Start with Strengths: Grow Faster By Focusing on What You Do Best

Do you focus more on what you have to “fix” about yourself than finding opportunities to use the strengths you already have?

Working on your weakness is something taught through all of school, often in our first job and beyond. The danger in this is missing out on your potential excellence. Excellence is not only done by working on weaknesses, and sometimes working on our weaknesses hurts us more than building on our strengths.

If you feel like you don’t get to use your strengths, you’re not alone. Most people say they don’t have a chance to do what they do best every day, according to ADP Research Institute’s 2018 Global Study of Engagement. The good news is you can do something about it. You can mold your current job into a role that uses your strengths. While some people are in the wrong job, being unsatisfied at work could mean you can try tailoring your job to suit your strengths.

One thing is for sure: spending time trying to turn yourself into somebody else is usually a huge, often destructive use of your time. For one, your gains in your weakness are typically going to be small incremental improvements at best. How much you need to work on your weaknesses depends on how critical those skills are to your job. If you are an accountant, computing numbers accurately is vital. If you switch to teaching history, the skill becomes much less important and possibly negligible.

Strengths are not for anyone to take away from you, or ask you to “tone down.” An unintentional strength can become a weakness, and that is why it is so important to practice and use it for the right reasons. It is important to use it for good. Marcus Buckingham, author and expert in finding and using strengths, says, “You can never have too much of a strength, you can only use it poorly.”

The challenge then is how do you leverage your strengths intentionally to create the outcomes that you want?

First know your true strengths. You can take Gallup’s decades-in-the-making and well-researched StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment, or Buckingham’s StandOut (currently free for US internet users), or use the following exercise:

Step 1: Create a list of people who know you and you have a personal or professional relationship with. Aim for 10+ people, but at least 5.

Step 2: Ask on your list: When have you seen me at my best? What did you see that I did well? Ask for specific examples that they can walk you through. They can write this response or talk to you over the phone.

Step 3: Summarize everyone’s responses. What patterns do you see? What themes emerge from the feedback? What will you do differently now that you know this about yourself?

Take your results with a grain of salt. An activity that drains you is a weakness (even if you're good at it).

If you need support walking though how to use your strengths and how to put that into action, feel free to reach out and consider working with a professional that can help.