Measuring Up - Embracing the Mahogany and Marble

I recently found myself waiting in the lobby of a beautiful office building. Mahogany furniture, marble flooring, and gaze-worthy chandeliers combined to make up one of the most beautiful and paralysis-inducing environments I had found myself in since beginning my business. That relentless thumping…was that the air conditioner? Surely not in a beautiful building such as this. Oh wait, no. That’s my chest.

I was about to present a coaching proposal to one of my biggest clients to date, both in size and prestige. And as I waited for a representative to call me in, I could begin to feel the slow approach of that debilitating old acquaintance – the impostor. What was I thinking? I’m just a tiny one-person business; do I really think I have what it takes to compete with large consultant companies?

When we begin comparing ourselves to others (whether “others” are colleagues or competitors), what is the standard for measurement? Measuring up requires us to have an equitable level of knowledge and materials, but I’m not sure that’s usually the source of our self-doubt. In this case, I had my perfectly planned proposal and was confident in my knowledge of Strengths coaching and employee engagement. The root of my self-doubt wasn’t the what; it was the how.

As I waited to be called, I began building an image in my head of how I thought my presentation should be conducted – marble flooring and mahogany furniture meant minimized personality and maximized professionalism.  While that approach might be successful for some, it’s not for me. I’ve had my fair share of imitation attempts – trying to perform at work in the style of a colleague and expecting the same results. But the outcome was always the same. If imitated, my performance never measured up to others because I wasn’t in my strengths zone.

You will not be successful trying to emulate someone else’s strengths.


The reason that colleague or competitor appears successful is because she is more than likely working within her strengths set. It’s an empowering, motivating place that sets the stage for great confidence.  We have all been given an incredibly unique set of strengths, and when we begin tapping into our talents, we start achieving a level of success that cannot be attained trying to be someone else.

There are several steps that you can take to begin channeling YOUR strengths zone:

Identifying Your Strengths   It is no secret that I’m a big believer in Gallup’s CliftonStrengths assessment. I believe in the research – the likelihood of someone having your same Top 5 Strengths in order is 1 in 33 million, which means there’s only one you. Knowing your strengths is a very important step, as it allows you to easily identify why you’ve been successful in certain situations in the past.  While there are a wide variety of personality based assessments, Gallup, Inc. has mastered the individuality and uniqueness of us all. {And the good news is…you don’t need a coach to take the assessment!}

Adopt Your Strengths   Once you have identified your strengths, look back at your most successful moments in the past. How did your strengths play into those moments? If you’re a Relator®, maybe you presented a new idea to a small, more intimate group, and that allowed you to connect with those individuals more authentically? If you’re an Analytical®, maybe your presentation was rooted in concrete data, and those proven facts gave you greater confidence in how and what you communicated to others? Whatever the situation, if you felt more confident and comfortable, you were right in the middle of your strengths zone, even if you didn’t know it at that moment.

Apply Your Strengths   Now, let’s look forward. You know your strengths and have identified how they helped you feel confident in the past. It’s time to apply your strengths to current moments of inadequacy. In my personal example above, I could have tapped my Learner® and Input® strengths. Perhaps I could have asked the lobby receptionist about the history of the building – is the mahogany original, did they install all of this marble at once? The more I learn about my surroundings, the more comfortable I become. And then that ugly impostor feeling begins to diminish, allowing me to work within that empowering strengths zone.

Embrace that mahogany and marble. You already have the talents; it’s time to identify, adopt, and apply them.