I shouldn't have been surprised, but somehow I had forgotten that the top talent identified in my Strengths Finder 2.0 report was "adaptability."  Granted, I took the assessment in 2010, but when I reviewed the results a few weeks ago, my response was an audible and amused laugh.  I did, after all, start a blog with "chameleon" in its title.  Apparently my core hasn't changed much!  This has been on my mind a lot recently since I've been reminded how aligning with individual strengths leads to exponentially different outcomes.

I've been working on a project that doesn't play to my strengths.  The project involves much more planning than adapting and while I am capable of doing the project in that I know what the steps are and how to perform them, I feel sluggish when I'm working on it.  My mind feels mushy and my enthusiasm drops.  I unintentionally drag my feet.  In contrast, when I do work that not only uses but highlights my adaptability, I shine.  My mind feels clear, my enthusiasm surges, and my interest in the work becomes an additional propeller.

Knowing this about myself, I need to do a better job talking with my team members about what they see as their individual strengths and how those align (or don't align) with our current projects.  As much as possible, I want our team structure to also make each individual shine.

Note to self: Reach out to team members more and ask their preferences through questions such as:

  • What's something you've worked on that greatly energized you?
  • If you could elect to never again do a particular task, which one would it be?
  • What's a current responsibility you have that you feel doesn't highlight your strengths?
  • What's something you would like to take on that you feel would really make you shine?

Give team members a safe space to communicate their preferences.  And then as best as possible, heed those preferences.

I could tell from my team member's eyes that I had hurt his feelings.  A change was happening at work, and I didn't account for the fact that he and I had previously discussed this topic and his preferences regarding it.  When I shared the news with my team, he approached me afterwards to ask why he didn't find out in advance or why I hadn't communicated more delicately about the topic.  His words were a punch in the stomach.

I had made a decision based on logic.  I listed out the pros and cons.  I thought through the impact of each option and the possible risks.  I weighed the known information and proceeded based on the results.  I did not give enough weight to how people would feel.  That doesn't mean my decision was wrong or that I would chose differently given a do-over, but I knew from the pain in my stomach that I could have done a better job in how I communicated the news.

Folks familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® are probably nodding because this is a classic example of the T-F dichotomy.  This preference pair deals with how people prefer to make decisions, whether by Thinking or Feeling.  We all use both, and preferring one does not mean a person is incapable of the other, but we each gravitate toward one or the other.

I consistently demonstrate a preference for Thinking.  While I don't necessarily want to change that, I do want to increase my awareness of how my actions impact others.  My team member was right to call me out.  A decision between two sides inevitably pleases some people and disappoints others.  We all know and accept this.  But if I want my team members to feel safe and valued, then how I communicate matters.