Strengths – please don’t ignore me anymore

February 23rd, 2011  |  Published in Uncategorized

It’s ironic that the very thing that helps us bring success, we often overlook. These are our personal strengths. And we tend to overlook them because they are by definition, easier for us to than they are for others.

Peter Drucker believes that most people aren’t aware of their strengths, or don’t know how to apply it successfully into their roles. Even in my own life, I sometimes forget to play to my strengths. It is baffling that people tend to spend 2-6 times longer to do a task if it doesn’t fit their strengths, yet often we want to develop our weakness, not our strength. But that is why the role of a manager exists. To help people do something they are great at, and have it contribute towards achievement of something meaningful.

First, lets create awareness, then consider a way to self manage our strengths

What is a strength?

A strength is something we do naturally well, that creates positive results in work or life. It is something that others notice and value. When we engage in this action, we get consistently great results, not mediocre results. If sometimes we give a great presentation, yet sometimes we don’t, or sometimes can read the emotions of our audience, and sometimes we can’t, then this isn’t a strength. A strength is also something we can do for long periods of time and not get tired. In effect, it gives us an energy boost when we are doing it. It is not always something we love to do, but it often can be. For instance, I love dancing, but I look pretty awkward most of the time when I’m doing it, and rarely get feedback from others I’m naturally great at it. But I can analyze root causes that impact performance for people at any time of the day, at any level of fatigue, and still get consistent feedback my insights are spot on.

How do we figure out what our strengths are?

– Ask other people who know you well – what do I do best? (and worst). Ask them to be honest.
– Take a strengthsfinder 2.0 test from Gallup to learn your top 5 strength themes
– Consider how energized you feel during or immediately after you do something?
– Review how long it takes you to do something? and what emotions surfaced for you while doing it?
– Work with a coach or manager to track what things you seem to pick up quicker than others, that you seem to get better and better at with each small amount of practice

How do we manage to our strengths?

This is easier said than done. The simple ideas can often be the most powerful, but hardest to implement

In order to truly focus, use this simple exercise to help you start working only on items that are close to your strengths:

1) Make a list of everything you do daily and weekly. Some people like to pretend someone took a video of me working all day for a month and write down everything in the movie.

2) Put all of those items in column one of a spreadsheet.

3) In column two, put one of these four letters describing your skill level related to the task:

a. I = Incompetent – meaning you’re terrible at it

b. C = Competent – meaning you’re OK at it

c. E = Excellent – meaning you’re awesome at it (but you don’t love it)

d. U = Unique Strength – these are things you are great at, and enjoy doing.

4) In column three, put the hourly wage you’d be willing to pay someone to do that task as a full time job.

5) Then begin quickly delegating, stopping or outsourcing the lowest paying tasks and the tasks where I have only a C or I.

This simple system will help you quickly become more focused on doing exactly what you need to grow your company or team. Imagine if you had everyone in your company doing things that played to their strengths more often than their weaknesses? The workplace would be a better, more enjoyable place.

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