Monday, February 28, 2005

Speaking to Strengths

“Appreciation is like looking through a wide-angle lens that lets you see the entire forest, not just the one tree limb you walked up on.” - Doc Childre and Sara Paddison

I use this quote as an analogy to illustrate the concept of speaking to one’s strengths. See the entire person, not just their strengths but speak to that part of them and you will not only help them grow and evolve because of it but help them focus on their talents.

In many organizations, history gets in the way of people working well together. They see the “What was” rather than the “What is or what might be” and because of that, don’t communicate well nor trust that the other will come through for them.

When I work with clients who share difficult history with me, the first thing I do is ask them what they’ve done to create a new, different history. Generally the answer is “Nothing” or “Why should I bother if they won’t see it anyway?” Even though there is strict confidentiality and it’s in every one of my contracts, it never stops their bosses from asking “How are they doing?’ My stock answer is “GREAT! And don’t ask me anything else because I’m not going to tell you anyway”. My clients need to know everything they share with me is in confidence; that it’s ‘safe’ to share. However, when asked about the changes I’m implementing with a staffer, or that I see, I also add “Don’t ask me to articulate the changes. Look for them and you’ll see them. And if you DO see them, remark that you do because if it were you, would you want to work hard at changing if no one would bother acknowledging it?”

If there is one message I can get across to those of you who are reading this, it would be “Speak to others’ strengths”. Even indirectly, when you speak to one’s strengths you are telling them you not only acknowledge the existence of those strengths but want to see more of them. You’re not ignoring their weaknesses or past history; however you’re no longer focusing on them.

One of my clients told me I see her worst side and yet it doesn’t make a difference. I always walk in wanting to know what great things have happened; and in helping her focus on those things, she automatically begins to work to her strengths because that’s what I focus on. History is just that. If you allow others to approach you from that perspective, you’ll attract more of the same. And if you don’t ‘go there’ in conversation or deed, then in a very subtle way you help others focus on the ‘now’ as well and eventually leave the past exactly where it should be, in the past.

“There is no stimulus like that which comes from knowing that others believe in you. There is no investment you can make which will pay you so well as your effort to scatter sunshine and good cheer where ever you are.” – Author unknown

When you focus on the good in others, it’s much easier to interact with them positively, with a smile and good wishes. They in turn will probably do the same and the ripple effect will go way beyond that moment. So for those I’ve worked with or not, when you’re able to share a comment like “He/she never comes through…can’t trust him…….she never meets deadlines” whatever you’re about to say, remember those words will linger long beyond the conversation and others will look at the people you’re remarking about in a negative way. At the same time if you say “He’s really great at…why don’t you ask him to collaborate in this area”, or “She’s incredibly intelligent and analytical. Don’t give her deadlines but ask her to help you with research” you’ll get beyond missed deadlines because you’re speaking to strengths and helping a person grow.

When you stimulate a passion in someone else, deadlines are rarely an issue because they dive in with both feet enthusiastically. Speak to strengths, task to strengths when at all possible and focus on the good. You’ll get more of all.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome subscriber from Thailand! 'Perspectives' is honoured to now have subscribers from 34 countries

No comments: