I often have the hunch that I was hired onto the Convergence team as a bit of a wildcard. I work in a field of practical, logical, intellectual, highly organized, data-driven people. Decisions are systematic and processes are thoroughly vetted. My traits, on the other hand, are a bit more ethereal; I have an active mind that flutters from one idea to the next. I tend towards flexibility and spontaneity. I prefer a free-flowing environment where I can make a mess of things in order to arrive at a solution. I am impulsive and eager. As you can imagine, the dissonance between my work style and that of my colleagues fosters the potential for conflicts and misunderstandings. At times, I have found myself fretting; that my differences may be more of a liability than an asset.
Fortunately for me, the Convergence team recognizes the value of diversity in the workplace. Many of our leadership programs begin with a Myers Briggs personality assessment, with the intent of bringing awareness to the unique internal composition of each participant. Through our work with clients and one another, we participate in frequent discussions about how individual differences can benefit teams as a whole. Ours is a feedback-rich culture that champions individual gifts but also recognizes the potential for pitfalls.
Coming from a corporate background, I used to feel the need to present myself in a particular way; to fit the mold modeled by the high performers around me. As you can imagine, the result of conforming, forcing and pretending left me feeling resentful, out of place and, to be frank, as a failure at times. I felt the people around me were wired differently; that I probably would never feel deeply fulfilled in a professional environment.
Forward to my introduction to ConvergenceCoaching’s co-founder, Jennifer Wilson, who believes there are no coincidences; I am now working in an environment that embraces this contrast within teams. Since being hired just over a year ago, my role with Convergence has changed quite a bit, as leadership learns more about my strengths and assigns me to the kind of work where those qualities can be advantageous to our organization. I started in my position with more administrative tasks and now find myself with more dynamic and creative projects, such as launching and producing our Inspired Ideas Podcast. As my team rallies behind me to support my recent undertakings, I have been reminded of how we are different. Though I am working closer to my skill set now, I can again see where I need to stretch myself to be successful when structure and order are so necessary.
Throughout my professional life, an insidious opponent has held me back from offering my gifts at work. You're probably familiar too; Its name is Resistance. We tend to either pull away from what feels true for ourselves or we pull away from what others tell us is the truth, especially when we don't like what they're saying. When I’m feeling dragged down by resistance, I like to pick up The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, where he dives deep into this inclination of ours to neglect our need for growth and expression in our work, whatever our work may be;
“Resistance is not a peripheral opponent. Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. Resistance is the enemy within.”
So, an essential step to breaking out of our self-imposed limitations is to stop resisting. Take ownership. You must have an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, one that is not colored by how you think you should be. Bring yourself fully to your work. How can your unique qualities benefit your team? Where could they be hazardous? I may be excellent at brainstorming or creative endeavors, but if a task calls for an eye to detail, I should probably collaborate with a team member who has stronger analytical qualities. Embrace your own unique qualities and those of your teammates. Challenge the urge to isolate yourself from your team because of your differences. Seek work where you feel you can provide the greatest contribution.
Let your strengths be loud in your work but allow your shortcomings to guide you on your path to professional growth. How dull life would be if everything were stagnant. Do you have a tendency or characteristic that you’re self-conscious about in your work? Push back against it. I may not naturally be a strategic thinker, but I can seek counsel from those that are and cherry-pick ideas to improve my own processes. Despite variances, remember that there is something to learn from everyone you interact with. Don’t let yourself grow rigid and stubborn.
Seek frequent feedback and do so with an open mind and heart. Feedback is never easy. We give our best and hope that it’s enough, but we all make mistakes and have blind spots and areas for improvement. Make your professional growth a labor of love. How can you increase your efficiency, productivity, contributions and impact? Find moments to stop taking yourself so seriously and remember that growth, change, connection and collaboration are what life is all about. Treasure this hand you’ve been dealt, hold on to your best cards and keep playing the game. Remember you can always improve your hand.
You can do more at work than co-exist. Where do your gifts lie? Are you holding on to parts of yourself that could benefit your team in a distinct way? What can you learn from your colleagues? How can you thrive as a unique and valuable member of your organization, leading others to do the same? Leave us a comment below. We’d love to hear more about how your individual gifts show up in the workplace!