There’s a lot of talk these days about knowing your own strengths, but what does that really mean? And what exactly are strengths?
Gallup, Inc., the performance-management consulting company, defines strengths as a combination of skills and knowledge developed through practice and multiplied by talent (the natural way a person thinks and acts). Gallup organizes how people think and act into 34 talents.
Because talents have a multiplying effect on skills and knowledge, the strengths that use stronger talents provide greater results than using strengths hobbled by a weaker talent. For example, people who enjoy routine and structure will multiply the effects of their skills and knowledge, if they create or procure a supporting structure, such as a decision tree, to consistently guide them.
For people who strongly favor stable values (such as justice and honesty) and disdain routine and structure, following the decision tree might sometimes lead them to decisions that go against their natural tendencies. Those decisions would cause them to half-heartedly use their skills and knowledge–if at all– and consequently weaken their ability to fulfil their responsibility. Ditching the decision tree and following their core values will enable them to psychologically own the result and so wholeheartedly use their skills and knowledge.
This idea of improving what employees are good at, rather than improving their weaknesses is something I touched on in the post Focus on Strengths to Build a Great Team If you’re an employee, don’t wait for management to invest in building your strengths. You can proactively improve your strengths by identifying your natural talents. You can also learn how to identify the talents and strengths of your teammates and so increase the overall strength of your team. Here are a few suggestions to help you with that.
1. Do What Comes Naturally
The Greek aphorism “Know thyself” is key to using your talents to improve your strengths. Identify what comes naturally to you because that’s what you’ll always gravitate to. Once you know how you habitually think and act, think about how your natural talents can be used to improve how you work. Find ways to do your work that more closely align with your natural instincts. Some people are great at careful planning, others at adapting to rapidly changing situations. Both can be used to accomplish the same result.
2. Communicate Your Strengths
Learn how to communicate your strengths to your boss, peers, and subordinates, so a transparent conversation takes place that will benefit everyone. Once you know your strengths and how to effectively use them, tell or show those you work with how using your strengths makes you more effective than using someone else’s strengths.
Give examples of how you used your particular talents to accomplish a goal and explain how you were more effective that way than by following the prescribed way.
3. Learn Your Teammates Strengths
Learn the strengths of the people around you. Pay attention to how and why they do things. Use this to
- Align strengths with tasks and objectives. While there are many ways to do something, some ways more efficiently carry out tasks and accomplish goals. Divide the team workload, when you can, so those who have the best-fitting strengths to accomplish the goals are given responsibility for those goals.
- Respect the strengths of others. Remember every strength comes with positive and negative aspects and that each strength is not intrinsically good or bad. A poor strength for one task, might be an awesome fit for another task.
- Identify what talents you may need to pull in from other areas to meet an objective. Sometimes no one on a team has the talents needed to efficiently meet a goal. If this situation occurs with your team, ask your manager for help in adding someone with the needed strengths to the team on a temporary basis.
4. Share Strengths With Each Other
Let your team share with each other what they do best and where they struggle, so you can better align responsibilities. If you’re not the team lead or manager, share your observations about each team member’s strengths and weaknesses with your supervisor and encourage your boss to take those strengths and weaknesses into account.
Teams operate best when teammates are backing each other up and working toward satisfying overall team goals rather than individual goals. If there’s a weak link, work toward rearranging responsibilities to take advantage of strengths rather than trying to improve someone’s weaknesses.
Finally, when looking towards a promotion or new role, get comfortable with talking to your new boss about how you’d like to use your strengths to achieve success. Emphasize that people with very different talents can each be successful at the same job, and because you are keenly attuned with your talents, you know what it will take for you to be your best. Explain how you use your strengths to compensate for your weaknesses. Show how your strengths can enable you to excel in fulfilling the responsibilities you want to assume.
Julia is a Career Strategist, Leadership Coach, and Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach based in the Bay Area. She helps career-focused professionals showcase their unique abilities and talents in order to amplify their presence in their chosen fields and when re-entering the job market. Julia uses her extensive leadership experience in executive management, business development, team building and recruiting to help her clients have the career they always wanted. Learn more about Julia at www.JuliaHolian.com, www.LinkedIn.com/in/JuliaHolian, https://Twitter.com/JuliaHolian (@JuliaHolian) and www.Facebook.com/JuliaHolian.