I’m really lucky to work in an office with three lovely ladies I get along with so well. We chat, we vent, we motivate each other with our goals and we get together at lunchtime to watch British TV on our computers. They’ve become great friends, and yesterday, I was chatting with one of them about the idea of playing to your strengths versus feeling the need to prove yourself.
Our organization is really great for putting people in roles they’re best suited for; I quickly moved into a position where I’m in charge of creating and booking all advertising and marketing material, as well as doing a fair bit of writing, whether for radio scripts, our website or people’s resumes. I enjoy all these tasks, and after our “achieve your dreams” –themed retreat last year, I told my boss I wanted to challenge myself and start teaching.
My wish was granted – the thought absolutely terrified me, but I was on a mission to overcome my anxiety and push myself out of my comfort zone. I wanted to get my confidence back and stop being afraid. So I was given one class every week. These people saw past the fear and doubt and trusted me to develop a curriculum and actually deliver the information to people. I’ve been doing it for a few months now, and yes, it’s become easier – I no longer get butterflies if I have to speak up in a meeting, and I can go into my little classroom and feel comfortable presenting my information, because I’ve had practice, and I remind myself I’m here to help these people. I’m leaps and bounds from where I was, and I’m incredibly grateful to have been given the opportunity to grow.
But yesterday I came to a realisation. I had to give a presentation to a much larger group – and not just students, but other service providers. Really Important People from across the province were coming to learn about what we did, and it was my job to represent us well. I totally freaked out. There were going to be twice the number of people I was used to, and the information wasn’t something I knew inside and out. They weren’t coming in wearing jeans and hoodies, they were coming in wearing suits, armed with sophisticated haircuts and business cards. This wasn’t my own little room, it was a big intimidating boardroom. I was so far out of my comfort zone I panicked – and ended up asking someone else to do it. For the first time in months I hit something too difficult. All I’ve done so far in overcoming my anxiety has been little steps; small victories that have left me feeling that little bit more confident. But this I couldn’t do.
My current position is a term one that’s supposed to end in March, and the original plan was for me to go back to reception. My thoughts: not going to happen. Not to toot my own horn, but I can do a heck of a lot more than answer phones and make photocopies. On top of the issue with the ergonomic factors and the back stuff I need to do throughout the day, I can’t do it. So a few weeks ago, my wonderful boss and I had a little chat about The Future, and she told me, as long as we get funding (we’re a government-funded non-profit), there will most likely be a new position I can go into, involving all the same advertising and marketing stuff I’m doing now, as well as “more facilitation”.
Yesterday, this got to me. I’m incredibly grateful for everything they’ve done for me here, and I feel like since I asked for the opportunity to facilitate in the first place, I couldn’t really say I couldn’t do it. They’re making a whole new position for me! What sort of ungrateful cow would I be if I said I couldn’t do it?! But I got thinking about the idea of putting people in roles that play to their strengths. I’ve tried teaching, and though I’ve got a little bit better, it’s definitely not a strength. I don’t think I’ll ever develop a love for being in the spotlight in front of people, and I don’t want to go to a job stressing out and being afraid to step into a classroom every day. The experience has helped me immensely in terms of becoming more confident and less afraid, but it’s not a strength. My strengths are in behind-the-scenes stuff. I’m quietly opinionated and creative. I love to write, and I love to design. I could type for England. I thrive in the sort of role I have now. But I had to decide what was more important to me – proving to myself and the company that I was fully capable of being a facilitator (and forever being uncomfortable), or playing to my strengths?
They say if you put someone in a position that doesn’t involve an inherent strength, they can learn – but they’ll never do as well as somebody who’s naturally good at it. But if you put that person in a position that plays to their natural talents, they’ll excel. A few months ago I heard this, and started questioning why I wanted to facilitate in the first place. I think it was to put myself out of my comfort zone, and prove to myself I could do something I wanted to be able to so badly. But it hasn’t developed into something I’m good at, and yesterday, my coworker and I were chatting about the importance of playing to your strengths versus proving yourself.
I started to worry, and had to email my boss asking what was meant by “more” facilitation. What if it meant more people? Bigger classes, bigger chances to fail?? Maybe it meant “more often”. I could deal with that – small groups, a few more times in the week would be okay. I went home worrying about what I’d got myself into, and arrived back at the office in the morning to find an email from my boss.
“Facilitation would be a small part of the position – and it would just be more small groups similar to what you’re doing now. Don’t even THINK about work on your vacation!!!!”
So it looks like I’m going to get to keep the majority of my position – and the scary part doesn’t seem quite so scary after all. If anything, it’s another small step in moving forward. And it’s just the relief I needed before heading off next week.