Have you ever felt frustrated with a friend or colleague because their Strengths were different than yours? Maybe you didn’t have the language of Strengths, but there was something fundamentally different in how they communicated, organized, or related to the world from you. Too often we just find ourselves growing more and more frustrated and annoyed with those people, rather than taking the time to see how our differences may benefit one and other.
I was recently in charge of organizing a big farewell reception for some friends. I was told there would be 25 tables with light snacks, fun refreshments, and simple decorations. My mind immediately thought of the colors I would use to decorate with as well as snacks and drinks that my friends would enjoy. My Strength of Individualization began formulating a plan for how to make this event special for those involved, and my Discipline started crafting the perfect organization plan to make it all happen.
Before committing, I wanted to make sure my mom would be willing to help me create bouquets for centerpieces for the tables. She is a master at that sort of creative work. Thankfully, she enthusiastically said yes, excited about the creative outlet. I was glad to have her help, but as we got started, I realized I probably should have talked to her more about her “process.”
The weekend of the reception, my mom and I went shopping to buy all of the flowers. We brought them back to her house and lined them up in buckets in her basement. We had one staging table with 30 vases filled with water ready to be filled and another table to the side to put the completed bouquets.
Once organized, we got to work arranging the flowers. I watched my mom cut the plastic off one bunch of flowers, move to plucking leaves from another bunch, and suddenly step back and look at all of the flowers. As I watched her walk between “stations,” I kept trying to make sense of her movements.
Some of the questions bobbling around in my head as I watched her seemingly non-linear movements were:
- Are we going to unwrap one bunch at a time, cut them, and then place them in the vases?
- Doesn’t it make sense to unwrap all of the flowers first?
- What am I going to be in charge of?
Understanding our Roles
After a few minutes of what I would call sheer chaos, I finally said, “Mom! I need a role. My Discipline and Competition work best if I know what the expectations are and I stick with them. What am I supposed to be doing?”
Shocked at first, my mom then burst out laughing. “Okay!” she said amused, “how about you unwrap all of the flowers and I’ll begin arranging. Is that alright?”
“Yes!” I exclaimed and immediately situated myself on the ground ready to implement a conveyer belt type system to my assignment.
Making the Connection to someone Else’s Strengths
My mom’s Top 5 Strengths are Futuristic, Developer, Individualization, Empathy, and Positivity. Arranger has popped in and out of her Top 5 as well.
As I observed what I deemed a chaotic environment, I stopped to consider my mom’s Strengths and a hobby that she has honed over the years – gardening.
I’ve asked my mom why she likes to garden before and her answer screamed of Arranger, Developer, and Individualization. She said she loves going to the store, seeing one plant and being able to picture exactly where it will go in her garden. She can see how it will fit into the space. She then loves to watch it grow, change and evolve. She knows the names of each type of flower, bush, and shrubbery in her garden.
Knowing this about my mom allowed me to see that at this moment her Arranger and Developer were at their peak. Her mind was spinning, being able to see how all of these flowers would eventually come together in each vase. She didn’t feel the need to rush through the process. Instead, she savored the small incremental steps along the way. Grabbing onto a stem, snipping off the leaves, holding it up to the vase to know where to cut it, placing it just right within the grouping of flowers. She loves being able to create something knowing not one vase would look the same.
Giving Voice to Need Through Strengths
Knowing all of this about my mom made me feel at ease that I didn’t need to be a part of the creative process. However, my Discipline and Competition still required structure and guidelines for me to contribute in a meaningful way.
So, I asked.
I recognized that this was her sweet spot, I was honored to be a part of it, I wanted her to do things her way. In the midst of someone else’s sweet spot, I was able to recognize a Strengths need that I had.
When I went through Leadership Vision’s Strengths Communicator Training, I had one of my Strengths Based Conversations with my mom. Because of that, at that moment, I was able to articulate what I needed through the lens of Strengths. In return, she was able to understand where I was coming from and respond in a way that gave my Strengths space to thrive within her sweet spot.
What About You?
Can you remember a time you were frustrated with a partner in a project? What were their Strengths? What are your Strengths? Can you pinpoint the place of tension through using Strengths language?