Aiming Outward


Last year, my organization invested in training to help leaders focus on collaboration and become more others focused.  The workshops and resources, designed by the Arbinger Institute, inform us to become responsible for doing our own jobs well while considering the needs, objectives and challenges of others - realizing that their jobs contribute to our collective success.  

Arbinger defines mindset as the lens through which we see our work, our relationships and our world.  They identify two types of mindsets; inward and outward.  An inward mindset is self-focused; we see others as objects through which we can achieve our personal goals. On the flip-side, when looking at the world with an outward mindset, we now see others as people who matter to us and we naturally want to adjust our efforts to be helpful.

Spoiler alert - it is better to be outward than inward.  

As a Certified CliftonStrengths Coach, I have been on a parallel journey within my organization helping Team Members become aware of their unique and powerful strengths using the CliftonStrengths assessment.  This tool measures talents - our natural patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving - and categorizes them into 34 different strengths.  

If our mindset is the lens through which we frame our world, I believe that our strengths form a filter to that lens, influencing our actions and allowing us to contribute productively to the situation at hand.  

In the book, Soar with your Strengths, Don Clifton, the founder of CliftonStrengths, said that strengths develop best in response to another human being.  Scientific studies suggest that most people possess a natural inclination to be helpful - being selfish and callous requires extra effort.  It would then make sense that our strengths develop best in response to other people as we have an innate desire to be helpful and there is often great - and instant - gratification when we can realize the tangible and positive impact we are having on others.  

So, if human nature is generally good and helpful, why would anyone be inward?  Let's face it, we have all been there.  One common trigger is when we feel our identity or ego being challenged.  Our body goes into "fight or flight" mode which can lead to actions which are inappropriate to the situation and which we may later regret.  Other gateways to inward behaviors include stressful workloads and pressing deadlines.  We put our own needs and objectives above those of other people versus considering the needs of others and the collective goals of the project.   

It is helpful to reflect on times when you have been inward and list some of the triggers in writing.  When is the last time you became defensive of your work in relation to another person?  How did you feel physically and what were your immediate actions?  Think about a recent project which didn't meet your expectations (or those of your leader).  Did you blame others for less desirable outcomes?  How did your actions contribute to any failures along the project journey?  (Hint; if you think you did no wrong, you are likely being inward).  

In 2021, I encourage you to Aim Outward.  Consciously be curious about the needs, challenges and objectives of the people you work with and leverage your strengths to provide help and support as only you uniquely can.    

To Aim Outward, here are some steps to consider; 

1. Appreciate your talents.  Before you can aim your strengths outward, you need to name them and claim them. One of the best tools for this is the CliftonStrengths assessment which is based on decades of Gallup science and research.  Immediately upon completing the assessment, you’ll receive your results in a report featuring customized descriptions of your dominant strengths.  Only 1 in 33 million people will have the same Top 5 strengths in the same order as you.  Your strengths embody the unique value you can bring to your organization and to others.  

2. Ask and listen.  Build a habit of identifying the goals of your partners (co-workers and clients) and understanding their needs plus any barriers that stand in the way of their success.  This will likely require you asking them directly.  Then, really listen, making it a personal mission of yours to be intentionally helpful (sometimes that will be just by listening).   

3. Aim.  Once you are aware of the needs, challenges and objectives of your co-workers and clients, consider how you might be of value to them.  Remember, only 1 in 33 million people carry the toolkit of strengths that you do.  What actions might you take to be most helpful?  Share and idea (Ideation)? Lend a helping hand to organize or arranged a project (Discipline/Arranger)? Provide word of encouragement (Positivity)?  Volunteer to share their workload (Achiever)?  Given our strengths DNA influences the way we naturally think, feel and behave, you will automatically view the needs of others through your own filter.  

This year, collaborate with the intention of understanding the needs, objectives and challenges of others and then apply your strengths to be helpful and really make a difference.

Dan Donovan 
I am currently serving 23 years to life as the Sr. Director of Special Markets at Universal Orlando Resort.  My purpose is to deepen workplace engagement by connecting the talents of Team Members to the clients and customers they serve.  


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