Unlocking the Gifts in Those We Lead with Stacey Ferguson

One of our roles as leaders is to identify and unlock people’s gifts. Today’s guest tells us how.

Unlocking people’s gifts presupposes that we believe everyone has gifts to unlock. Stacey Ferguson, Digital Director at Time’s Up, believes they do, and host Jeff Mask wholeheartedly agrees. In today’s energizing episode, the two of them sit down for a fun and enlightening chat about bringing out the very best in the people you’re leading.

Know What You Want and Go After It

Stacey’s story begins with her thinking she knew what she wanted in life, getting it, then realizing it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. She dreamed of being a big entertainment lawyer and landed an “amazing” job with a big firm that represented artists. Turns out, at the end of the day, it was just a lot of contracts/paperwork and long days and weekends. 

One night she was working late; she was 8 months pregnant and hungry; and she took a brief to this guy in his office. He looked up at her, like he was seeing her for the first time, even though she’d been in and out of his office all day, busting her butt for 12 hours straight. 

“Have you eaten today?” he asked, almost as an afterthought, and she thought to herself, “What am I doing here?”

She immediately started looking for another job. She says she could have been more courageous and quit on the spot, but started quietly applying at other places. She also asked the managing director of the firm if she could switch to a department with more reasonable hours. He said sure.

Then another employment opportunity came through with the Federal Trade Commission. Her director was actually happy for her, a reaction she wasn’t expecting. This experience taught her that it’s always best to go with your gut. 

Why We Suppress Our Gifts

Once Stacey had more free time, she was able to start a blog. That’s where she found her voice and developed an online community. She started creating. She started a blogging conference for women of color. Everything took off and exploded from there.

Jeff recognized in her story that she figured out what she wanted, had the courage to follow through, and going down that path herself has allowed her to authentically unlock the gifts of others. Those are the steps we need to take in order to let the gifts we have within us breathe. Fear and insecurity and self-doubt are what suppress the divine genius within us. It comes in all shapes and sizes. We all have something amazing inside, but those loud voices can suppress what we know we can create or do. 

As Stacey built this community of bloggers, she realized that being a leader was about so much more than her. It’s about other people. The greatest leaders aren’t the ones who just do great things themselves; they’re the ones who inspire others to greatness.

Identifying and Unlocking Gifts in Others

Everybody really does have a gift. But a lot of times they don’t see it. It’s buried. You have to help them comb through the junk to get to the gift. One way to figure out what your gift is: ask some of these questions. What do you enjoy doing? What do people come to you for? What feels organic and natural to you? What can you do as a no-brainer in your sleep?

Maybe you make the best cupcakes. Maybe your friends ask you to plan their trip. Maybe you don’t see the value in it; you don’t think it’s special. A thousand other people make cupcakes. Everyone has that thing, but they take it for granted. You’re unique; you’re different; you have to bring your full self to whatever it is you’re doing.

When you look into someone’s soul, see the gift, highlight the gift, and speak to that person, it’s so fascinating to hear their response. “Oh, doesn’t everyone do this?” We’re wired to assume that, if something is going to have massive value, it should be really hard. Sometimes that’s the case, but not always. When something is natural/intuitive to us, we don’t see it for all it is.

Stacey recommends to people who are stuck to gather the people close to them and ask, What do you all think I’m good at? A lot of them will have the same answer. Do an informal focus group with people who know you well. It’s easier to see gifts in others than in ourselves.

Jeff once had a professor who encouraged her students to look at different facets of their lives and pay attention to the patterns. Look for words. Do word clouds. If you’re wondering about your own gifts and the gifts of those you lead, this can be a cool team-building exercise. You want to recognize gifts and leverage them, so people can flex them in a healthy way.

How Unlocking Gifts Energizes Your Workplace

Stacey read an article years ago about Oprah and how she tries to always be “in flow.” Once Stacey began to discover her gifts and live them out, she felt that flow. And that flow can “overflow” into the workplace. When you unlock the gifts in the people you lead, work is no longer stressful and friction-filled. 

When we can help people figure out what they do well, then align the work around those gifts, they are fired up. They are so excited and energized instead of completely drained. We have to help the people we’re developing find the place where they do magical work. 

Stacey says that, when you’re miserable, treat that as your spirit saying, “this isn’t the right place for you.” There are opportunities where you currently are to flex a muscle, get better at something. If you don’t love your job, treat it as your first investor. Do what you love on the side, and build that up to a place where you can make that transition.

Jeff says to think of the lives of people we’re working with. We have such an awesome opportunity to help them flourish and to feel valued and seen and heard because they’re doing what they’re born to do. We can do it if we look for it. Don’t just forge ahead, focused only on projects. We can still get projects done, but in a way that’s harmonious, in flow, and works with people’s gifts. 

Take a quiet moment to think through: Do I believe that everyone I’m leading has gifts inside of them inherent to who they are? If I do believe that, do I know what they are? If I do know what they are, am I helping them leverage them? If I’m not, am I trying to figure it out? And do I know what my own gifts are?

When you unlock your gifts and others’ gifts, work becomes way more meaningful, in flow, powerful, productive, and ultimately? The bottom line of your business improves dramatically. 

Richard and Jeff want to hear from YOU. Was something in today’s episode a big aha moment for you? Did you try a gift-unlocking exercise? What have you discovered about yourself and your team? Email them here with your thoughts/questions: feedback@readytolead.com 



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