Dominoes Episode Seventeen

Charley wanted the interns to begin thinking about the personal traits that were needed to be a difference maker. He realized that this would be a challenge. He didn’t want to come across as someone who was lecturing them. What he wanted instead was for them to discover the traits for themselves. He also expected that they would learn from their own insights.

“Guys, I’m going to challenge you today to think of the personal traits that difference makers have. I have a couple of cautions to warn you about. First, don’t prejudge yourself as these traits unfold. They are developing and I’m confident that each of you have the ability to develop the traits necessary to be a difference maker. Second, don’t think of these traits from a 0-1 perspective. They are continuous which you will need to develop every day.”

“Let’s start with STORY FRAMING. What traits are necessary for this phase in the difference making process? Take a few minutes and write down what you think these traits are.”

The interns started writing down their ideas. At first they struggled, and suddenly there seemed to be a flurry of writing.

When the writing had died down, Charley asked for the traits they had recorded. He wrote these on a board without comment. After some consolidation, the list of traits was reduced to:

  • Story telling (written) ● awareness
  • Story telling (oral)     ● imaging
  • creativity                   ● empathy
  • observing                  ● listening

Charley was impressed with their traits but wanted them to think of them in more depth. He asked: “What outcome do we want to achieve by our story framing?” The interns struggled with this because they wanted to describe the outcome as an end product of the change effort. What Charley was looking for was the end product of just the story framing phase of the process.

Finally, Joyce helped make the breakthrough in their thinking: “We want to create images of the problem we are trying to confront.” It was like a sudden lifting of the fog on their understanding.

Next, Charley asked them to think of their traits as skills and aptitude. “A skill is something you learn to do”, Charley explained. “An aptitude is something you possess as a human trait. Which of the traits on the board are skills and which are aptitudes?”

Again the interns struggled. It was hard to decide what could be learned and what is part of who you are. Eventually they came to a sense of the distinction and put the traits into three categories:

Skills                                                   Aptitudes                                Both
Story Telling (written)                          Empathy                                Creativity

Story Telling (oral)                               Awareness                             Observing

Imaging                                                                                              Listening

Those traits listed as both were ones interns thought were natural to some people but could also be developed. Charley valued how their thinking was evolving. This discussion made him wonder how he would nurture each of these traits. He began to realize that he had his own making a difference challenge ahead of him.

“Great work”, Charley commented. “That’s it for now, but let’s reconvene this afternoon and do a similar analysis of scaffolding traits. What I want you to do now is to revisit your personality trait and see how it aligns with the traits we just developed. I think you will find both strengths and challenges in the development of these traits.”

* * *

“Self-awareness is a trait – or maybe ‘practice’ is the more accurate way to put it – that everyone can always improve at. It is part emotional intelligence, part perceptiveness, part critical thinking. It means knowing your weakness, of course, but it also means knowing your strengths and what motivates you.”– Neal Blumenthal (Author)

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