Independence Day

I have always prided myself in being able to hold my own, stick with it, figure it out, or make it happen. In my family, an early and key lesson was to learn to take care of yourself. Needing or counting on other people? Mostly they just let you down anyway, right? This ability to be resourceful, agile, and well, independent, was a real strength of mine, and I honed and sharpened it until it sparkled. Several years ago, as I was anticipating a career change, I took a number of assessments and discovered that I was ideally suited to be an “independent” contractor, primarily due to my ability to be self-directed, self-reliant, and to function autonomously. While the idea of becoming self-employed was a bit of a shock, the idea that I was well suited to being on my own was not so surprising. When I first started my company, X2ponents, I worked out of the house, and many of my friends would comment on how they didn’t know if they could be motivated enough to stay focused on work from home. For me, it was not a problem; in fact, I reveled in my new found freedom and was bound and determined not to take it lightly! I took it very seriously.

A few years ago I began to get interested in the field of Emotional Intelligence. I began to notice that while one could educate on skills, there was something else that was deeper than skill that impacted behavior. A great body of work has been in progress on understanding strengths, traits, competency, and so on, and what I was looking for was an efficient way to help my coaching clients move faster and deeper toward gaining insight on their behavioral choices. What I was ill prepared for was the insight it would create for me personally. When I took the Emotional Intelligence self-assessment, my highest competency turned out to be independence. But what added the most insight for me was to see how my independence had not been balanced or mitigated in the area of interpersonal relationships; how doing it alone had left me feeling, well, alone. I started out the year knowing that I wanted to set a personal goal for myself to work and partner with, rely on, and the really big word for me, trust, others more. I determined that 2006 would be the year of partnering. So how did I do?

I clearly have a good deal more to learn, and it may be too soon to declare complete victory, but here is what I have accomplished so far: I just completed a week-long leadership retreat with upwards of twenty volunteers. There was no way I could have done this retreat alone. In fact, I was reminded over and over again of the unique value that multiple people bring to anything that is worth doing. I saw the power of varied experience and perspectives and how those unique talents created dimension, color, and wove together a stronger and more durable outcome. I also learned that partnering with others is not always easy. Sometimes they want to do it there own way (okay, I didn’t always like that part). Sometimes there is conflict (I just started a new project with a new partner on this topic. How timely!). Sometimes when you ask others for help, they say no (which doesn’t mean you can’t count on them, it just means no).

I want to point out that the year is only at the half-way mark, and while I may not be fully embodying the essence of partnering at its best, I believe that my partnering intention has served me well. On this eve of Independence Day, I have found greater freedom by being with others, greater contentment from trusting in something outside myself.