Hi, I'm Tracy, and I'm an Over-Committmentaholic

Shortly after this project was in motion I became overwhelmed with the paralyzing realization that doing this project would mean sharing some very personal stuff with strangers, and there is a pretty decent chance some of these strangers will read it. While Dave’s vulnerability and candor are a breath of fresh air to me as a reader, me as a person is terrified to emulate that behavior. I like a challenge, but now I’m wondering if I should have taken on a skydiving project instead. Seriously, at this very moment jumping out of a perfectly good plane seems less scary than talking about myself.

So, as cruel fate would have it this first chapter is all about self-awareness. I explored my strengths and weaknesses, put the FAST action steps into practice and even took a step toward being a better leader, and person.

I prefer to think

I’m good at lots of things ranging from knitting to connecting with strangers on Twitter, but one thing I’m not good at is intimacy and vulnerability. Every therapist I’ve ever had (and yes, there’s been more than one) bans me from using the word “think” somewhere in my first or second appointment. Do they send out some sort of APB on the therapist newswire? ”Tracy is emotionally crippled, MAKE her talk about feelings.”

Fortunately Dave “gets” me

He was kind enough to lead the first chapter of “The Art of People” with his own disdain for touchy-feely personality activities.  “Good job Dave, I think to myself, those are a bunch of crap.” To a small degree I can critique personality tests with some professional knowledge. My graduate studies were in cognitive psychology; specifically development, diversity, and personality.

I won’t bore you with the details, but one school of thought, the one I ascribe to, is that personality tests are a very profitable business that is flawed, and largely misunderstood and misused by the education and business community. I tend to find them as useful as horoscopes, and believe me, I don’t see any validity there.

I’m an ENFP, what’s your MBTI?

In business circles people use their Myers-Briggs type much like bar flies use their zodiac sign.

[Pickup line at bar] “I’m a Cancer, what’s your sign?”

[Conversation at networking event]  “I’m an ENFP, what’s your Meyers-Briggs type?”

“Wow, I’m an INTP, we’d be really compatible work mates.”

This sort of thing has always let me roll my eyes with smug intellectual superiority and move on.

The grain of truth

Validity of the instruments and their use aside, there is a reason why we have this cult of personality--it serves a purpose. Arguably the same purpose as the zodiac, which has been around even longer, but a valuable purpose none the less.

Human beings are meaning makers, we want to understand ourselves and each other. For most of human history we’ve created ways to do that. Personality tests are just one example, and to that end, I can’t argue against them. These are a good tool for self-awareness and reflection.

“Self-awareness is the fundamental building block of the art of people. You can’t understand and influence others until you understand yourself at a deep level.” --Dave Kerpen

Get real about who you are

So, per my self-inflicted rules for this project I completed the FAST action steps at the end of the chapter. This involved taking the Enneagram assessment at the back of the book. I scored equal parts type 2 & 3 with a score of 88 for both.

In short, Twos strive to be connected and Threes, strive to be outstanding; so apparently I need to be connected, and outstanding. I’m probably guilty as charged. The pitfalls that most closely described me included always taking a support role [pitfall of Twos] and “Yes, I’ll Do It” syndrome [pitfall of Threes].

The good, the bad, and the ugly

That toxic combination leads to one of my most embarrassing pitfalls, something I like to call “Martyrdom syndrome.” So how that works is this: In my effort to be helpful and connected I’ll do all sorts of selfless, caring, and nurturing things while saying “Yes” to pretty much everything, and downplaying my role. See I like to be outstanding, especially when it comes to being helpful, but not in the spotlight.

If anyone turns the spotlight toward me I get uncomfortable. So uncomfortable that I’ve been known to lie. More times than I can count I’ve given other people credit for something that I did. Even that seems generous, but it gets problematic eventually.

Why doesn’t anyone appreciate me?

In time this pattern of behavior always compounds to a place where I’m completely depleted. Every ounce of me will be physically and emotionally drained, and at this point I notice that no one is appreciating my efforts. (How could they since I didn’t take credit for them?) Poor little me. I’m a tireless worker and no one notices all that I do.

In my own neurotic little head I guess I’m wanting to be quietly known as outstanding, without the possible pitfalls of being in the spotlight. I’m afraid of being publicly judged or criticized, and so I’d like to be privately valued and respected, without the risk of public humiliation. Too bad reality doesn’t work like that.

My three weaknesses

This is the part where this blog hurts--I have to own the ugly stuff and share it with all of you. Per the FAST action steps I had to identify three people related weaknesses and also solutions for those weaknesses.

Weaknesses

  1. “Yes I’ll do it” syndrome

  2. I never really stop working and relax

  3. Martyrdom syndrome

Solutions

“Yes, I’ll do it”

  • Start with saying yes less often. Determine what matters most and put my energy there.

  • Delegate. After all, other people can be helpful too.

  • Connect people. Why not use one of my core strengths to offset this weakness? Instead of saying yes, I can say, “You know who you should ask?” And provide a meaningful connection.

Working too much

  • Leave it at the office--It’s hard to do work when you don’t take it home.

  • Read fiction and go to book club (reading isn’t really a relaxation activity if the book is for work)

  • Play more legos with my kids (or whatever else they are into on a given day)

Martyrdom

  • Stop devaluing my own contribution--it’s okay to take credit for work I do.

  • Reign in the over-commitment (see #1)

  • Focus on gratitude. The cure for ingratitude is always gratitude. I need to write more thank you notes.

Leveraging my strengths

Yet another awkward topic for me, but darn it, it’s a FAST action step. Talking about my strengths feels arrogant, or maybe makes me afraid of being judged as such. According to The Art of People Quiz my strength is being a People Connector. That is pretty consistent with the Enneagram results, and my own experience, so we’ll run with it.

I’m proud to report that I did recently leverage this strength to overcome my “Yes I’ll do it” syndrome in a very positive way.

FAST action steps in practice

I really love helping nonprofits and I seldom say no to requests for my time, money, or expertise. Recently a nonprofit I work with began planning a fundraising event and no one was volunteering to chair it. In the past I would have stepped up, but this time I leveraged my strengths and connected someone new to the nonprofit.

Earlier this year I hired a local event planner to help with my friend’s 50th birthday party and she did a great job. Knowing that she is trying to grow her business it occurred to me that this event would be a great opportunity for her to make some valuable contacts, and she would do a far better job planning the event anyway. I’m pleased to report that I didn’t over-commit, and the outcome is far better for everyone, including the nonprofit.

Results

So far this little experiment is going well, but clearly it can’t be an isolated project I do for one week to write a blog post. If I learned anything in graduate school I know to end this with the following statement: given the limitations of the study this topic requires further research.

Join me!

Want to embark on your own #ArtOfPeopleProject? Pick up the book and then feel free to follow along and comment here. You can subscribe to the blog via email list or RSS feed.

I’m @GrazianiTJ on Twitter and I’ll be using the hashtag #ArtOfPeopleProject, I’d love to hear how your #ArtOfPeopleProject is going.