Who Provides Your Counterbalance?
I’m a big believer that our differences position us to be successful. These things that others might describe as “weaknesses” or challenges that we faced, or still face, in our lives are often those which give us a unique ability to see the world a bit differently, perhaps see a void that needs to be filled and to ultimately have an outsized impact.
For example, I wish that I was comfortable with being gay when I was a kid, but I wasn’t. How I saw myself then was the result of a combination of things including my faith, class, gender, and so on. But my gayness led me to develop world-class compartmentalization skills.
My compartmentalization skills are amazing in those moments when life is hitting a rough spot. They usually help me to put aside negative thoughts and occurrences and be “disciplined” in sticking to tasks. When I’ve had issues with, say, professional colleagues or a sick family member, I can mostly focus on the necessary task. Simultaneously, though, I have to be careful to not use that ability to bottle up how I am feeling and ignore the underlying issues. If I fail to do so, if I over compartmentalize, then things can fester and get worse.
I’ve got a few people in my life who help me with my tendency to be single-minded and solitary when I’m working. These friends and colleagues work with me at times to provide the counterbalance I need to ask for help when I need it or step away from the computer or ignore my internal list making and have fun. Yup, I’m working through a few things. Although aren’t we all?!
Hopefully you are doing all of the things to maximize your strengths, professionally. But I also want you to think further about what you are doing to buttress your weaknesses. Let’s dig into helping you by providing you with the means to get your very own counterbalance in a few easy steps:
First, I ask you to consider what are the qualities that make life, professional or otherwise, more difficult for you? Consider the feedback you have received in work and life. What are the areas that you need to improve on? If nothing comes to mind from a last annual review or hard conversation with a colleague, friend, family member or partner, then it’s just possible no one has direct conversations with you. In which case you might want to compile a list of three or four people that you ask for feedback, about what they think are areas where you might improve in your personal or professional life. The folks you ask need to be people you respect, communicate with well and that you won’t dismiss based on your shared baggage.
Second, who are the people who can serve as your counterbalance? Given what you are seeking to improve, who do you know is best positioned to help you improve? By this I want you to consider carefully who you know who embodies doing that well and is best-suited to help you based on their availability and how they offer the kind of feedback you need.
Now, what do you need from them? What is it that they can provide you with that will enable your success? What benefits people in the form of support differs widely. Some people prefer a plan that we develop together and a consistent meeting time to discuss their progress. Others prefer support when they want it and would rather reach out as it occurs to them to chat. Some would rather have all communication via text or email. You need to consider the frequency and kind of support you need and whether the person you’ve mentioned can meet your frequency and methods of communication preferences.
After looking at this process, you might just think that I’m a bit over-methodical. And it might surprise you to hear that I do have some folks in my life who help me be just a little less structured. Your strengths are fantastic, and yet sometimes we allow ourselves to develop in ways that limit our growth in all areas of our lives.
Congratulations on considering how to improve outside your proven strengths. You will ultimately be better off for the work.
—Russ Finkelstein [linkedin.com] is the opposite of your High School Guidance Counselor. A career coach, social entrepreneur and advisor to founders, he is currently the Director of Coaching with the Roddenberry Fellowship, Coach-in-Residence with StartingBloc Fellowship and a Co-Founder of Title8 a Legal Marketplace. He was a founder of the noted careers website Idealist.org and was chosen as a Generation Z Influencer by LinkedIn.