteristics of the Intuition preference.
- Adaptability focuses on living in the moment and being flexible – one “who can stay productive when the demands of work are pulling you in many different directions at once.”
- The MBTI® Perceiving preference results in similar descriptors: flexible, adaptable, changing course, feeling energized by last-minute pressures, liking things loose, and being open to change.
- StrengthFinders 2.0 lists Connectedness as one of my strengths. Rath relates connectedness to human connections. “If we are all part of a larger picture, then we must not harm others because we will be harming ourselves. … Your awareness of these responsibilities creates your value system.”
- Reflecting on the Feeling preference, one with this preference is guided by personal values, strives for harmony and positive interactions, and always assesses the people impact of his/her decisions.
- Finally, Futuristic. As the word implies, the future is the focus of this strength. Being a dreamer, seeing visions of what could be, and describing those visions in vivid terms – those are the descriptors Rath used.
- Again, we turn to the Intuition preference as a comparison. With an orientation to future possibilities and imagination coupled with verbal creativity, the Intuition preference seems to mirror the Futuristic strength.
So – in short – yes, I do see a correlation between my strengths (as defined by StrengthsFinder 2.0) and my Type® (as identified through the MBTI®).
How about you? Have you taken each of these assessments? Do you see a correlation between your results?
Let me know if you find a connection between the two. I look forward to your thoughts.
- Myers, Isabel Briggs (rev. Linda K. Kirby and Katharine D. Myers). Introduction to Type®, Mountain View, CA: CPP, Inc., 1998
- Rath, Tom. StrengthsFinder 2.0, New York, NY: Gallup Press, 2007