“Most people do not know what their strengths are. When you ask them, they look at you with a blank stare, or they respond in terms of subject knowledge, which is the wrong answer.” – Peter Drucker, Best Selling Author, Management Guru
Are you one of the “most people” Peter Drucker refers to here? You’re not alone. The reason is often that our culture simply does not focus on developing our strengths but instead typically wants us to focus on weaknesses. Think about growing up. Did your parents tell you something like this, “Hey! You’re getting B’s and C’s in everything but Art. Your A’s in Art clearly show you need to focus on your artistic ability first and foremost above everything else!” Probably not. They were probably more like parents and said something like, “You are doing pretty well in everything but Math. Math is really important; you need to work harder to bring up your math grade.” That, my friends, is focusing on weaknesses.
Nobody is happy using their weaknesses, yet this maladaptive focus goes right from school into the working world. We spend a lot of time going against our own personal grain to fix something or grow a talent that is at its max capacity. We ignore the stuff we’re good at. But your strengths are important because if we know what we’re good at and we use those abilities every day, it not only leads to greater success, it also leads to greater efficiency and greater enjoyment of what we do. Work feels “easy” and gratifying which is what we’re all really after isn’t it?
Over the years of working with thousands of individuals in my practice, what’s become clear to me is:
- Everyone has talents. Most of us have discovered some of our talents and have translated them into strengths through time, effort and hard work, but very few of us have discovered all of our talents.
- Most people aren’t consciously aware of or able to label their talents and strengths. We use them, but we are largely unaware of their presence and rarely call them out by name.
- As a result of #2 and #3, many of us take jobs, or worse, get promoted into jobs that actually prohibit us from using our strengths. These roles require daily tasks that aren’t our strengths, making work feel like a chore.
- Work doesn’t have to be as difficult as we make it if we intentionally use our strengths every day.
Discovering and maximizing the usage of your strengths is a tough but worthy puzzle to solve. It makes your life easier and your work better.
Strengths are not always the things you “think” you are good at. Much of the work in this area suggests that our strengths are the product of our raw talents and abilities plus the repeated usage of them over time. We’re talking about those abilities or skills that you possess that are rooted in your hard-wiring giftedness and the effort you use in developing that gift – that wonderful combination translates into what we call STRENGTHS. I would submit to you that some of the hallmarks of strengths, in even the rawest of states, are the following (not a mutually exclusive or collectively exhaustive list… but a good one!):
- Speed: You perform a task faster than most people
- Quality: Your work product is of higher quality than others’ with less effort on your part
- Requires minimal effort: people struggle with a task that comes easily to you
- The ability to perform the task at all: not everyone can throw a baseball 99 mph
If you can do any particular activities in your work or your life with simultaneous speed, quality, and minimal effort, you’ve got yourself a strength. Strengths are the expression of your gifts and your talents combined. Everyone has these packages of power, and when you use them in your work you are more efficient, impactful, effective, and successful. That kind of positivity makes you enjoy using your strengths, which makes you like your work even more. Upward spiral.
Six Questions to Ask Yourself in Order to Identify your Strengths
Below is an exercise I first published in my book “How to Find and Get Your Perfect Job” as part of a series of exercises under “Creating Your Personal Vision.” This tool is key to helping you create an understanding of your strengths, passions and perception of the world in such a way as to help you discover and create a job that gets you excited to head to work every day. If you’d like to do all the exercises, the Guide is available here.
Many of us use a good portion of our strengths in our current job, and this is an excellent place to start your evaluation. As I explained, anything you can do faster, at a higher quality, and with less effort than others is a great candidate for a strength.
So, go grab some paper or a journal and take time to answer all of the following questions about your current work. In the answers you will find some excellent information about your Strengths.
1. What do you do at work that comes easily to you?
2. What can you do at work faster than your peers or others in similar jobs?
3. In what scenarios do you produce results higher / better than others?
4. What do people regularly compliment you for?
5. In what scenarios do people ask you, “How did you do that?” Can you simply do things that others cannot?
6. Look at your answers. Does anything repeat? What patterns do you see? Dig into your answers and write down the reasons you can do those things. There you have some more strengths.