A Light Touch

“Sometimes the prize is not worth the costs. The means by which we achieve victory are as important as the victory itself.” Brandon Sanderson



I had just wrapped up a meeting where I had engaged in an epic battle of wills with a colleague. There were only a handful of people in the room discussing a strategic move, and only two of us had huge opinions on which direction to take. I argued my point up one side of the room and down another. I hammered my points and counterpoints relentlessly and ultimately "won," convincing the room to move in my direction.

Feeling flushed with pride and elated that my voice prevailed, I walked out of the meeting and edged next to the executive who was making the decision, hopeing to bask in my success a little while longer.

"That went well!" I said, thinking he'd quickly agree.

"Well, I think we made the right decision," he paused, and suddenly I wasn't as confident. His next statement left a mark...

"You know Joy, your career would benefit if you could figure out when to use a light touch."

I didn't know what to say (a rarity, for sure!), and he only gave me one more sentence: "Your argument was solid, but your style was stronger than needed."

This incident happened maybe five years post college, and, unfortunately, it's a lesson I continue to learn today. I'm rarely (as in never) accused of having "a light touch." My strengths fall more in the arguing side of the spectrum. And, like any strength, when I overuse my argumentative skills, it turns into a weakness.

We're all susceptible to this phenomenon.

Maybe you're gifted at analytics, but you struggle making decisions in an "inconclusive" environment. Perhaps you're terrific at keeping the peace, but you avoid necessary conflict. Or you could be a activator who is quick to move, but who often leaves without the rest of the team on board.

Do you know what your issue is? If you're not getting constructive criticism at a regular clip, try getting at the issue through the back door. Ask someone to describe what you do well. Ask questions and listen quickly. Then ask the same person if they ever see you overuse your strength. The feedback could lead you into a new, productive self-awareness.

And awareness is always the first step to growth and change and, in my case, maybe a lighter touch.