Leading with Your Strengths
You cannot be anything you want to be—but you can be a lot more of who you already are.
Towards the end of the last century there was a focus on exploring what people excelled at instead of highlighting where they needed to grow. This foundational work led to the identification of innate talents that when invested in become people’s strengths. An assessment was developed by the Gallup organization to measure the 34 most common talents and was widely dispersed throughout the world. What does this mean to you? This work proved that it is more advantageous for individuals to focus on and invest in strengths rather than improve in areas of weaknesses.
How do you know when you are using a strength? You have near perfect performance in the talent, it provides you with intrinsic satisfaction, and you can perform the activity happily, repeatedly and successfully. Gallup, Inc believes that “Understanding ourselves starts with knowing our top themes and then advances to understanding the talents within those themes so that we can apply them in our lives every day”.
In “Now Discover Your Strengths”, Buckingham and Clifton provide revolutionary tools that people need to utilize to maximize their full potential. First, the authors believe that people need to distinguish between their natural talents and things they can learn. Talents as defined by the authors are “naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling and behavior”.
If you don’t have a talent in a specific area, learning more in that area will not lead to strength development. Rather, once you have identified your talents, investing in them through learning and activities will build them into strengths.
Next, Buckingham and Clifton suggest that people need a system for identifying dominant talents. One way to determine your strengths is to take an observer role in your life. Without taking the assessment, a question you could ask yourself is “what am I doing when I am passionate about the endeavor and how does the endeavor brings me great joy”? As an avid researcher, I always want my observations confirmed so if you want to take the assessment, your can buy the book, “StrengthsFinder 2.0” by Tom Rath. In the back of the book, there is an access code for taking the assessment.
Focusing on your strengths is a mindset shift. Sixty percent of people think it is better to try to get stronger in your areas of weaknesses. This is a faulty assumption because the area for greatest growth is in the area of your talents. So what do we do with weaknesses? We manage to them. We find support systems which could be finding tools to help manage the weakness. For example in coaching someone who has a discipline weakness, we might look at ways to build rituals that will manage the weakness. We can also leverage people with talents in our weaknesses. If you are great at coming up with ideas you might match your strength with someone who is analytical to ensure a better more successful implementation of the idea.
What are some steps you can take to begin the process of leveraging your strengths? Identify someone who is passionate about something they do and that spend a lot of time doing activities they love. Talk to them. How did they make this happen? Do they ever stray from this path? How do they get back on track? Begin a weekly “work out.” Identify 3 activities you loath and three activities you love. Get really specific. Record them at the moment you are experiencing them so you can record the emotion. Notice the emotions you are feeling with the activities. Find a partner-spouse or friend to share your discoveries with over the next month.
To Your Success!