"We always hope for the easy fix: the one simple change that will erase a problem in a stroke. But few things in life work this way. Instead, success requires making a hundred small steps go right -- one after another … everyone pitching in." -- Atul Gawande
It is human nature to "hope for the easy fix." But what happens when things just do not go as planned? Though it can be difficult, these times can be viewed not as hurdles, but as opportunities to use our strengths.
On a recent Theme Thursday webcast, I spoke about the power of Ideation and how I use it to productively solve problems. The more I understand about Ideation, the more I "connect the dots" and realize I use this theme to problem-solve in three distinct ways: through the proactive power of Ideation; the reactive power of Ideation; and the lifesaving power of Ideation. Don't have Ideation in your top five? Top 10? Good news! The process of using these "powers" is not theme-specific. Your strengths can help you solve problems just as effectively as mine do. Let's dive in.
Susan Del Gatto once gave this advice, "If you choose to not deal with an issue, then you give up your right of control over the issue and it will select the path of least resistance." I don't know about you, but this does not sound like a successful way to problem-solve to me!
Proactivity helps us lay a foundation for a successful outcome. Strengths-based proactivity requires preparation and practice (just like any other tool) so that you bring your best to bear. Some CliftonStrengths themes, such as Futuristic, Input or Discipline, may seem more naturally proactive than others, but all talents offer a unique proactive edge.
To be proactive, start with the end in mind. What does a successful outcome look like? How do we measure it? Work backward, noting milestones, meetings or people involved. Find the link between your natural talents and those success indicators. If you are new to the strengths journey, it could be helpful to review each of your Signature Themes' power and edge, available for download as a PDF on the CliftonStrengths website. For reference, let's examine the power and edge of Ideation:
"People with dynamic Ideation talents are spontaneously creative and bring new and fresh perspectives. They have a natural sense of innovation that defies conventional thinking. Their innovative approach to problems and projects can be a source of new and valuable ideas."
Look at all the clues I get regarding the many powers of Ideation! Which one of your top five CliftonStrengths gives you a proactive edge?
As Michael Chabon famously said, "Man makes plans… and God laughs." Nothing ever, ever, EVER goes as planned. Therefore, we must be schooled in the art of reacting well. Harnessing your strengths to respond to the unexpected is again a matter of practice and awareness of your talents. Adaptability, Ideation and Harmony are themes that overtly possess a reactive component, but also think about the power of Woo (convince others to stick to your plan!) or Maximizer ("We could do that, but here's how it minimizes excellence,") to react with power.
We all have triggers. Consider what sort of issues, relationships or environments cause you not to react well, and how you might prepare yourself to respond using your strengths. For example, one of my triggers is mediocrity. When the goal seems to be more about taking something poor to a level or average or acceptable, I would rather avoid that goal or squash it from happening at all. I work to respond appropriately by telling myself, "First, do no harm." I do not want to make a situation worse by saying something I'll regret later. Then, I let my Ideation run free to help productively change direction. Which one (or combination) of your themes gives you reactive power?
"We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them." -- Albert Einstein
When a project falls off the tracks, it is critical that you understand, trust and rely on your strengths. Some obvious natural "lifesaving" themes include Restorative, Belief and Command, but any theme has the power to save the day if you know how to use it. Look for the way in which you diffuse tension, think creatively, pivot or even ask for help. My Ideation finds a new path to the desired outcome. Think about the times you've transformed a train wreck into a safe and happy ending. What strength did you use?
I hope these prisms through which to view your natural talents help you find new ways to solve problems, appreciate your awesomeness and increase your value to the team!
Maureen Monte's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Ideation, Strategic, Learner, Achiever and Individualization.