Ok, so I drafted a nice, safe, well crafted post that kept my real feelings at a distance and made for much more palatable reading…and then deleted it. I’ll risk sounding like a whiner and be more honest.
Today I pulled a book off my shelf that had been sitting there since a friend recommended it. I pulled it off the shelf, because I am realizing that I have to make some decisions. Try as I might, I cannot do it all. I feel pulled in too many directions, unable to feel like I am succeeding at anything. The book, Now, Discover Your Strengths, promises to help “develop your unique talents and strengthsâ€“and those of the people you manage.”
“At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best everyday?” When the authors asked that question, and got a yes, they found people fulfilled in their work. The found the business units they worked in were demonstrably more productive, had better customer service, and had far less employee turnover. But, of course, only 20% of the people they asked said yes.
Their thesis? “Most organizations are built on two flawed assumptions about people: 1. Each person can learn to be competent in almost anything. 2. Each person’s greatest room for growth is in his or her areas of greatest weakness.” This is why people often get promoted one step higher than their level of competence. This is why we are constantly working on our trouble areas, why we are trying to be well rounded people. It begins with high schoolers needing extracurricular stuff and service experience in addition to good grades, and continues to adulthood with policy manuals and training seminars and self help books.
I wonder if I’m one of the faces to the statistic of someone being promoted one step higher than their level of competence.
This is not a plug for affirmation. Don’t send me an e-mail or call me or worry about me. I’m just back again to one of my fundamental life questions: am I primarily a communicator (preacher/teacher/writer) or a leader (and if so, what kind of leader?)? And what if I answer that question in a particular way that is incompatible with my current position? To what degree does a pastor have the freedom to say, “This is who I am and what my strengths are, and I don’t care what your expectations for me and the role are”? To what degree am I responsible to live into the needs of the community I am a part of?
I think the book may give some help in this journey. For starters, I’ve already read some helpful examples of people who carefully defined their strengths, identified weaknesses, and created a structure that allowed them to live mostly within their areas of strength. And I realize that what they say is true: we don’t have particularly good language for defining strengths or talents. “Good people skills”, for instance, is way too broad of a category. They claim to have identified 34 core strengths or themes, and have a test to help you find your top 5. I’ll let you know later if I think they succeeded with their claim in my case.