“I don’t need you to think.”
Imagine a boss telling her employee, “I don’t need you to think. I need you to execute.” Unfortunately, I don’t need to imagine this scenario to understand how demoralizing it can be, because I’ve had this exact experience.
Being wired the way I am naturally wired, my immediate response was … more thinking, of course!
I thought about the context of the situation, and about my part. At the time, we were faced with a serious problem and my role in the project was significant. I spent time reflecting on what I might have done differently.
After a while my CliftonStrengths (StrengthsFinder) training kicked in, and my thought process pivoted. With the flick of a switch, the light clicked on. A different thought path emerged and I started to think about the CliftonStrengths philosophy.
Donald Clifton asked long ago, “What will happen when we think about what is right with people rather than fixating on what is wrong with them?”
It’s easy to think about what is right with people when we are at a kumbaya teambuilding session, or when people are doing great things and the team is experiencing great success. It’s not so easy to think about what’s right with someone when they make a mistake, or when one of our emotions gets triggered, or when the situation seems hopeless.
I detached from my emotions long enough to think about what Strengths my boss was trying to bring to the table. Instead of my fixating on where she was wrong with her hurtful statement (and it was hurtful), I tried so hard to walk my StrengthsFinder talk and fixate on what she was doing right.
Her natural wiring is predominantly that of doing, not thinking. I knew this because we each had awareness of our CliftonStrength themes. The themes are classified as being one of: “thinking,” “doing,” “relating with others,” or “influencing.”
My boss wanted to bring “doing” to the table because that is what worked for her so successfully in the past. And in the end, she was wanting team success. I believe this in my heart of hearts.
Since I was the one that was trained in the CliftonStrengths philosophy of thinking about what is right with others, that activity fell to me to focus on. I knew that at my core I was a “thinker” and that in fact, I needed to do more thinking and not less. The way I get things done is that I think it through first, and then I execute. I think before I do, and I need that processing time. I came to realize that I needed to do different thinking, for certain, but not less of it.
In the end, my thinking became a saving grace for me and, ultimately, my boss and the team.
I recently heard a story where a different employee was told that very same thing at a different company and by a different boss.
“I don’t need you to think.”
I asked you earlier to imagine this scenario, but we don’t need to imagine it. It happens, and it’s disempowering.
With CliftonStrengths, and by fixating on what’s right with people, we can change this story.