Sometimes we get caught up in “shoulds” and the most dangerous ones are the “shoulds” that tell us who we should be. They go to the core of who we are and suggest that we should be something different or more than what we are. The steady hum of these thoughts can become a barrier to our leadership as our flaws, deficiencies and weaknesses become the focus of our attention.
When we enter into some new, unfamiliar territory in our life or leadership, these “shoulds” get louder. We end up striving after an ideal self as we compare ourselves to others or to the person we think we should be. It’s time for a different view . . . a different lens to view who we are and how we lead.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
How you are wired.
There is a unique way that you relate to others. You see things that other people miss. You are uniquely motivated to do different work, hobbies, or ways of interaction. You organize your world differently than others. When any of us see this uniqueness as “wrong” it keeps us from becoming the kind of leader, co-worker, friend, spouse, or parent that God (in advance) intended for us to be.
What only you can do.
When we over-focus on past failures, negative self-talk or expectations of others, we are not living from our God-given strengths. Remember, there are roles, relationships and influence in the world that are uniquely designed for you. This verse captures an important message for us in every area of our life: connecting knowing who we are with what we are called to do.
I was blessed with certain gifts and talents and God gave them to me to be the best person I can be and to have a positive impact on other people.~ Bryan Clay
Jackson was leading in the midst of uncertainty. He knew his strengths, personality, and preferences, but this new initiative ahead of him to serve clients better was putting him and his team to the test. Some of the self-doubt and even the “should be” internal dialogue was getting the better of all of them. It wasn’t enough to just know strengths, it required asking some tough questions about how he and his team were wired to thrive in this moment and focus their efforts on what was theirs to do. When they launched that journey parallel to their initiative it changed the conversations. Jackson was able to:
- Trade striving to be something more with living into his strengths
- Open his eyes to how he was naturally using his strengths every single day
- See a path to leverage his own strengths more
- Motivate his team to activate their strengths in pursuit of the team’s goals
- Understand the capacity of his team and how he might tap more fully into their potential
It’s not a magic wand. It takes work. It requires an investment over time. However, knowing your strengths and embracing the personality God designed you with silences the naysayers and critics will take a back seat. If you are not living into your strengths you might have a clouded view of how you are uniquely wired and miss out on the impact you could have. So, take your first step to do what you are wired to do.
- Take notice. Listen to the thoughts that are getting in your way. What “shoulds” are showing up in your internal conversation?
- Tune in. Put your assessments to use. Dive into old assessments or take a new one. Highlight strengths you see that you use for the critical activities in your role today.
- Pick ONE. Focus on developing one thing at a time. What is most important for your current situation? What interests you to keep developing? What do you need to succeed?
- Try it out. Practicing is the best way to grow. So, embark on an experiment to take your one thing out for a spin. Say yes to a stretch project. Approach a problem from a different angle. Trust your gut and see how it works out.