Week 4: Now, Discover Your Strengths
There are three types of people who might be reading this blog post: those who have done their StrengthsFinder profile, those who have done their StrengthsFinder profile and also read the accompanying book, and those who have no idea what any of that means.
A short background for the latter group: The Gallup Organization conducted research on 198 000 employees working in 7 939 business groups within 36 companies worldwide (no easy endeavour). They interviewed them to collect data to analyze a person’s strengths instead of their weaknesses. When we are failing at something, we focus our efforts on it and attempt to improve it. Based on their research, Gallup discovered that focusing on our strengths was the real answer to how to ensure people are more productive, satisfied, and applying their full range of talents to their work everyday. They created a quiz called the StrengthsFinder Profile - a 30 minute online quiz to capture your instinctive responses that indicate your top 5 strengths (there are 34 in total). The accompanying book is this week’s topic.
I chose Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton for a couple of reasons. First, I was in the category of “those who have done their StrengthsFinder profile” but had not read the accompanying book. I did the quiz in early 2011, and I was totally fascinated by my top talents: Futuristic, Relator, Communication, Achiever, Self-Assurance. There’s a printout at the end of the profile that gives you a detailed overview of your particular strengths, and I was honestly floored by how bang-on they were for me. The second reason is because I am in the process of mapping out my career and I know how critical it is to not only recognize your strengths, but be aware of how to capitalize on them and fully develop them.
The book starts off by clarifying their idea of what a strength really is: consistent near-perfect performance in an activity. This implies that the performance is predictable, one is sharp in their particular areas of talent (by that we mean not well-rounded), and that the way to excel is through maximizing one’s strengths, not focusing on weaknesses. So you do the profile, find 5 talents, and then what?
The authors state and answer the frequently asked questions that come up before and after taking the quiz. How do I develop my talents? Are they the same over time? How does the profile work? They do a great job of addressing the common reactions and developing their case for what they call the “strengths revolution.”
Needless to say, but here it is: I highly recommend taking the StrengthsFinder profile, as well as reading the book!
Onto my experience. I have always identified as a “leader.” I have always been a confident and hard worker, able to comfortably speak to crowds, have a strong belief in my words and ideas, and have a clear picture of the future. It is absolutely amazing to me that these feelings are all summed up by my combination of strengths. I know these things about myself, and honestly enjoy reminding myself of what they are, how they can apply to a situation, and being able to recognize them in my reactions to situations.
There is a chapter of the book that was particularly helpful to understand that is not part of the profile itself. It is the section on managing strengths. There is a page written for each of the 34 strength themes that includes the most prevalent characteristics of a person with that strength, and tips on how to manage them. It is amazing how accurate they are. I am grateful to work in an organization that values the strengths revolution and encourages taking the profile, so I have a set of work experiences with people and the knowledge of their strengths in mind to take this section off the pages and into practical application. (Again - I highly recommend taking the profile and encouraging those around you to do it too.)
That gut reaction you get when you’re working with a low producer? If slackers annoy you, you might be an Achiever.
Work with someone who always measures their success against that of others? If you are motivated by competition, your talent might lie in Competition.
Are you interested in making everyone feel part of the team? If you’re skilled in breaking barriers, you might possess the strength of Inclusiveness.
If I’ve learned anything from StrengthsFinder, it’s that everybody has things to offer and a personal responsibility to maximize them; however, I can maximize my own work and that of my team through understanding the way they work best and supporting that. People don’t fundamentally change. They will perform best in the areas of their top strengths, and understanding your own is the first step towards happiness, success and growth in your career.
Until next week,
PS. For those returning readers, two items to address:
1. It’s been a crazy two weeks, but something important has happened… I have read two 250 page books in the span of 2 weeks. I knew it was a crazy goal when I set out to read a book a week, but it is actually happening and I am loving it. I can’t say where the time to read came from (because I can surely tell you that I am busier than ever), but I’ve managed to create the time since setting the intention to read and learn. I’m happy about this!
2. Last week I reviewed Peter Bregman’s book 18 Minutes. I spend some time this week clarifying my 5 goal areas for 2012 (which, plus the “5% other category,” should make up the structure of your daily to-do lists, says Bregman) and I figured I should share them with you. In no particular order, they are:
- Expand my network
- Learn outside the box and share my ideas
- Gain professional experience
- Spend meaningful time with friends and family
- Achieve and maintain a health mind and body
When writing out my to-dos for today, I found it helpful to have this structure for my list. I will update when I have spent a few more weeks with the 18-minute structure in action.