One of the roles that came back on my StandOut assessment was Equalizer. If you’re not familiar with StandOut it’s written by the same guys who created StrengthsFinder. StandOut is different in it limits your top roles to 2 instead of 5 and tells you how to use those to stand out at work.
So as an equalizer one of the things I’m really good at is maximizing performance. I can take something that’s working or not working and make it better. I see the gaps others don’t and can close the chasm between what is real and what’s ideal.
Most of the time this serves me really well, but sometimes I focus so much on improving things I don’t allow myself to enjoy something for what it is.
Several years ago I had a volunteer on one of my teams who was really needy. They were nice and eager to help out, but she always had questions about the littlest things and had very low self-esteem. As a result I had to encourage and explain things to her a LOT.
I spent a lot of time working with her but I wasn’t sure if any of it was really paying off.
At one of our largest services we had a bunch of volunteers call off last minute. If you’ve every led a volunteer team you know how frustrating that can be.
As I was scrambling to make everything work one of our families brought their autistic son to one of our Saturday night service. We were pretty short-handed but I really wanted to make this work for them. Our service started off with a band that plays pretty loud. Most of the kids love it, but this boy didn’t because he is very sensitive to sound, which we didn’t know at the time.
So this boy runs underneath one of the tables and starts rocking back and forth screaming at the top of his lungs. Everyone stopped in that moment and turned to me to see what to do. Because we were so short-handed I was stressed and doing too many things at once. I didn’t know what to do.
Then this volunteer, the “needy” one, walks right over to the boy and calms him down almost immediately. He took to her like he never had to anyone before. She took him into the hall and spent the rest of the service going over the Bible story and taking care of him.
Seeing her in action really brought to light how far she had come. And it was a great reminder for me not to just focus on how far someone needs to go, but to see how far they’ve come.
It’s easy to see where improvements need to be made. Whether it’s with a boss whose not really dialed in to what’s going on, or a co-worker with a bad attitude, or someone who works for you but isn’t pulling their weight. We see those gaps pretty quickly and want to close them.
But people tend to listen better when they know you see how they’re getting better. And when you take the time to notice that gap you’ll find more enjoyment in the work, too.
It’s hard to make this shift in focus. I know it still is for me sometimes. But when you catch people doing things right and celebrate that there’s more initiative and freedom to make the changes that need to be made later.
Not everything needs to be corrected. Sometimes it needs to be congratulated.