Sara started the conversation by saying “I was just fired, but I don’t know why. I was meeting the numbers, getting the job done, and people were impressed with my results.” After a few coaching sessions, Sara began addressing the brutal facts that brought her career to a halt. She was a top performer with an “if-you-don’t-get-out-of-my-way-I’ll-run-you-over” attitude. She thought of herself as competitive, but others saw her cut-throat. She had convinced herself that results mattered and personal relationships didn’t. She was wrong and she decided to start the painful process of getting honest, rediscovering her strengths, and addressing her “shadow behaviors.”
We began by listing Sara’s strengths. She filled up a sheet of paper and identified the following as her top five strengths: Assertive, Results-focused, Initiator, Logical, and Competitive. We agreed that these are exceptional skills and strengths for someone in her field of consulting. Next, I asked Sara to write down what would happen if she took each strength to an extreme or over-extended it. Her list now reflected the following: Assertive=Bitchy, Results-focused=Cut throat, Initiator=Domineering, Logical=Unconcerned with emotions, and Competitive=Win-lose. After reviewing the sheet, Sara realized that she had lost control of her strengths and had let them turn into what we call “shadow behaviors.” These behaviors are the flip side of our strengths and often cast a shadow or generate a negative perception.
After a few months of working together, Sara made tremendous progress and began embracing her shadow behaviors. She learned that since these “shadows” are directly tied to strengths, they never quite go away. So she focused on communicating more effectively about them instead. She also discovered that by accepting and embracing her “shadows”, they become less powerful. Today, she is a top performing consultant recognized for her self-awareness and is appreciated for her strengths. Last time we spoke she said that a colleague gave her a great compliment when he said “Sara, you drive me crazy when you get into result-producing mode, but I respect your approach and communication style. I feel comfortable calling you on it when you begin to over-focus on results.”