The competency is called Manage Self. That’s important. It’s not about managing others, although I am certain we are doing that day-in-and-day-out. It is about how I manage me. What a task! Just as soon as I think I have a handle on it, BOOM, I can blow up. When I do, it’s not pretty, but more importantly, it is not helpful.
For me the starting point in manage your vulnerabilities and triggers is the word trigger. That’s the stimulus. Something happens and we are triggered. Often it’s our sensibility that has been hijacked and carried off to a distant place and held captive.
Some wound from the past causes us to shut down. In adaptive work, we know it’s important to move forward into the discomfort, to make a purposeful choice and try something different which helps us stay in the game; to test out our big assumption perhaps behind the vulnerability.
What I think we don’t teach, and should, is what we do when we are triggered and it stimulates a strength.
If something in our technical or procedural work stimulates a strength, yes, run with the ball, make the play, double down, do what needs to be done – by all means.
However, in an adaptive situation, when a trigger seems to stimulate a strength, where we are unsure, but seem to really think we could provide closure – that’s a key spot where taking a space might be the best choice.
Over the years I have solved many technical issues for many people. It has afforded me a great life. And it has created a huge dependency on me, which I now see is an enormous adaptive challenge. In adaptive work, when it’s around behavior change, culture change, something that means others will experience loss and my trigger makes me think I can solve this – I stop – take a breath – listen – and now in more and more cases, listen without fixing. Are others disappointed in me – you bet! Is it leadership? Probably so. The reason I know, is because it makes me anxious. If I stop someone’s dependence on me, I may not be needed and THAT ultimately triggers the big assumption that if I am not needed, I am not wanted.
Does this ring a bell with anyone? Of course it does, or you wouldn’t have read this far.
Another way to think of it is that certainty (which may often be the meta language of strengths) might really be getting in the way when the challenge is adaptive in nature.
So I am in recovery. I am now recognizing when my strengths are getting in the way of progress in whatever culture setting I find myself (work, family, church, non-profits). And the funny thing is (having now tested that big assumption several times) people still want me around, heck maybe even a bit more.
So, try it. Listen without fixing when you know the culture might actually evolve more if you did less.