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Why It’s Easier to Use Strengths to Achieve More?

As people in overall we focus more on what we lack of, where we are not perfect enough or where other people are “better” than us (whatever “better” means). Thinking about strengths, on things that we are really good at is not a first thing that come to our minds when we reflect on our professional development, have a quality conversation with our manager or we just think about next steps in our careers.

From my experience it’s strongly connected to the culture and/or country that we were raised within, because convictions about being strong or weak are very much there. As a person raised in Poland, where there’s always a need to prove that we are good, worthy or educated enough to be partners in any global professional context I can say that it’s a strong one. I know many people raised in different cultures and I can tell that there is a huge gap in mindset in this area, i.e. in compare to people raised in US.

But this article is not about cultural differences, even if the convictions we are going to talk about today are strongly tight to those. I would like to take us all on the journey of strengths.

Why we have a tendency to focus on the gaps, instead of focus on the strengths? Why we do it to ourselves when it’s so much easier to base on what we do really well? Let’s take a closer look at that.

What are strengths?

A strength is a superpower.

Strength is something that allows us to do things really easily. It’s natural, sometimes we do things even without any energy spent on the process. It can be automatic, with no conscious brain usage – like in the situation when we get into the car, we drive from point A and 20 minutes later we are at the point B without even noticing how we did it.

Strength is fun, interesting, we can be passionate about what it’s connected to or it can be linked to our values. When we use strengths everything seem easy, obvious – we are masters in our fields in that state, we can achieve more.

One of the best tools that you can use to learn more about your strengths is Gallup Strengths Finder (renamed recently to CliftonStrengths – but describing exactly the same thing). The concept states that we all have 34 talents in us, arranged in a different, unique order, depends on the person.

The whole journey starts with a questionnaire that name your TOP 5 talents you have inside yourself. There is an option to uncover the whole list of 34 at once – it’s more expensive and in my opinion it’s not necessarily needed when you start your journey with talents. You can always pay extra and uncover them without filling out a questionnaire again anytime you want. Your choice.

After going through the questions, you’ll get a short report with the list of your TOP 5 strengths – those are elements that you are a natural at, you don’t need to spend a lot of energy to reach to those buckets, it’s a part of yourself, like extending your own body and mind.

Talents are grouped into 4 categories: executing, influencing others (in a good way, with positive intention), relationship building and strategic thinking. Each strength has its own description to better understand what stays behind it. It’s a starting point for us to think how those elements fit to who we are in different situations at work and life.

How you can work with them?

Awareness is a first step. Know your strengths, be conscious of the list. To work with them you can use consultants, coaches (like myself) or you can try to bring sense to it on your own. You can use the questions below to make a structure around your thoughts. Use those questions to analyze talents one by one from your list:

  • What is my TOP 5 and what every talent means?
  • Where can I see that I use my talent in my professional life?
  • What kind of tasks/projects/work activities are connected to my talent?
  • Where can I see that I use my talent in my private life?
  • How my talent influences my decision making processes?
  • How do I communicate regarding my talent?
  • What am I doing with problems that appear regarding my talent?
  • What are advantages of having this talent?
  • What are disadvantages of having this talent? Where can it do more harm than good? In what situations?

Starting with those questions you can connect the dots between the results of the questionnaire and your real life. It’s not about changing your life now because you have the results. It’s more about finding the way you can use them consciously, make better choices, be aware of their bright and dark sides and how to react more appropriately in different situations. Strengths are for you so you know what serves you and what doesn’t or what kind of tasks you want and don’t want to do.

When I teach about the strengths, I always say: thinking about your TOP 5 is like using the compass. Coming back to the base is the best idea, because it brings us harmony, peace, being sure about our abilities to do something. When you use this knowledge, you can make your life better, because you focus your energy on things that really matter. You don’t waste it on trying to learn something that is really far on your list and you need to invest a huge amount of time, sometimes money or attention to achieve a decent level in it. And at the end of the day, it’s not worth it.

Simplify and edit. It’s my approach to many situations in life. When you focus on the talents you have, it’s easier for you to navigate, because you have the compass in your hand and you know how to use it. Why throwing it to the water?

Isn’t it lazy to only use strengths?

You can think: “okay, but isn’t it lazy to base only on what I’m good at? What about being in a stretch zone, lifelong learning, or working on becoming the best version of ourselves?”.

Focusing on strengths doesn’t mean that you don’t develop. It means that you are more mindful about what you choose to learn and develop within.

I’ll describe it using my own example.

One of my TOP 5 strengths is Achiever.

My Achiever likes to finish things, cross elements from my task list, achieve goals that I set for myself. It is connected to my professional life, health, sports, personal life, development – you name it.

How I grow within this talent? I learn how to simplify and edit, how to set better goals, using OKRs and how to be more adaptive to not get fixed on a goal and forget about the whole world that is around me. I pass this to others as well, so I share what works for me and I encourage people to try different things that might work for them. I learn how to be a better teacher, facilitator and mentor for them so the process of learning is more efficient. It’s a lot in a stretch zone, I need to constantly push myself to take uncomfortable action but it’s how we learn efficiently and with purpose.

The same thing works for me regarding my private life. When I want to achieve something, let’s say I want to run in a 5k race run in less than 30 minutes – I prepare myself to finish this run. I train, I eat well, I take care of my sleep so I regenerate by body well. I learn how to prepare my meals so they have certain amount of every element my body needs, I learn how to manage my sleeping time to help my body recover.

It isn’t lazy to use strengths. It’s mindful and smart. And by saying “no” to things that you don’t want to learn because they are not close to who you are, you train your muscle of focus. You do things at work that are making you sick every time you think about them? See if they are anyhow connected to your strengths. If yes, maybe you just need to stretch a little bit to get new knowledge or tools. If no, maybe it’s a time to have a conversation with your manager and yourself about the future you want to have – in this organization or any other.

The bottom line

Life is too short to focus on what we lack of. As mentioned at the very beginning of the article, it can be more natural to some of us, we were taught that way. But it makes us feel not good enough, smart enough, educated enough, always “getting there”, never “actually there”. It’s exhausting, unhealthy and frustrating to death. We can be smarter about it, better in what we do every single day. It’s a matter of a conscious decision about what we want to do, based on who we are and what are the best areas of ourselves to give it out to the world.

Using your potential will allow you to thrive, to keep your momentum going, to be happy every day. And it will recreate your life so you will be waiting for each Monday to can live through another week with satisfaction, space to grow and change other peoples’ lives.

Isn’t it worth a try?



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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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