Acknowledgement, Another Reason Why It’s Worth It

A few months ago, I read a blog post by one of my clients, ThinkerforHire, that floored me. I’ve always loved her smart, spirited view and playful weave of deep intellect and shallow culture.  Her “Ray Bradbury (Wine Made From Weeds)” tribute had the same polish and pique, but she’d zipped it together in 15 minutes after hearing of Mr. Bradbury’s death. I spend 15 minutes booting my laptop and making tea.

I was so inspired, I had to comment:

Dang girl, I’ve always loved your smart sass, relevance and concise style. Today, the fact that you just whipped out something so complete awed me. I know many people who call themselves writers because they have blogs, share ideas or hang out a lot w other writers.  But you are the real deal and I love how your excellence inspires me 🙂

Drawing on my best coach-like acknowledgement skills, I made sure to share not only:

a. what, specifically, she had done, but

b. what it was about her that made it possible.

(Yes, it takes a bit longer to craft that type of feedback, but it’s so much more meaningful to the recipient than a thumbs up and “hey, nice job!” The other person feels special, and knows that you really get who they are.)

Here’s what Elizabeth, my blogging inspiration, responded:

Cindy, thank you. This note is so wonderful!!! It means a great deal to me… I was really pleased! Especially the “real deal” part.

I loved that my words gave her that, and I benefited from the acknowledgement as well. By sharing what I appreciated about her, I actually clarified my own values and aspirations around timely, richly-detailed yet concise, smart writing.


Ever Hear “You’re Too…?” (intense, emotional, hard-driving, idealistic, etc.)

Ouch! This feedback strikes at a gut level. It may be surprising that what you consider normal is perceived by others as extreme. This disconnect occurs when your unique qualities manifest with more intensity than that of the average person. The irony is that you feel criticized for something fundamental to your success! People with this “too” intensity hear things like:

  • You’re too much of a perfectionist; you can’t expect us to keep up.
  • You’re too goal-oriented; you only care about results, not people.
  • You’re too busy; you never have time for friends or family.

Ignoring these perceptions can restrict your career options, as well as personal relationships. The challenge is pausing long enough to recognize your current impact and identify your desired one.

Take Chris for example, who earned a critical role based on superb attention to detail, great intelligence and unparalleled dedication. This intensity, however, yielded an unanticipated result. Chris’ “efficient” directness was perceived as condescending, and colleagues worried about getting on Chris’ “bad side.” People said Chris was too task-oriented and too fast-paced. There was also significant personal impact. As the workday grew longer and longer, there was less attention to family, individual rejuvenation and personal health, which was suffering.

Like Chris, you may wrestle with this internal tug of war. On one side stand the “too” qualities that you have come to rely on. Staring back is your unintended, limiting impact. So how do you integrate this feedback while remaining true to yourself? You may even wonder “Why bother? Things have gone okay so far.”

Work through the following five steps to find out. After all, “okay so far” just doesn’t cut it for the intense, passionate “too-something” person.

 1. Take Inventory

Find some blank paper and uninterrupted time. Record your responses to the following:

  • List five influential people in your life right now. They would say I am “too ____________.”
  • In what other ways are you “too” something?

2. Look at Your Present Impact

It’s not often that we genuinely assess how our way of moving through life affects those around us and, ultimately, ourselves. Go beyond the quick, obvious answer and search for the most honest response.

  • How does being “too” something help you succeed?
  • How does it get in the way?

These observations offer the “You Are Here” point on the journey to creating your most desired impact.

3. Define Your Desired Impact

What does “impact” mean to you? Consider the ripple effect of everything you do, say, don’t do or don’t say. Think in terms of your effect on others, your environment and yourself. The results may be expected and hoped for, or unanticipated and undesirable. The following questions will help clarify what you want to generate from here forward.

  • How would you like to be described by your peers? Superiors? Subordinates?
  • Ideally, what would your family/friends say is special about you?
  • When will you be successful?
  • What legacy would be most satisfying?

4. Discover the Gaps

Notice the space between your current and desired impact. In this step, you will outline some possible strategies for narrowing that gap. For the moment, ignore practicalities and shake off any sense of “rules.” Let all sorts of ideas mingle on the same page. What possibilities emerge when you consider:

  • What are the easy options?
  • How could I challenge myself?
  • What strategies would the five most influential people in my life offer? (To crank it up a notch, go ask them!)
  • What could I start today?

You now have a list of possible options. Among them is the potential for sharing your talents more effectively. Don’t squelch your “too” talent; just use it with greater awareness and precision.

5. Bridge the Gap

Review your list from Step 4. Ask “Which option(s) would be most effective?” Pick a few that you are willing to commit to. To help you succeed, address the following:

  • When will you begin?
  • How will you evaluate this strategy?
  • Who can support your efforts?
  • What is your truest motivation for persevering?
  • How will you hold yourself accountable?

Through this process, you will boost your self-awareness and sense of personal leadership. Chris dramatically shifted peer perceptions, created a richer life outside of work and addressed serious health issues. By calibrating your style, you will find greater ease in your interactions and more support for your vision.

(Originally published September 2004 but still relevant!)


One Option for Overwhelm – Be Bigger

During dinner, my 12 year old was unnervingly quiet.  We asked what she was thinking, expecting some girl-drama tale of woe.  Instead she somberly reeled off facts and figures about rain forest destruction.  Tears welled up as she mentioned the number of species lost just since we sat down to eat. 

Apparently, a guest speaker from EcoCycle did an excellent job conveying a sense of urgency about environmental concerns.  My daughter’s big take away, however, was to do more recycling.  She knew that just wasn’t enough and slumped at the table – a hopeless, defeated shell.

I was pretty frustrated.  How could they stir up my kid without offering more substantial ideas for affecting change?  On an intuitive level, she sensed that her energy and concern exceeded the resources, conceptual understanding, and influence required to tackle an issue of this magnitude.  I couldn’t fault her paralysis.  Most “grown ups” look away, feeling the environmental train has left the station and there’s not a way to call it back.  

Good thing the world is full of undaunted twentysomethings!  They have passion and smarts undampened by the cynicism that sometimes piles up with the birthdays.  Lily, daughter of my dear friend/colleague Viriginia, is my most current breath of fresh air.

Ironically, on the day my daughter felt overwhelmed, I received an email from Lily announcing the International English Minga which she created to help save a corner of the rainforest. Check out her 10 minute video to learn about this innovative sustainability project.  You’ll also get a boost of inspiration from watching her unfettered enthusiasm and commitment.



It Wasn’t a Fluke: Team Steadman Really Is That Good

After the post about my titanium plate, I bet a few cynics thought I was painting a too-rosy picture of the Steadmen Clinic courtesy of the percocet.

I assume this gives me super powers; I just haven’t figured out what they are yet.


Well I’m long off the percocet and the Idyllic Healthcare Experience continues.

At my first follow up visit, I saw Dr. Viola and crew at his Frisco office.  It was the same calm competence and patient focus.  They even have nice snacks in the waiting room, acknowledging that often orthopedists can run late.  Everyone shows genuine interest in my well-being, and let’s be honest; my fractured wrist is pretty tame in their world.  It’d be easy to pass me off and spend their energy on the more critical patients.  But they don’t.  In fact everyone seems grateful to be there, delighted to have such an awesome job, and pleased that my being there makes that possible.

Kinda like your office, right?

P.S.  I also need to offer kudos to Boulder Community Hospital.  Someone (thanks mystery reader) passed along my blog post and Holly Pederson, Director of Emergency Services, immediately called.  She was sincerely concerned and apologetic about my experience.   In addition to following up on the dropped balls  – e.g. she does pay for orthopedists to be on call, she and Claire in Billing will make sure I am not charged, nor will I have to explain 2 ER visits to United Healthcare.  I don’t know for which I am more thankful.