Thinking Out Loud

Highest and Best Use

Article after article and guru after guru promise us success if we become more innovative or entrepreneurial or demonstrate more grit or allow our inner creativity to flourish or become more strategic.  The list could go on, but you get my point.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with this list and endeavoring to improve along any of these lines.

The accompanying discussion about these approaches usually includes the question: Are you born with ____ or can you develop it?  The answer is almost always that you can develop it. There is truth in that, which is encouraging, but I’m concerned that it’s not the right focus and inadvertently distracts us from another more practical and productive angle.

The question I prefer is: What are your natural talents and abilities and how can you be more effective employing them?  In other words, what are you good at?  Not only what are you good at, but what are your strongest processing modalities that drive that ability? For those of you familiar with my work, you know where this is going. The Communication Styles Framework offers more than an understanding of your communication style strengths and challenges. It also identifies the 7 processing modalities that drive your communication style, which is about how you process information (i.e., learning style).

By understanding how you process information and which processing modalities are most strongly employed, you can see how they directly relate to your strongest talents and abilities.  Here’s an example.  Noelle’s logical and visual-spatial processing skills are very strong.  Her weaker areas are auditory and kinesthetic. In her mind’s eye, she can visualize information sequentially and manipulate that sequence to see the effect on the overall process.  This isn’t something she reminds herself to do. It just occurs naturally in how she thinks and processes information.  For example, in a project development meeting, Noelle’s note taking is in the form of interconnected webs.  In that format she can account for all of the project pieces in relationship to one another, along with the sequence needed for coherence and efficiency.  When she shares her graphic representation of the project in the meeting, others can easily see her process, ask clarifying questions, and insert other ideas.  This problem-solving talent is not something that can be taught if you don’t have these strengths.

Unlike Noelle, my ability to process information logically/sequentially is weak. Do I spend time trying to develop it?  Perhaps. But why wouldn’t I rely on Noelle for that and use my natural strengths, auditory and interpersonal processing, to make a strong contribution to my workplace team?  Actually, I work at sequential processing, but if my advancement in the workplace depending on these abilities, I’d be out of luck.

So, asking people to develop more grit or creativity doesn’t usually get very far. But identifying their processing strengths and intentionally employing them will result in more engagement, productivity and satisfaction, along with creating a strong team.  In addition, I would bet there will be more grit and creativity, as well.

Tip:  Think of a time when you were very effective and had a strong sense of satisfaction.  It could be in your personal or work life.  What processing abilities did it take for you to accomplish what you did?

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