Using your strengths


What are you really good at?  Or, more precisely, what is that "sweet spot" where you find energy and thrive?  When you are working in your strength, it feels like you're King of the Hill.  When does that happen consistently for you? Do you know? A number of years ago I lived through a reorganization and suddenly had a new group of people working for me.  They were all people that I knew casually, but I didn't know them well.  I certainly didn't know what made them thrive.  I found myself playing catch-up and trying to pin-point how they could contribute to the sales team.  When I asked them about their strengths, I found these capable, articulate people strangely tongue-tied.

Everyone has strengths.  However, not everyone has a vocabulary with which to describe those strengths.  If you don't have a way to describe what you're good at, then there's a greater risk that you'll have assignments that are ill-suited to your talents.  Imagine being analytical and being put onto a task force that requires a ton of brainstorming and ideation.  Or if you're empathetic and you're paired with people who never seem to notice how they are coming across.  You could figure out how to work it out, but it wouldn't be a situation where you would thrive.  The arrangement would feel like trying to walk with your shoes on the wrong feet.  It's possible -  it's just not very comfortable and you're not likely to set any land speed records!

Also imagine yourself as a manager, being responsible for getting the best out of your staff.  If you're the one making assignments and putting the analytical person into a creative brainstorming room, think about what a misfire that could be. Or what if your decision to pair a person with a knack for winning others over (WOO) bugs the responsibility strength person who has little appreciation for that skill?   You could stymie your group and frustrate your team.  If you lead people, you have to understand what individuals bring to the table and you have to fully leverage their strengths for your organization to thrive.

There are plenty of tools to uncover people's abilities, but I've found the most affordable and the most digestible to be the StrengthFinders test.  (Note: I don't work for the makers of this test and I certainly don't get any compensation for using their tool!) I've used this with my teams and with other teams I've coached, and it's been a great way to build my vocabulary around what I do well and an even better way to understand my team.  There are plenty of stories about how we've used this to create high performance teams.  I'll share some of them in future posts.  In the meantime, here are my strengths to give you an idea of what the definitions look like.

1. Input - A strong desire to know more and collect information.  This shows up for me in my desire to read and collect ideas.  I finally started a blog with the vision of it being a collection of thoughts and creative ideas.

2. Activator - This is the drive to turn thoughts into actions.  This strength gets things moving.  Of course, the definition also says that I can be impatient.  Ouch.

3. Relator - Finding deep connections with others is the root of this strength.  Unfortunately, this may mean I'm not that strong in casual friendships.

4. Ideation - This strength is the ability to connect with and make connections between different ideas.  For me this strength shows up in brainstorming sessions where I have been known to make crazy connections.

5. Command - People with this strength take control of situations and make decisions.  Perhaps this is why some people call me "bossy," but I don't know what they're talking about...

Have any of you taken this test?  Let me know your strengths, and I'll tell you stories that I know about how I see them in the work place.  I'll tackle one a week, starting tomorrow.  Tomorrow's post is about my husband's top theme, Responsibility.