Double-edged...

A long-time coaching client recently told me that his biggest peeve about me as a coach is that I don’t ever just let him be where he is if it’s a negative place.  I always have to turn the conversation eventually to movement somehow-  “so now what…” or “let’s talk about what you can DO with that…” when what he really might want in the moment is to just be in it rather than move through it.  Me doing my job or not?

It’s true- I have a propensity for forward motion, getting people on board, steps toward the horizon, no matter what.  It’s in my language, my patterns, my material, my teaching.  It’s gotten me into immense success and trouble throughout my life so far.  It’s definitely what makes me great at what I do, and really challenging to people in my life at the same time.  A true double-edged sword with really sharp blades on both sides.

I’m guessing that you have some strengths like this too, yes?  What is it that makes you great at what you’re great at, yet is maddening to others?

In StrengthFinder, I’ve got:

Activator • Strategic • Ideation • Command • Relator • WOO • Individualization

How it’s been described in feedback I’ve gotten from others…

The upsides:

  • Taking action when everyone else is swirling in the discussion for too long.
  • Facilitating other people’s process quickly to get them to move through it to resolution or breakthrough.
  • Being able to see the path out of the mire as a guide for teams.
  • Having an instinct for the big elephant in the room (or issue/situation), calling it, so all can move on.
  • Energizing rooms full of stuck, bored people to inspired action and change.
  • Taking groups farther than they’ve ever gone before.
  • Getting people to try things they’ve never tried before, and having fun doing it.
  • Creating change and possibility where it was needed for a long time.
  • Empowering people to walk away feeling that it was their idea all along.
  • Turning someone from frustration and stuckness to resourcefulness and excitement about what’s possible.

The downsides:

  • Being too reactive.
  • And impatient.
  • Pushing too hard.
  • Not accepting “no” for an answer.
  • Moving too fast.
  • Being too positive or focusing too much on the positive.
  • Always ending the conversation with what’s possible when someone wants to just stay with what is or what their complaint is.
  • Being too charismatic (really?) and convincing when someone wants to hold their position.
  • Being hard to slow down when I’ve decided to go after something.

Of course I would argue that a lot of those “downsides”-complaints are often exactly what’s needed in a situation, even though they’re uncomfortable for others.  My wiring for unsettledness when I see an opportunity for change I might be able to impact is what drives me. I can’t NOT go there in my head, although I can quell it for short periods of time in my actions or speaking (usually by request of others).  That never lasts very long before I can’t take it anymore, so speak out or take action anyhow.  I also get that this pattern often has clear costs, usually to those around me.

What are your instincts which you can’t turn off, which kick into gear every time?  Have you identified them as strengths? While every trait has an up and downside, finding the way to leverage them as strengths is the key.  

So again, it comes down to balance, intention and acceptance.

I am forever tinkering with the balance of my own actions and patterns.  A self-awareness of my own presence and how it gets on people around me is critical. Some days I’m better at that awareness than others, which has everything to do with my own state management.  Putting the focus back on the others around me and really noticing their responses to my way- both verbal and not (tonality, eyes, facial muscles, blink patterns and movements) helps me to balance my responses.

Are you noticing the responses you’re eliciting all the time, both spoken and unspoken? Choosing next steps based on that response helps

Intention is what I always come back to, in order to make the Why of my course clear.  I often state my authentic intention in conversations explicitly (“…I’m telling you this because I’m committed to your success, and I think this will help…”) so that people can trust where I’m coming from.  While this doesn’t always work (if there’s no trust to begin with), it’s the most honest thing I can do, so I keep putting it out there.

People will always make up your intention in their head unless you state it clearly.  If there’s any tension or mistrust, they’ll assume your intention to be negative. Check yours, make sure it’s pure, and state it.

In the end, I accept that my wiring is what it is.  It brings incredible strength and also thorny challenges. While I have no plans to change who I am, I am learning how to also accept that I must flex more than I might want to when my strengths aren’t working for others, and cultivate more patience.  I trust my coaches, teams and trusted advisors to give me the feedback I need to pivot when necessary (though I need to ask for it more).  I also accept that my every action has ripple effect way beyond what I can see no matter what.

So do yours, by the way. As you trust your instincts and choose your actions, accept that you’re impacting more than you know all the time.  Have your fully accepted both the greatness and challenges of your wiring?  What are both sides, and their impact on your world?  

Intentionally or not, who we are, what we think and how we act in moments and patterns- have impact and influence all the time.  The more we put it out there in the world, the more impact it has, for better or for worse.  Who I am, and who you are is both awesome and troublesome- always.  A true double-edged sword with really sharp blades on both sides.

So really self-mastery means learning then mastering dexterity with both edges of one’s sword.  I’m on it.