There is a lot of talk these days about focusing people on their strengths. Certainly there’s some wisdom in that but it’s not wise to focus on apparent strengths alone.
Recently, I met an extraordinary man named Stephen Hopson. His life story made me reconsider the wisdom of focusing on apparent strengths.
Stephen is deaf and has been since birth. If Stephen had focused on his apparent strengths, what would he have become? Probably not a financial executive on Wall Street, a motivational speaker or an airplane pilot.
Hopson became all of those.
You see, out of Stephen’s journey in life emerged a drive that propelled his success despite his inability to hear others. The lesson here is that more than apparent strengths determine one’s success in work and in life. Some strengths are latent. To truly see someone’s potential we must know their journey in life and the experiences that shaped them.
Growing up with a constant challenge of communicating with others probably developed in Stephen a longing to connect. Today, he is a force for connection. Just read his blog posts where he interviewed me (click here for Part I and here for Part II) and you’ll feel the sheer energy he has for connecting. When he sent me a list of questions to answer for the interview, I was surprised and just how many were on the list. They were very thoughtful questions that I couldn’t answer quickly. I reflected on them for a while before replying. After I answered them, he followed up with more questions! The result was that Stephen learned quite a bit about me in the process and I feel more connected with him as a result.
The interaction with Stephen made me think that organizations should take a page from his playbook. Why not come up with list of questions for new employees to answer on their intranet profiles. A lot of thought would need to go into the list of questions and answering each must be optional. A Q&A of this sort will help everyone learn more about their colleagues at work. This helps increase connection.
That’s what I learned on my visit to Adversity University and connecting with Stephen Hopson.