Gifts Instead of Weaknesses

The following is an illustration of my take on one of Peter Block/Designed Learning’s Six Conversations that Matter: Gifts Instead of Weakness


Before I ventured into the world as an independent consultant, I worked as an internal consultant in a team of Organization Effectiveness practitioners, both as an individual contributor and then as a manager. In the course of the annual performance evaluation conversations I heard from two different managers that I was a stellar performer but that I really needed to be more respectful of some of the other members of our department.  I thanked them for the praise and sassily responded that we were going to have the same conversation the next year about respecting others. I held firmly to my belief that you can’t make me respect someone if I don’t. Respect has to be earned.


And then there was Taylor. 

I chose not to do an amniocentesis when I was pregnant. So it was a surprise to my husband and me when moments after Taylor was born, we heard “your son has features consistent with Down Syndrome”. That can’t be, I thought. We’re both really smart. Our kid is supposed to contribute to society in a big way. I had a preconceived notion of what that meant and feared this would now not be possible.


Sometimes I think about what life will be like for Taylor when he is older and in social situations. I can appreciate that something that Taylor offers to the conversation may not be the most brilliant contribution. I expect others to show my kid some dignity because he is a beautiful human being. Oh, that is what my managers were trying to tell me all those years! (Thank you Ken and Delmarie.)


I have learned more about life and humanity from this 3 year-old boy with developmental delays than decades of traditional learning offered by PhDs. While I am still on a journey of discovery, I have made a breakthrough. Now I take time to look for the contribution others make in an organization without automatically making them wrong for not contributing in the way I originally pictured. I still strongly believe that everyone in an organization needs to earn his or her keep. Their gifts might just be in unexpected wrapping.