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Do You Base on Your Strengths or Constantly Fill the Gaps?

How we think about professional and personal development differs from person to person, from country to country and from organization to organization. Strengths or gaps? It is very much cultural, rooted in a country script which says what we should or shouldn’t do as members of a certain society.

Are you living in a country when you need to prove that you are good enough all the time? Or maybe you live in society where children hear from their parents that they are extraordinary, they can achieve whatever they want from the very beginning of their lives? Is there a difference between the people raised and shaped in each of those systems? Of course it is, but it doesn’t mean that we need to stay that way until the day we die.

Basing on what we are really good at instead of focusing on what we can’t do can be a change of thinking paradigm for some of us. Isn’t it right that when we don’t know how to do something, we should participate in a training session, read a book or find a mentor that will teach us? I’m sure that it’s the most natural approach for many people. Is it fun? Does it work every time? Is it worth to invest the time in it? Is the result worth the effort? Let’s see what happens with us in both of these scenarios.  

Scenario 1: I constantly fill the gaps

Let me give you an example from my experience as a manager. Once I had an employee who was taking care of the creative part of learning materials that we provided for employees. He was amazing at his job. And once I gave him a task connected to the Excel spreadsheet.

He’d been doing this task all week, gasping all the time and at the end I still had to correct it.

What a manager in that kind of situation can do? I could’ve send him to an Excel training so he will improve his skills, to fill the gap. It would be an intuitive thing to do, since I needed to delegate the task to the team. But what good it would bring?

So I’ve decided to not giving him an Excel task. Like ever. Instead of it I created some automations and the spreadsheet worked on its own. Case solved.

This is my story, but I know a lot of managers that would use the scenario to fill out the gap. Of course there are many different situations, structures and teams. But when we have people with a really little orientation into analytics, doing a great job in the creative area – what is the point in forcing them to constantly focus on what are their weaknesses? How do you feel when you think about how not good enough you are? Regardless of the area of your life. Not a good enough partner/parent/expert/manager/owner/entrepreneur/friend? Let’s be honest – we feel shitty. It’s always this thing in our head that we are not there yet. Always on the journey, never achieving the goal.

And being in that state of mind all the time can be exhausting. Frustrating and demotivating in a longer run. I don’t say that we shouldn’t improve, it’s not a story about it. We should improve, analyze when we can be better but without beating ourselves up all the time for not being perfect.  

Scenario 2: I choose to base on my strengths

And here’s another angle.

I had an employee who really liked covering tasks connected to organizing: training sessions, events, meetings, 1:1s etc. She did it a lot and I thought that maybe it’s a little bit too monotonous and repetitive for her after a while. Once we had a quality conversation and I offered her new chunks that she could learn, like facilitation, project management or analyzing data from HR IT tools. And you know what? She didn’t want any of it! She was perfectly fine where she was at the moment, she loved being a logistic wizard, working with many different people in the most efficient way, making their lives better and easier. From her point of view her tasks weren’t monotonous at all – she was taking every training, every event as a new journey.

So I left it like that, checking on a regular basis if something changes. She grew beautifully into an event manager role, being responsible for organizing things for thousands of people all around the world.

What is the conclusion of that story? I might have told her that she needed to broaden her scope, do something new. But I’ve decided to leave her with her decision, watching her growing as a person, extremely satisfied and engaged at what she did every day. She was really good in her job, she learned every day, even when I thought that was not possible, doing the same thigs all over again. But I was wrong and now I know – more than ever, that I’ve made a good decision back then.

Basing on her strengths allowed her to be fulfilled, happy. How many of us can really tell that we feel happy at our jobs, every day? When choosing to base on strengths, talents, preferences, or those things that we just like doing, our life can look like that. No frustration, no wasted time on things that somebody else can do in 5 minutes and we spend the whole day on finding the solution, no feeling “not good enough” again.  

Why strengths are so powerful?

That’s why strengths are so powerful. Focusing on what we are really good at, spending time on mastering, connecting the dots with things that are similar to those we already know is a great way to not stay in the same place. To grow all the time. We need to be aware that sometimes there is a point where we are experts in one area and maybe there is nothing more that we can learn.

And when we are hungry, we need more stimuli, new things that our brain can take. I’m not saying that once we are experts, we’re done. Look for other things you can learn, think holistically, connect the dots between areas that seems interesting to you. Strengths give you tools to understand yourself better, getting to know what can be on your to-do list and on your not-to-do list. The second one is equally important as the first one.

We need to know what things we don’t want to do, ever. And it doesn’t mean that we are lazy, unengaged or we resist to learn. It’s quite the opposite in my view. It means that we make a former decision, where we want to put our energy, where to invest it the best possible way. To make the most meaningful impact, on ourselves and/or on others.

You don’t know what your strengths are? You can always start by filling out the questionnaire named Gallup Strengths Finder tool (https://store.gallup.com/p/en-ie/10108/top-5-cliftonstrengths), get a report and know more about yourself. You can always deepen your knowledge about the idea of basing on talents using many materials you can find on Gallup Institute website – it’s a great place to look for additional information, inspirations, stories or tips regarding how to use this idea in practice. You can also always contact myself – I’ll support you in finding what you are really good at and how to invest your time to achieve the best results.

Use the power of strengths. Know yourself better, find your space to work in a field that will bring you joy, satisfaction and a sense of the time well spend. It’s all possible – you only need to redirect your energy and focus. It’s something that any of us can do, right?



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Transactional Analysis

Process Communication Model (PCM): Persister

Do you know at least one person that always has an opinion on a given subject? That has a strong set of values and that is the base of most of the decisions that they make? The person that is trustworthy: when they say that something is going to be done, it will, 100%? That’s Persister. First out of six personality types in Process Communication Model (PCM), the concept created by Taibi Kahleb. You can read shortly about the concept HERE, to have a basic structure around what PCM is really about. Today, I would love for us to have a description of who the Persister is, how we recognize this type is in the other person’s Base. Meaning that it is their first floor of personality structure, where they have most of the resources, competencies, and skills. The Base also stands for what is the most natural way of communication for the other person and through what kind of lenses they observe the world. So today we are going to discover who the Persister is, how to navigate when this person is in front of us and what to do to communicate effectively. How do we recognize Persister? Persister is a person who evaluates the world around them by comparing it to their values and beliefs. Their perception is opinions, and a lot of situations with Persisters relate to comparing one thing to another. How they feel, how they think and how they operate daily against the law, rules, policies, ways of working. While being around people, they’re loyal, and they value trust. They always keep promises: for a Persister it is impossible to even think about not keeping the word. If they say they do something, they are going to do it, no matter what. So, we don’t need to ask them several times a question like: “Are you going to go to do it? What is the progress of it?” because they’ll always do it (in fact, that kind of questions drive Persister crazy). How to recognize this person if that we don’t have their personality structure yet? You can listen to the words they need. For Persister it will be: “I believe…”, “in my opinion…”, “we should do something” or …shouldn’t do something”, “I trust…”, “the important thing for me is…”, “the crucial thing is…”. They say those words because they see the world through the lenses of opinions and values: that’s how Persister is the most visible. Of course, we are talking about being in OK-OK zone. It’s about having an opinion, but also always having a good intention. It’s not about pushing the opinion no matter what or aiming to hurt others. They have an opinion on every single subject and even if they don’t (i.e., they’re not interested in something), they have an opinion on it. Like: “Ok, so I’m not into politics because it really doesn’t interest me: I don’t want to waste my time on that subject”. Based on that example, we can see that there is always an opinion, even if at the first sight there’s none. What is also important that Persister doesn’t have any problem with saying those opinions out loud. And it’s not about being rude: it’s about being persistent, having a voice that matters (in professional and/or private life). Of course, HOW the opinion is communicated is important (it needs to be said from the OK-OK perspective). If it’s not – it’s another part of the story. What do Persister need in communication? I’m trustworthy = I’m valuable as a person When do we know that Persister is in distress? What does to be in distress mean? Being a distress means that we don’t have our motivational needs covered and we go into a sequence that is aligned with certain PCM type. So, if you have a Persister on the other side of the communication process and their needs are frustrated, they go into distress, you will see 3 steps of the sequence. Being in distress means that we don’t think clearly. When it happens, we don’t have access to our skillset, abilities to deal with different (especially stressful and difficult) situations, we can’t act accordingly (even if we rationally know how to do it). That’s why it’s so important firstly to come back to OK-OK, to our Base, and then – once we are there, go and deal with the situation. That kind of approach is always going to work, regardless of the PCM type. It’s worth to remember the sequence, since it is repetitive. By training ourselves in recognizing patterns we train our muscle of reacting accordingly, without going into distress ourselves. The mask invites the mask: meaning that behavior under distress will have influence on us, and even if we are in OK-OK zone, we can go into the dark side. Being aware of what’s happening gives us tools to protect ourselves and support others in getting into better place. The bottom line Persister is a great person to cooperate with. When they say that they’ll do something, we can be sure that will happen, no matter what. We don’t even need to doublecheck: for Persisters it’s impossible to not deliver the things that we agreed on, it’s in their DNA to do it. Their strong principles, values, and a high-level need to be trustworthy make them great partners in crime. Of course, while being in distress, they lose access to those resources and go into not so shiny place. It requires more awareness, being mindful what happens with us (if we are Persisters in Base), and other people (when Persister is on the other side of communication process).    So, I invite us all to observe those behaviors described in the article starting today. It can help us more than we think, regardless of the type of relation, context, or situation that we are in. It’s always worth to develop in this area. PS. As a first exercise after reading this article,

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Team Conflict: Is It Always a Bad Thing?

When we hear “conflict”, we think “trouble”. When we hear “conflict”, we think “dysfunctional team”, where communication doesn’t work, and people have personal issues. Or when we hear “conflict”, we think that leader doesn’t know how to lead his/her team successfully. Is that really true? Why are we so scared of a conflict? What is the worst thing that can happen when there is a conflict in the team? What kind of experiences we have with the conflict that make us think and behave in a certain way when one appears? Why do we avoid conflict? The real question should be: why do we avoid doing things in overall? In the area of conflicts, it’s extremely visible: we avoid it, because we burned ourselves once or twice. Based on that we make this strategy to not get involved in any kind of “risky” situation: so, we sit quiet and just focus on living through another day. Is it really the best option we can get? When a lack of conflict is dysfunctional, not the other way around? One of the biggest experts of team development and leadership, Patrick Lencioni, years ago wrote a book “5 Disfunctions of a Team”. It is a really short story (doesn’t even look like a personal/professional development book), yet it’s very powerful. And there is one part that stopped me when I first read it: Lencioni says that one of the dysfunctions of a team is a fear of conflict. What? (On the chart on the left-hand side there are definitions of all disfunctions and on the right-hand side there are solutions, that answer the questions: what is the best thing we can do here for our teams?) If we stick to our old believe that a conflict is something negative and destructive – that it ruins the trust and good atmosphere in the team, how is it possible that it’s actually the other way around? When we avoid conflict, not speaking up and be open about what do we really think, feel, or observe in the workplace, there is a huge risk of not being as effective and efficient as possible. It’s also short sided: if we are not sharing it now, it’s going to backfire in the future. So, at the end of the day, it will bring worse result than we imagine now. What’s even worse, people probably will talk behind other colleagues’ or leader’s backs, and not saying anything out loud. We can imagine that it will bring even worse outcomes, like really ruining the atmosphere, creating space for psychological games and in a consequence: lack of trust. The fear of conflict can be one of the biggest barriers that will stop people from growth, thrive and being the best versions of themselves in a workplace. What can we do to change this mindset? How can we use conflict that nourishes our team? The key thing to understand is that a certain kind conflict is something that we can use. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t, it really depends on what we are dealing with. There are 2 categories of conflicts, I call them functional and dysfunctional. What can we do with the dysfunctional conflicts? First and foremost: we need to map and name correctly which conflict is the real one in the situation we are dealing with. Without that, even the most beautiful strategy is not going to work, because we are going to answer to the wrong need. We’ll get frustrated and use all our energy badly. Focus on investigating will bring the best results, since then the solutions will be to the point: it’s more than certain that it’s worth investing time in this process. The bottom line The conflict is a huge, hairy, and scary thing that we often have very strong convictions about. We avoid it, by staying low, don’t speak up to not get into any confrontation. We do it because we don’t want to get hurt, expose ourselves to bad emotions, stress or feeling that we do not belong. Perfectly natural, there is nothing to be ashamed of. When we make a mindset shift: from fixed (focused on avoiding conflict) to a growth one, where we take into consideration that the conflict can be good for us, nourishing and interesting, we can gain more than we think. With remembering about having a good intention, being in OK-OK zone and with a goal of creating something extraordinary as a consequence of a passionate discussion, we can achieve the outcome that won’t be possible to achieve on our own. It puts old, good conflict in a completely new light. I believe it’s worth trying if it fits.

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How To Teach Others Effectively?

Did you ever have a situation when you wanted to teach a person something? You explained everything, you put a lot of time and effort in it, and at the end of the day the person never learned anything? Or you gave somebody feedback because they didn’t do something correctly. And after the conversation it seemed that everything was okay, but after a couple of weeks or months the same mistake was done by the same person? Did you start getting angry, feeling disappointed or guilty: is it you or is it all about them? Were you persistent, sit with the person and explain the same thing 10 times? Or have you just decided to not bother anymore: since apparently this person doesn’t understand what you are saying? How many cases ends like a failure when we think about teaching others effectively? 20%? 50%? More than that? And how many of them don’t say that they don’t understand because they don’t want to look or sound stupid? What can we do to teach others better, so they can grow thanks to our knowledge and experience? And both sides don’t have the impression that they’ve wasted time on the doubtful effect? Why doesn’t learning process work so often? We can have the best intentions to teach others. In fact, most of the time we have those: we want people to be better in what they do, we share our knowledge, experience and what we’ve learned so far in a certain topic. Everything seems good in our head. The readiness to teach and an honest intention to do it is there. Let’s say we are a buddy to the new employee. We want to onboard this person, take care of them, pass all information about how this organization works. To prepare a new joiner to understand the new environment, how everything gets done, so they don’t waste time and get stressed or frustrated of running around in circles, looking for the right person to answer their questions. We have a plan, we start the process. We pass our knowledge, we teach the other person how to cover the goals we have as a team as well as possible. We check by asking: “do you have any questions?” or “is everything clear for you?”. And what is the answer on those two questions most of the time? 90% people goes with “no, all good, no questions”, “yes, all clear”. Is it your experience too? And it’s clear until it isn’t. We explained everything, checked with new employee and this is it: they start to work on their own. And there is one mistake. And then another one. We give feedback, all is clear again, they go and do the same mistake again. When we ask what they need to do it to have the result that we aim for, they say “nothing, all good”. Sounds familiar? Sometimes we teach, then we see that the work is not done with a result that we did contract for, we give feedback with an intention so next time it’s better. And it’s not better at all: sometimes it’s the same, or even worse. What is happening in between of this process, so the results are often so disappointing (for both sides)? Who we need to be to teach others well? There is a certain set of skills that people who want to be efficient and effective in how they teach others should have. Based on my teaching (others) and learning (from others) perspective, I believe that those are a golden list of competencies that make a person amazing guide to transform work and life of people that are around them. And we do know that you don’t need to be a school or academic teacher to use them. We share knowledge in so many ways every day: we teach our colleagues at work, our kids at home, we share some tips and tricks with our friends or family members, we pass value to the members of our community. What do we need to do it in the best possible way? The bottom line When we teach others, we are there for them. It can be super hard to stop the need to show that we the smartest persons in the room, but we must do it to be effective at teaching others. Remembering that the process where we teach something is for our audience (even if it is a one person), makes us take a step or two back from time to time and reflect on the way we do it. Is it for me, or for them? Where is my focus: on the process, or on the person? Do I care more about ticking all the boxes that I passed everything I had on the agenda, or I care about the change that I make in this person’s brain and heart? These are the questions that I invite all of us to ask ourselves every time we teach something. It will make everything we do better, more effective and efficient, and: we will be satisfied with the job well done.   

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