It’s funny to think about the “old” me – running around in this sheep’s costume. It’s actually more distressing than funny. And it’s distressing because not only was I wearing a costume, I was also convinced that I actually was a sheep, not a wolf.
Obviously, I’m neither a sheep nor a wolf, but this is the metaphor I use when I try to explain the “old” me. I frequently talk to groups about the benefits of taking the StrengthsFinder assessment. It’s an easy topic for me to expound on because the results of my own assessment were both shocking and completely accurate. Although they surprised me immensely, I found that once I was able to digest the information and think objectively about how these results could be used to my benefit, I was both heartened and relieved. I could take the sheep’s costume off and just be me.
The results came as a big shock because I thought I had nothing left to learn about myself. I’m someone who leans toward introspection and, what’s more, as an organizational development professional, I’d taken more than my fair share of assessments over the years. But the StrengthsFinder results were different from these other assessments whose findings seemed to be generic personality-related platitudes. In sharp contrast to what I had experienced in the past, the StrengthsFinder results hit the nail on the head.
My results indicated that I have the following ‘Top 5″ themes: Competition, Maximizer, Achiever, Activator, Significance. It was the first one, Competition, that really threw me at first. And that’s because I had eschewed this trait for about the last twenty years. Since completing graduate school, I had suppressed my competitiveness, since I feared being highly competitive in the workforce and in my personal life would ostracize me from the world. No woman needs to read “Lean In” to recognize that highly competitive women are usually seen as friendless backstabbers. I certainly didn’t want to be associated with that image! I wanted friends and feelings of goodwill from others. So, that’s why I metaphorically “zipped” myself into the sheep’s costume every day. I wanted others to see me as a kind and compassionate person. I wanted to be a relationship builder and a confidant. I disavowed my competitive (and wolf-like) tendencies. But they were still there.
Once I learned the StrengthsFinder’s definition of competition, I was able to slowly accept that this descriptor accurately captured and explained a driving force inside of me. The need for constant feedback, the desire to measure my progress and then to compare my progress with others are examples of what it REALLY means to be highly competitive. Realizing that I am highly competitive has allowed me to push myself to new limits. For example, in the past I might have shied away from win-lose situations because “I didn’t really care.” Now, I dive right into win-lose competitions head-first. I own the fact that I want to win and am, therefore, more likely to have a positive outcome.
As a Gallup-Certified StrengthsFinder coach, I use this “wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing” story to relate to individuals and groups about the power I found once I started tapping into my strengths. As a coach, I help others find their own source of power and work with them to tap into it daily. Incredibly, the things that surprise us most may be right under our noses. Contact me if you suspect that you’ve been suppressing or dressing up a piece of yourself to make yourself more accepted. I can tell you from personal experience that there’s a whole world out there that you may be missing.