One of the most powerful tools you can use in finding success at work is identifying your strengths. As a small business coach, I find that it is an important part of business and professional success and happiness.
The guru of this emphasis on personal strengths is Marcus Buckingham of the Gallup organization. He has written many books about the most successful and happiest people being those that identify and reinforce their strengths rather than compensate for their weaknesses. You can see some of his work on the site – www.simplystrengths.com
In the course of my coaching work with professionals, I often deal with accomplished professionals who are looking to expand their area of expertise or clarify their niche of work.
I often use Marcus Buckingham’s latest book “Go Put Your Strengths to Work”, to give direction. His understanding of strengths and suggestions about how to identify them is unique.
What should you look for when trying to identify your strengths?
Conventional wisdom dictates that you need objective confirmation from friends or people you have worked with, in order to evaluate exactly what you are good at. It assumes you need to some “objective” assessment to validate your “true” strengths.
Buckingham claims that the true strengths are “those activities that make you feel strong… and draw you back to them time and again”. Such activities leave you feeling energized, fulfilled and powerful.
In such a case you must listen to your own inner voice. You are the best qualified person to identify what keeps your interest and concentration.
The process of identifying your strengths can be done in a short or long time span. If we assume you dedicate a week to the process, what you should do is to take a three step method of: Capture, Clarify & Confirm.
THE PRACTICAL EXERCISE: IDENTIFY YOUR STRENGTHS
STEP 1 – Capture your strengths
To begin with start out with a small memo book with at least 40 pages, and carry it around with you. Take a blue or black marker and write in the top of the first 20 pages “I loved it”. On the last 20 pages use a red marker and write on top “I hated it”. Then carry the book around with you.
When you feel any of the following emotions after an activity – write it down immediately. Feeling: “powerful, confident, natural, smooth, high, great, authentic, awesome, when can I do this again”. Don’t wait until the end of the day, do it immediately after you become aware of the positive feeling.
Also write when you think “I can’t wait to start, I could do this forever, this is perfect for me, and can I find a way to do more of it.
Like wise, when you feel any of the negative feelings immediately write it down: drained, frustrated, irritated, bored, I can’t concentrate”. Also when you think: “I hate it when I have to do this, Will this ever end, and can I delay this and do something else.
Remember that you do not have to write something after EVERY activity. You will find many activities to which you are neutral.
At the end of the week, tear out your pages and spread them over a table and sort them into a pile with the most positive pages on top and the least on the bottom. Identify the first 3-5 most positive as they will be the basis for your strength identification.
STEP 2 – Clarify your strengths
In an attempt to direct your work toward areas of your strengths you will need to have a clear description, yet one that can be applied to many circumstances in the future. In order to clarify what aspects of the activity are irrelevant and which are important, ask yourself the following questions.
Does it matter WHY I do this, WHO I do this with, WHEN I am doing this, or WHAT this activity is about?
Now based upon the clarification of those questions, write on 3 separate pieces of paper – “I feel strong when …..” An example Buckingham uses is “I feel strong when I am leading a team to develop content for a new service project”.
STEP 3 – Confirm your strengths
This last step requires you to confirm you strength statements by answering the following questions as “strongly agree or agree”.
• I have been tremendously successful at this type of activity.
• Other people tell me I have a gift for this type of activity.
• I often find myself volunteering for this type of activity.
• This type of activity is a “gut reaction” for me
• I pick up this type of activity quickly
• I can’t wait to learn new techniques for doing this activity.
• I always look forward to doing this type of activity.
• It’s fun for me to think back to when I was doing this type of activity.
Try and incorporate as much of these strengths into your work on a daily and weekly basis. It will help you contribute to a successful business or organization too!
While acting on your strengths will propel you to success, remember that no one better than you can better identify which activities make you feel strong and which activities you love. Since these are work related activities and you are looking to sharpen your work focus, it may help you to engage a business coach on a for this short term project.
But remember, if you identify and confirm your strengths, then outstanding performance will follow.
Morris N. Mann, Ph.D.
Authentic Happiness Coach
Moving Forward to Happiness and Success