Tuesday, June 4

WHAT YOU CAN'T NOT DO: Identifying Your Strengths

I have just completed interviewing the staff members of a client organization.  One of the questions I asked was about their personal strengths and how they apply their strengths at work.  I learned during this process that many people don’t easily recognize their own strengths.  People often use the words “strength or talent,” as interchangeable with “skill or competency.”  I am not talking here about skills or competencies, of which you have many and which can be learned from scratch.  In fact, a competency is often interpreted these days to mean the minimum level of acceptable performance needed. 

What then is a strength?  How can we use them if we don’t know what they are?  I like to say that a strength is something you can’t not do.  For instance, for better or worse, I can’t stop myself from decorating.  I even rearrange hotel rooms, moving furniture, collecting and hiding the various promotional materials strewn about, and adjusting the curtains or blinds before I even unpack.  I recently found the 15 year old lyrics to a song written to poke fun at me, “The Sherry Schiller Renovation Blues,”—further evidence that our strengths are part of who we are. 

If you want to find your strengths or talents, think about those things you do so naturally that you really can’t NOT do them.  These are different from skills or competencies, which you may have, but are not fundamental to your nature.  If you need help in identifying strengths, there are many great resources online to help you discover them.  One free and fascinating inventory can be found at: http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Entry.aspx?rurl=http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/tests/SameAnswers_t.aspx?id=310

There is mounting evidence that organizations HUM when their people are given the opportunity to use their strengths and innate talents in the workplace every day.  There is ample evidence that the best managers recognize the strengths of each team member, and arrange assignments so that all can contribute based on their strengths.

Over the summer, explore your strengths and talents.  If they seem vague, give them names.  Ask those around you what they see as your natural strengths and talents, and how they see you performing when you’re using them.  Find ways to use your strengths more often in your personal and work life.  Lead with them when you have the opportunity.  You’ll find you hone them the more you use them, and the teams you work and play with will benefit as well. 

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