When you say “connect the dots” is it a wish or something you have mastered and can even explain to others?
Do you know what it’s like to see 100 bits of information, images, or memories of conversations so clearly that the big picture is where you live, while more than 90% of the people around you struggle to remember 9? Meet Liz Guthridge—a consultant to big thinkers, organizations, and corporate teams, as well as Strategic Partner with Mercedes Martin & Company; a Senior Consultant with The Telos Institute, and an Executive Coach with the NeuroLeadership Institute.
In 2004 Liz became Managing Director of Connect Consulting Group. In 2014, Liz moved from California to South Carolina and seemed to never skip a beat in building her relationships, multiple interests, layers of business, and high demand for speaking, consulting, writing, and community volunteering.
Most adults can store 9 items in their short-term memory. That lasts between 15 and 30 seconds. George Miller’s 1956 article in Psychological Review proved the magical number of immediate memory is 7, plus or minus 2. The brain can handle 9. That’s why the Social Security Administration decided there would be only 9 numbers for you to remember, your whole working life, and that’s why the telephone numbering systems all agreed on 7 numbers before adding 3 more in an area code. They pushed the mental envelope at 10 for all but the gifted adult.
Making your way in the world as a gifted adult in professional roles comes with major challenges aplenty. On top of that, if you find out you are a systemic thinker, then you belong to a population of only 2% of people. Systemic thinking, unlike analytical thinking, requires multiple skill sets to establish a holistic view of a system and explain its behavior.
Is there a direct relationship? No. All systemic thinkers are not gifted professionals. Not all gifted professionals are systemic thinkers.
Liz is a systemic thinker and that makes her work with VUCA seem like an obvious place where she would excel in her practice of leadership and organizational development. Managers and entrepreneurs have to make big-picture, far-reaching decisions every day. VUCA is an acronym, first described in 1985 by Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus. It stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. There are plenty of explanations including a Harvard Business Review article by Nathan Bennett and G. James Lemoine.
What kind of person does it take to take on that much change, uncertainty, and ambiguity that comes with relocating and rethinking everything? A gifted professional and communicator, that’s who, and they are rare, curious, and intensely practical. They have multiple layers of complexity, just like the rainforest. That’s why taking on the VUCA challenge makes perfect sense to Liz.
The other 95% of adults with not-born-gifted minds will either scramble to Wikipedia to find out what VUCA means or allow their eyes to glaze over and mentally check out to shift to something easier to understand. And there you have it as one major struggle as gifted. You have so much to give to the world and you can do so much good if only you could communicate and not lose people before you finish telling your story.
Because 90% of gifted adults don’t know it until later in life, if ever, one of the first signs of struggle among the professionals they serve or meet with is when others say, “Listening to you is like taking a drink from a firehose.” Essentially, you blow them and their lips away.
It’s a lonely place to land unless you have also worked on communication skills constantly.
Liz seems to read voraciously and seems to remember much of it. Every conversation with Liz is like listening to a storyteller who documents references and provides footnotes for each point she makes. In her mind, it is all very direct and clear. When listening to her you can either feel extremely lucky to have a talking Wikipedia in front of you or you might find yourself scrambling to take notes or turn on the recorder in your nearby smartphone.
Her goal is to inspire, educate and entertain with powerful stories and other content in a brain-friendly way. In order to do that, she takes courses that lead to certifications in areas such as neuroeconomics (how the brain makes decisions) and vertical development (Certified Values Practitioner).
Intentional, inquisitive, and inclusive—all are the traits of the gifted professional. Add to Liz’s lineup of professional practice layers, her volunteerism, pro-bono jobs, and weekly appointments she keeps as the Interim Director of MBA Coaching at the College of Charleston and volunteer with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Does your dog have a business card—and Instagram account? Liz’s Bernese Mountain Dog Marcel, born in November 2015, has a business card and plays the starring role in the therapy dog work Liz carries out in her Charleston community.
There are more than 50 measurable traits of the gifted adult, also documented as Everyday Genius™ or Rainforest Mind, but to name a few, Liz has these characteristics: Complex thinking and perception, such as learn-fast, think-fast, talk-fast, independent activator who is relentlessly curious. She sees all sides of an issue faster than others and has to force herself to slow down communication so that others stay engaged with her words and meanings. While handling the complexity of connecting thousands of dots to speak, teach and facilitate, she is a seeker of ultimate truths.
What does baseball have to do with the professional choices and many layers of the gifted professional? For Liz, it makes perfect sense because that is the way her brain has been since birth and will always be. She has many intense loves, including leadership, baseball and therapy dogs. In all jobs she takes on she actively connects with masters, starting with the legendary Leroy “Satchel” Paige, who was a co-worker at the Tulsa Oiler Baseball Park. No longer pitching, Satchel taught Liz and others about breaking barriers and leadership.
Q: Is this true for you? Because you are a deep thinker, highly intuitive, creative, analytical, and curious, you bring a particularly complex dimension to professional relationships.
Liz: Yes. I often feel like an oddball. One of my favorite presentations was to a group of predominantly female engineers in Charleston on “How to live your best nerdiest life in a party city.”
Q: Did you become a professional on purpose or did your career path open a door into the profession you identify with today?
Liz: When I was growing up in Oklahoma, I devised three streams to help me get out of Dodge: 1) pursue my interest in baseball; 2) become an expert in parliamentary procedure; and 3) study journalism to become an investigative reporter.
By the time I was 18, I was enrolled at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern and I was certified in parliamentary procedure to work as a professional parliamentarian. As for baseball, I was inspired by one of my first co-workers, the legendary Satchell Paige to never look back as something might be gaining on you. I spent 2 summers in junior high working at the Triple-A ballpark in Tulsa. I loved baseball but didn’t see it as a career.
Q: Which of your communication skills do you seem to work on constantly, always learning, always evolving?
Liz: Writing, asking questions, and facilitating conversations. My advanced work in facilitation, parliamentary procedure, and essential conversations has been especially valuable in today’s polarized world.
The power of quotes and rhetoric are part of the gifted person’s thinking. Here are the quotes Liz often uses. They come from no one source; instead, they come from repetitions by thousands who have been in Liz-facilitated business meetings.
Blessed are the flexible because they never get bent out of shape.
The road to good intentions is paved with hell.
Dog wisdom: If you can’t eat it, play with it, or pee on it, leave it alone and walk away.
Each week, we feature professionals who are initiating meaningful conversations with other gifted minds and storytellers–and who they serve. They connect regularly through this blog, our newsletter, and their own emails to nurture and support the network which enriches them. See if their words and actions work for you or engage with them directly by sending a comment and sharing your insights.