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I said sorry…sorry that my message chose you

Man! I’ve been so immersed in the world of webcasts lately that I almost forgot how to type. I guess I’ll have to dust the cobwebs off by authoring another blog post. So here we go! Let’s see if I can convey my message so that it makes sense. Sometimes it’s not so easy! Fingers crossed J

Something was said to me last week that I simply can’t shake. I had the opportunity to provide some Strengths training to several dozen aspiring leaders within my region. The class consisted of pros from all sorts of businesses, small to mid-sized all the way to large national corporations. The audience was engaged, and almost everyone was interested to learn about the theories and studies that support Strengths-based leadership.

Almost everyone.

There was one gentleman in the audience who kept giving me the left to right head shake. He also made sure to accompany that shake with the internationally known action that indicates one is about to throw the “B.S. Flag.” His eye-rolls were so frequent they seemed to be engaged in a choreographed dance with my presentation slide changes. He almost threw me off my game, but luckily I was able to harness my Jedi-like concentration and move forward.

Like I do with every presentation, I asked if anyone in the audience had any questions before they were released for their break. A few students were nice enough to share their own stories of how strengths-based development had been integrated into their organizations. The conversation was extremely positive, and insightful….

But then my own glance made contact with the eye-roller. “This is all great, and I get it. But it would never work within my organization. We’re just numbers on a spreadsheet. Our leadership wouldn’t recognize their subordinates in a police line-up, and we work with them every day! They’re only concerned about the bottom line. Period.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard something like this. The sad part is, this man wasn’t shaking his head because he thought I was trying to serve up some kind of cure-all or magic pill, he was shaking his head because he was frustrated with his own employer’s lack of interaction with their employees. In one of the Gallup books (or maybe it was somewhere else) I read this story told by a gentleman who worked his butt off for a single company for over thirty years.

“I worked for a major utility company for thirty years. I remember being told how lucky I was to be hired and working. Whenever I received a raise, I felt obliged to tell my boss how grateful I felt. And I was! But it would have been nice to hear how grateful they were to have me working in winter, summer, and under all kinds of tough conditions. I guess they felt they didn’t have to say it…so they didn’t.”    

At what point do large businesses or corporations lose touch with their humanity? I’m not saying this situation applies to all, but I’m getting kind of tired of hearing the same story repeated by different professionals.

When I was in Iraq, I learned real fast that everyone, regardless of their rank, has talents and strengths that could possibly save my life. Yes. You come to that realization faster when your life is being threatened, but why does it have to come to that extreme?

Strengths has taught me that the untapped talents in others’ is this world’s greatest resource. When you choose to look at people through a lens of Strength, it’s like you absorb a super power. Every new introduction is an opportunity, a chance to make the world, or your organization, a better place. But not just better…more effective, efficient, and profitable.

So what did I say to the guy from my training session?

I said sorry…sorry that my message chose you, but that’s the way this works. You see, now you’re going to have more responsibility than you ever thought possible for one man to handle. You have been charged with the responsibility to break the cycle. Your understanding of what’s right and what’s wrong has surpassed that of your superior’s. Your job is to go out of your way to become the leader you wish they were. Your goal is not to emulate leadership traits in others, but to define your own leadership style. Embrace your own natural talents, and develop leadership strengths that will ensure your organization re-formats its culture.

You won’t find this expectation within the confines of a job description. It’s an order that chooses only those select few who have the stamina, desire, and motivation to see it through to completion.

Are you willing to accept this responsibility?

His reply was simple and easily understood by everyone in the room.

“Yes.”

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P.S. What would you say in this situation? Provide your own response below in the comment section. ~Andy

photo credit: Jacob Haas via photopin cc

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About The WOO Warrior

Andy is a GALLUP-Certified Strengths Coach, and the owner of UnleashStrengths. He lives with his wife, Marlana, and two children, Adelyn & Drew, in the small Midwest town of Clinton, Iowa. he can be reached at andy@unleashstrengths.com View all posts by The WOO Warrior

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1 Comment(s)

  1. JB King

    February 2, 2015 at 1:32 PM

    This reminds me of a line from Mitch Albom’s “Tuesdays with Morrie,” about culture:
    “Well, for one thing, the culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. We’re teaching the wrong things. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it. Create your own. Most people can’t do it.”

    Oddly enough, strengths would fall into that category of things that can help someone feel better about themselves by recognizing part of their value that lies in their talents. While there are challenges, it can be quite rewarding to have built a culture that rewards properly and understands motivations and talents. Each can contribute something to the overall puzzle. Some people become managers by doing their job so well that the company thinks, “Hey, let’s promote that person so they stay here!” without recognizing the change in required skills to do the job well. At least that would be some of my initial thoughts here as there are some really simple tips and tools when it comes to emotional intelligence that can do a lot to improve people’s productivity if one wants to get into the field in a sense.

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