One of the hardest topics we talk about here at Leadership Vision is accepting our Strengths. Too often, especially the first time we read our results (or read them again after a long absence), we don’t like the words on the page. We see too much of the negative side of the Themes of Strengths, and can’t accept, appreciate, or acknowledge that this is who we are, and it’s a tremendous combination!
Vinegar, Oil, Salt, and Pepper
It’s summer and my garden is growing faster than I can keep up. One night, as I was sitting pulling weeds and relishing in how well everything was growing, I was letting my mind drift thinking about all the wonderful ways to eat the items in my garden once they are ready. In my opinion, the best way to eat those fresh vegetables is with a little vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper.
This is actually a great metaphor for our Strengths. Rather than trying to disguise who we really are with thick layers of cheese or dressing, we only need be fully present, and perhaps, add simple flavors to bring out more (or in some cases less) of who we are.
The combination of the bitter vinegar and fruity olive oil allows the natural flavors of foods to be highlighted. A dash of vinegar, with its acidic sour taste, can perk up the taste buds and bring brightness to food. Accompanied with the fruitiness of good olive oil, the two ingredients create a memorable experience precipitated from great simplicity.
Now that I’m hungry and want to be picking vegetables from the garden, I’ve actually come to appreciate my Strengths, and the Strengths of those around me, in much the same way as I have come to appreciate a simplistic dressing on vegetables.
I need to embrace the acidity of my Strengths
My colleagues have written profoundly impactful blogs about the “Dark Side of Strengths,” “Strengths in the Rear View,” and “How to Filter Feedback through Strengths.” I am quite convinced each of these blogs was specifically addressed for me and me alone.
One of the most important and yet difficult aspects of my continued learning around Strengths has been the reality that my Strengths have edges. Sometimes sharper or more acidic than I’d really prefer.
My Responsibility, paired with my Strategic, and a swirl of Communication, can feel sharply punctuated as I have owned (Responsibility), eliminated perceived obstacles (Strategic), and subsequently shared out to the world (Communication) my decision. I have inadvertently not left room for feedback or input from my teammates who may also have a valuable perspective to offer. This type of “sourness” can leave others feeling unappreciated.
And yet, there are times when the acidity of my Strengths can be of value to my teammates. During seasons of difficulty, those same Strengths can provide clarity, a safe space to process, and assistance in making decisions to move forward together.
I have come to understand the times when my Strengths are too dark or are showing up in a way that is not helpful to my team. I have also come to understand when those moments are desperately needed for the long-term health of our team.
I need to enjoy the sweetness of my Strengths
One topic we regularly discuss at Leadership Vision is the concept of Strengths envy. Sometimes, when people learn more about a Strength or know someone with a particular Strength that is not in their own Top 5, they experience a deep sense of desire to have that Strength.
Today, I can tell you I don’t have any Strengths envy, but it hasn’t always been that way. For a long time, I saw my Strengths as frustrating and “not leadership Strengths.” I lamented that if only I had Maximizer, Achiever, Intellection or Connectedness then I’d be a great leader.
It has taken time, self-reflection, and a state of acceptance for me to confidently say I don’t have Strengths envy. My Top 5 Strengths are a perfect representation of me. And because I am not trying to be someone else, I can lead effectively with my own unique combination of Strengths.
I offer a unique perspective when my Arranger (zooms out and see the big picture) couples with my Strategic (zooms in to anticipate obstacles and make decisions to avoid those), and leans into my Input (which remembers everything). My Communication allows me to tell a story in a way that connects to my audience and those around me know my word means everything to me (Responsibility). These pieces are critical to the overall success of our team.
As soon as I realized being myself on the team is perfect, it allowed me to enjoy my Strengths without Strengths envy.
I need the variety of Strengths
Much like how my garden offers me a variety of vegetables with different colors, textures, and flavors, our team here at Leadership Vision offers me perspectives and experiences that I cannot do without. Our team supports each other, challenges each other, and celebrates with each other constantly.
They are the people who call me out when my Strengths are being too “sour,” or tell me I need to step up into the “sweetness” of my Strengths and just be myself. They have allowed me the space to stretch my Strengths to places I never knew possible, despite stumbling along at times, and have celebrated when I have an “aha” moment.
I wouldn’t be me without this group of people, this variety, around me.
Have you taken the time to appreciate your own Strengths? How about the Strengths of those around you? Which of your Strengths, while ‘sour’ at times if you’re not careful, has the greatest impact on the team around you?