It’s estimated a mere ten percent of the planet’s population identifies as left-handed. This means the vast majority of everything — from scissors to door handles and baseball gloves — for the right hand. Southpaws are challenged from a young age to think creatively, come up with solutions and to adapt to environments and situations that aren’t built for them.
This may be a hurdle in the beginning but it provides a unique skill set as they build their careers and take on leadership roles. Here, six successful left-handed professionals share how they approach their jobs differently:
Kevin Mercuri, the CEO of Propheta Communications says one of the values of being a lefty is having a predisposition toward the differently-abled. Or in other words, they know what it’s like to be different, and while it isn’t a handicap, it does force you to be nimble in a world that wasn’t built for your dominant hand. Because this is engrained from an early age, he says left-handed leaders are naturally inclined to explore alternative means and methods to complete a project or to attain a goal. There’s never a dead-end — but a workaround.
“When my team is faced with a difficult task, I implement the same discipline I use when I need a new left-handed baseball glove: expand your search, make more inquiries,” he continues. “Sometimes life isn’t fair — zippers, can openers, golf clubs, scissors, school desks, notebooks and more are made for the right-handed. Complaining doesn’t help, but a little creativity and extra effort can bring about a new invention or method by which everyone can benefit.”
As a left-handed entrepreneur, and the owner of The Cookie Cups, Nicole Pomije thinks out of the box and strives to do things differently in her own little universe. Instead of focusing on the ways being left-handed sets her apart, she celebrates the unique gifts it gives her — and encourages her team to follow suit, regardless of their dominant hand preference.
“I train by being very hands-on at first, and then I let my employees learn and think for themselves by doing more on their own,” she explains. “While we do have lists of to-do’s, I expect them to learn by listening and repeated an action and also by making mistakes and catching them. Practice makes perfect and independence builds strong employees from the ground up.”
When Enovia Bedford, the founder of Vett Deck was a child, she often found herself to be clumsy with everything: sports, instruments and beyond. Because she was the only southpaw in a north paw family, it was a left-handed friend of the family that finally spoke up and made a difference. She advised Bedford’s mom to start putting objects on her left side and that’s when she started accepting herself for who she was.
“I grew up in the ’80s when being left-handed started to be more acceptable – left-handed scissors started appearing in schools … oh the joy. But you’re still different, and it’s made apparent in gym classes, in art class, in music, anytime someone has to teach you something using motor skills,” she shares.
Today, she notices how she strays from the crowd but she uses it as an opportunity to grow, innovate and challenge the norm. As a leader, she finds what makes her employees shine and encourages them to run with it.
“We make sure our team is well rounded of employees from truly diverse backgrounds and experiences. If you’re on the spectrum, we’re going to have you doing what you’re comfortable in, If I notice you’re good with timekeeping, you’re going to be responsible for keeping us all on our toes, if you’re desk is very organized, your organizing us all we’re going to work with your strengths,” she explains. “I have a mother of three on my team, she assists with budgeting and team-building skills. Why? Because she’s a mother of 3. It takes money management skills, team management skills and time management skills to be responsible for that size household.”
Jonathan J. Nelson, a senior public relations manager at Tank says he knows ‘first hand’ — get it? — the obstacles lefties face throughout their earlier years. While trying to excel at the same rate as his peers he learned empathy, tolerance, autonomy, and empowerment. It’s these values that he holds paramount as a professional. Most importantly, he wants to ensure anyone he comes across feels comfortable and strong enough to be exactly who they are.
“Empathy can change the course of an employee’s future success by an order of magnitude and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Leader’s should work hard to listen more than they speak,” he continues. “They should embrace continued education and learning from their team just as much if not more than they expect in return. And we, as leftie leaders, should always encourage others to embrace the struggles and moments of defeat they encounter throughout their career because those moments are the most influential in shaping their professional growth more than anything.”
When you’re filling out a paper and the side of your hand is stained. When you try to unlock a door and you struggle for no apparent reason. When you are learning a new sport and have to reverse all instructions. All of these instances are just a few examples of the ways lefties quickly learn to roll with the punches. It’s one of the perks of being a southpaw and a skill that has benefited Lauren Simo, the vice president of Fish Consulting. As an example, her company recently had a team-building event at a driving range, but she had to wait almost 40 minutes to play because the range couldn’t find any left-handed clubs.
“Instead of letting it bother me, I used it as a reason to play photographer and captured some great shots of our team,” she shared. “I try to employ the same mentality in the office, too. Growth happens when you step outside of the norm, so just because something has worked — and worked well — in the past, doesn’t mean there isn’t a new way to do it.
“My willingness to open up to new ideas has served as a strength that’s contributed to the evolution of my leadership style and overall professional approach.”
When you don’t have the tools necessary to complete a task — whether it’s cutting a piece of paper or implementing database figures — it’s important to speak up. As a leftie, Patrick Gevas, the vice president of GreenRoom, isn’t afraid to express what he needs, even if it makes him different than others.
“Did I love having to go into the Home [Economics] teacher’s office for special scissors she kept in a locked drawer while everyone was making their pillows? No, but I did what I needed to do and chose the most difficult design I could to prove I could do it,” he explained. “I want to always challenge my team to be creative in solving problems and challenge or surpass my way of thinking. I empower my team to think through an issue, discuss their approach and what they want the outcomes to be.
“I want to condition them to be the ones telling me the answers rather than the other way around. It will only make keep them challenged to continue to grow their skills and develop confidence in their own abilities to counsel.”
This article originally appeared on The Ladders.
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