Justin has a talent for frog-catching - good thing you can't get warts from frogs!

Frogs Cause Warts and Other Myths: Debunking “Untruths” that Stand in the Way of Us Living into our Strengths

In Western culture, there is an urban myth that you can get a wart from touching a frog. If that were the case, my frog-catching son would be constantly covered in warts! So, I know from personal experience this isn’t true. It makes me wonder, however, is how did I learn this cautionary tale as a “truth”, passed on by past generations, despite the fact it’s not based in reality? In fact, I can’t even remember when and where I learned this myth, but I believed it into adulthood, or at the very least, I didn’t question it.

Isn’t this true of so many beliefs? We believe something to be the case even though we can’t remember when we first learned this fact, or even if we did, the person we learned it from has “always known it” so we can’t place the origins. So, in the workplace, when one of those beliefs is more harmful than helpful, such as that a particular colleague or supervisor is incompetent or unethical or mean, can we even place the origins to that belief, and how often do we question if that belief is still warranted? Within ourselves, those beliefs can be about the strengths and skills we’re lacking – what we’re not good at.

When beliefs are this set, we’re able to notice the “evidence” that reinforce that belief to be true rather than believe evidence to the contrary. So too when it comes to beliefs about ourselves. Chris Argryis coined the selection of what we observe of things that fit our beliefs as the “reflective loop”.

If we tell ourselves we’re not good at math, we focus on times when it’s hard, finding evidence for our belief; we ignore the times when we find some modules easier, explain this away with it being “an easy part of the course”. We put less effort into it because it’s “too hard” and we feel our time is best focused on other subjects. It becomes what psychologists call a self-fulfilling prophecy; an originally false understanding of a situation becomes true because this belief evokes a new behaviour reinforcing it. Our belief is reinforced over and over again, to the point we find ourselves with fewer choices of what career we can go into because we don’t have the math prerequisites, and justify this with assuming we wouldn’t do well if we would have to take a subject we were not good at. But what started this belief in the first place? It’s astounding how deeply rooted some of our beliefs about ourselves can become so early in our life, and not even be able to trace it back to when we first began believing it.

This is consistent with “confirmation bias”—another phenomenon with ample evidence to support it. It basically suggests that human beings have natural tendency to seek evidence to support what they believe and ignore (not purposefully but automatically) all evidence that may challenge their thinking.

What if you decided you were going to take a good hard look at what you are “not good at” or skills you “lacked”. What if you were going to consider them a myth – that in fact you did already have a degree of skill, talent or ability already. In other words, it’s not that you don’t have the skill or talent, it might be that you haven’t nurtured it as much as other skills and talents.

Of course we must always select from this vast world of experiences and stimuli what you wish to focus on. I am not suggesting you should try to become good at everything, and that all skills and talents are on the list of those to acquire. However, if there is something you need to reach your goals or are passionate about, consider, just for a while, that the myth you are not good at it is false, and you are going to find a way to prove it!

Good luck in debunking your myths and please share your post of how you have done just that!

What You Focus on Grows…Why Not Make it Strengths?

My colleagues and I are sometimes surprised when we work with groups in how little people are able to or wish to acknowledge about themselves. When we ask people to list all their strengths, they feel uncomfortable sharing these with others. Case in point when we ask people to practice a new skill, resource gossiping, which in a nutshell, is speaking positively about another person as if they were not present or when they are not present. If you were being gossiped about, we would force you to turn your back to your colleagues and listen to them describe your greatness. That’s right, we force people to listen to people talk about their talents, passions and virtues! We don’t even let people interject if they disagree with a person’s description of a strength or to downplay the extent of it! Imagine the cruelty!

So when this exercise is over, do people boo us out of the room? Quite the contrary. In the space of a few minutes, people begin to say things like:

  • I feel so good!
  • I had no idea how much my colleagues knew about me!
  • Wow, I wish I could do this every day!
  • We need to do this more often in the workplace!
  • I am going to try this at my next department meeting!

That’s a great call to action. What if we did take a few minutes out on a regular basis to tell our colleagues what was great about them? What if we were able to end each week answering affirmatively to the question: did I sufficiently let my colleagues know how much I appreciated and needed them this week?

What you focus on grows. Why not focus on possibility and potential rather than roadblocks and deficits? By focusing on what you are good at, enjoy and feel truly “you” allow you to cultivate your talents more authentically, expediting the trajectory of greatness. Yes, you can make gains by focusing on how you can improve, and we’re not suggesting you should ignore your gut or all feedback from others about what could be improved. After all, improvement is key to living into our potential. However, our experience has told us most often what’s not working is more often not living into who we truly are and our gifts rather than being lacking in something we should have or should be.

“What you value in your life increases in value.” Robin Sharma

Awkward! What not to do when starting a blog (and a few things that worked too)

I’ve been a veteran blogger for four months now, so thought I’d share what I’ve learned about blogging. It won’t be rock science, but might be helpful all the same…

1. Watch some YouTube videos on how to blog

I’m a Gex X…why do I keep forgetting that? I can’t figure out technology sans help. It would have saved a lot of frustration and hours (not to mention a few grey hairs) if I had started by researching how to use this foreign technology. If only I had watched an hour of YouTube videos first (after all, I ended up having to anyway!)

2. Not gotten so caught up in the “shiny” things about blogs

Sure, deciding whether to buy a theme or not to buy a theme is super important in the grand scheme of things, not to mention which colour palette to choose, but probably less so than the content. I think I changed the “look” of my blog about a dozen times in the first two weeks. I am pretty sure no one was more drawn to my blog because of my final selection (in fact, I can tell you from the stats they were definitely not drawn to a blog with only one post and a rapidly changing “look”). And don’t look at my blog with that “I-don’t-know-what-all-the-fuss-was-about-it-looks-pretty-plain-to-me” expression!

3. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No seriously, don’t take yourself too seriously…

Like the colour, I wanted to pick the “perfect” title and caption. Picking your URL and title is important, granted, because it’s hard to change the URL and switching your title can be confusing to followers. However, if I had to do it all over again, I would have thought of something creative, fun and inviting for my title and caption. My blog’s title is kinda serious. It’s also exactly what I want to talk about. So, I guess finding the balance requires time to sit back and think about how to best capture that balance. Unless you’re an uber serious person with an intense topic, how can your blog’s title be both accurate and fun?  Kinda like these:

Image4. Use titles that catch search engine’s attention

When people are doing a Google search, you likely want them to stumble upon your site. If you’re trying to be overly witty or unique, there’s a good chance the only people who will catch onto your blog are those who follow you already (your blog or other social media you use to promote it). Although I don’t really like the “4 Things that didn’t work…” sorta person, I thought I better figure out how to make it work if I was going to invest the time into blogging! No point in having a blog that no ones reads (otherwise I’d just talk to myself and save myself the carpal tunnel!)

 

And more importantly, the things I’d do again…

1. Write a bunch of content when I had time

Life gets busy and some weeks I barely have time or energy to write. Other times I get really excited about a topic, the writing comes easily and I seem to have more time (such as if the kids and hubby go up north). Keeping draft content ready to publish means you can always have something on the ready to just click “post” and it seems like you’re writing all the time!

2. Invite guest bloggers to share their wisdom

I think other people are way more interesting to learn from, and the wisdom of many is superior to the wisdom of one. I started asking other strengths-based leaders to answer questions that I’d find interesting and guess what? Others found their responses interesting too! Who knew that interesting people would have cool things to say?!

3. Leverage social media to promote every blog post

I get more traffic on days I promote my blog through LinkedIn Groups, Twitter and Facebook than on days I don’t. Don’t believe me? You can see the stats of what people are reading, on what days, and how they accessed your content. Plus, it makes all those people in high school that made fun of you think you’re super smart posting brilliant things all the time! Seriously though, make sense a social media tool would be best supported by another social media tool, so connect them for heaven’s sake!

 

Best advice (not that you asked) is have fun with it! It’s an extension of you – your interests, life experience and strengths, so be true to yourself and let it reflect the real you! The more you can do these things, the longer you’ll stay with your blog!

 

 

 

 

5 Great Strengths Tools and Exercises: Exploring your own and others’ strengths with intention

From self-reflection to teambuilding, here is a good list of strengths-based exercises and tools that will help you and your colleagues explore your own and each others’ strengths more deeply so you can get onto the business of honouring and leveraging them everyday! To learn more, just click on the link for a full explanation of the tool and how to use it. Enjoy!

  1. A Plate of Strengths
  2. Scaling in Action
  3. Resource Gossiping
  4. VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire
  5. Strengths Map

Don’t forget to comment what strength exercise you liked the best and any tips for us!

Exercise: Strengths Map

Do you know what your colleagues’ top strengths are? Do they know yours? If the answer is ‘no’ or ‘I’m not sure’, they try some ideas below!

Steps:

  1. Each person completes the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire
  2. Everyone shares their top 3 or so strengths. Perhaps even create a “Strengths Map”. Reflect on similarities and differences (see sample strengths map below):
Gloria Jenny Steve Ben
Bravery X X
Honesty X
Fairness X X
Perseverance X X
Humility X X
Spirituality X X X

3. Each person describes what honouring those top strengths looks like for them.

  • What do you need from your colleagues?Image
  • How will your colleagues know when they are honouring it?

Make it visual and fun – don’t just stay in your seats!

4. Describe what not honouring each top strength looks like for you.

  • What doesn’t work? How would someone take each strength for granted?
  • What behaviour would be the opposite of honouring each top strength for you?

5. Combine what people say they need (and what doesn’t work) into group rules based on common themes.

6. Post top strengths and ground rules somewhere you can easily see and access the lists. Reflect on periodically, particularly when going through a tough time as a team.

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How Resourceful is Your Gossip?

ImageWe often thing of gossip as a bad thing, and with good reason. Often it’s mean-spirited and hurtful; a passive-aggressive way to bully someone. But does it always have to be?

Not necessarily.

Gossip, without the negativity, is simply speaking about the other person when they are not there. So, theoretically, could it be positive? You bet!

Have you ever told someone how much you admired a friend or colleague when the person of your praise was not present? Have you ever said “oh, I know someone who is good at that, you should call X!” Have you relayed a story about a colleague who impressed you with your spousewhen you got home? I know I have.

My colleagues and I call scenarios like these “resource gossiping”. Not only do it do it, we in fact encourage people to do it and teach them how!

So go ahead. With your best of intentions at heart, talk freely about the great things you see, hear, and think about the greatness all around you, even with the subject is not there to hear it! I bet you will notice the greatness all around you all the more (you have to be on the look out to live the intention to share it!) You may also hear through the grapevine that someone has been talking about your strengths too!

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