Transform your performance: how to play to your strengths

If you use your strengths daily you are 6x more likely to be engaged on the job and 30% less likely to suffer from stress and anxiety, according to research by Gallup. Moreover, to make a strong and lasting impact, you need to understand and play to your strengths. This article is probably the ultimate how-to- guide on the Web for understanding yourself from multiple angles and developing an action plan to better use your strengths.

Warning: you may prefer the eBook version!

This post is very detailed and has lots of information. It is probably the most complete guide on the entire Internet as regards finding what are your strengths.

It will be immensely valuable to you, but it is more than a two-minute read, and taking action on it will take considerable time. However, the rewards of truly understanding your strengths and resources are very great.

To help you gain those benefits, you can enter your name and email address and immediately:

  • download a free workbook to find what are your strengths (to work through these exercises and process your findings) and to
  • download the entire article in an easy-to-read and easy-to-print PDF ebook format, for simpler storage and referral

A. Why you need to understand your strengths

Playing to your strengths is an idea to which we often pay lip service, but in reality we so often focus on fixing our weaknesses.

Almost 80% of parents (in the USA) think that a student’s lowest grades deserve the most time and attention: you are much more likely to receive remedial attention on your low grades than mentoring in those areas where you have the most potential for greatness. At work, whilst management theorists now accept the premise that the best managers focus on harnessing team strengths, most performance feedback systems still focus on requiring employees to address their less-strong competencies.

Whilst shoring up our weaknesses has value, doubling-down on your strengths is surely the best way to make your greatest contribution to the world. Successful leaders consistently say the same thing:

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I’m no genius but I’m smart in spots and I stay around those spots.

Tom Watson 
Founder of IBM

Do what you do best and try to find others who can fill in by doing the things you are not good at. For instance, I am terrible at details—accounting especially, so I hire accountants to help me. This frees me up to focus on the things I do excel at and I can run a more efficient operation.

John Paul DeJoria 
Billionaire co-founder of the Patrón Spirits Company & JPM Systems)

You may have read this amusing little tale entitled “The Animal School” which explains why we might really be better to build on our strengths and not worry about securing mediocre performance in all areas…

The animals got together in the forest one day and decided to start a school. There was a rabbit, a bird, a squirrel, a fish and an eel, and they formed a Board of Education.

The rabbit insisted that running be in the curriculum. The bird insisted that flying be in the curriculum. The fish insisted that swimming be in the curriculum, and the squirrel insisted that perpendicular tree climbing be in the curriculum. They put all of these things together and wrote a Curriculum Guide. Then they insisted that all of the animals take all of the subjects.

Although the rabbit was getting an A in running perpendicular tree climbing was a real problem for him; he kept falling over backwards. Pretty soon he got to be sort of brain damaged, and he couldn’t run any more. He found that instead of making an A in running, he was making a C and, of course, he always made an F in perpendicular tree climbing. The bird was really beautiful at flying, but when it came to burrowing in the ground, he couldn’t do so well. He kept breaking his beak and wings. Pretty soon he was making a C in flying as well as an F in burrowing, and he had a hellava time with perpendicular tree climbing.

The moral of the story is that the animal who was valedictorian of the class was a mentally retarded eel who did everything in a halfway fashion. But the educators were all happy because everybody was taking all of the subjects, and it was called a broad-based education.

You need to deeply find your strengths, understand them and apply your strengths. It is critical in so many ways, and essential if you want to live a life of significant impact. Here are some reasons why:

  1. It gives you confidence. When we are aware of our strengths we grow in confidence, which in turn allows us to step out and make a bigger difference. Without a clear awareness of our strengths we tend to focus on our weak spots (remember a school where the focus was so often on the subjects we were struggling with?). But our strengths allow us to think big and take bold and confident action.
  2. It expands your options. Often we are aware of one or two strengths, but as we build a more complete and detailed picture we start to see more possibilities, more options, more avenues for impact than we previously considered. As the picture becomes more detailed, new potential combinations of strengths become apparent. This allows us to imagine new ways to serve the causes and commitments we are passionate about.
  3. It helps you find your maximum contribution. Our calling is found at the intersection of our greatest contribution and our greatest cause. A thorough understanding of our strengths allows us to find those niches where we can thrive at our highest contribution level.
  4. It helps you get clear on your unique mix. You have a unique combination of strengths. Unique. As you become more aware of your full strength picture, you will gain more clarity about the unique contribution you can make, which will increase your motivation, your value, your remuneration, your influence and your impact.​

Your strengths are your edge—where you have a natural advantage over everyone else—and your multiplier—where you can exert the most productive leverage

Marcus Buckingham 
Author, "Now Find Your Strengths"

B. Common mistakes that you must avoid in finding your strengths

Many people claim to know what their strengths are. However, this knowledge doesn’t seem to be having the effects that I outline above. Why is that? Well - there are a number of pitfalls that can trip you up as you go through this process. Don’t fall for these traps as you will waste time and money understanding your strengths and then get very low return on that investment.

1. Forgetting about it.

I spoke recently with somebody about the Myers-Briggs personality test. The conversation went something like this.

“Yeah, yeah, I’ve done the Myers-Briggs stuff already”

“Great, what was your profile?”

“Oh heck… hmmm… can’t remember”

“No problem. What did you learn?”

“Hmmm…”

There are many strength-finding tests and reflection exercises out there, but too often we do them and never look back. We need to internalise the learnings of these resources and capture the insights for long-term benefit. We’ll speak more about this later in the post.

2. Indulging in “strength p*rn” - reading about it, never using it.

A second mistake is a related one. It’s not so much that we forget what our strengths are, it’s that we fail to apply the information. Have we adjusted our job or role to better exploit our strengths? Has our desired life-path or career-path taken into account the new insights? Are we playing to our strengths more and more over time?

3. Limiting yourself - treating it as definitive.

The next mistake is too be TOO boxed in by strength assessments. I have been guilty of this in the past: I’ve overlooked real strengths because they weren’t flagged on some report or another. It’s important to see the process of understanding your strengths as a gradual journey of self-discovery, and not to limit yourself or treat any one diagnosis or description as definitive.

I’ve also over-emphasised weaknesses on the grounds that - for example “I’m just not a tactful person”. Many weaknesses we can mitigate, and certainly knowing our strengths should not be an excuse for failing to shore up any besetting weaknesses.

4. Forgetting that you are a multifaceted gem!

You are a multifaceted gem and not a four-by-four grid! There are many different tools available for learning about your strengths, but do not over-index on any particular one.

It’s true, I am a bit of a self-assessment junkie! I enjoy taking tests like StrengthFinder, MBTI and StandOut. But the value of taking multiple tests is that each system brings out a specific angle and looks at things through a different lens.

The more ‘camera angles’ you have on your strengths, the more rounded and detailed picture you will have. Don’t settle for one or two views.

C. A thorough process for exploring your strengths

STEP 1 - Create an inventory of your strengths

So we know why knowing our strengths is important and the common mistakes to avoid as we go on this journey of self-discovery. So let’s begin!

We are going to look at strengths in eight different areas, which I have managed to shoe-horn into the acronym S.T.R.E.N.G.T.H 🙂

  1. Skills
  2. Temperament
  3. Reasons
  4. Experiences
  5. Networks
  6. Goods & assets
  7. Traits
  8. Heel

Ready to dig in? Let’s get going

Finding Your Strengths (1): Skills

The most obvious place, perhaps, to start looking for strengths are with skills. Research suggests that the average person has from 500 to 700 different skills and abilities, but we want to focus on a fewer number here.

There are two approaches to investigate your skills:

  • Bottom-up (a prioritised inventory of your skills)
  • Top-down (completing a survey that assesses your overall bundle of skills)

I recommend you start with the bottom-up to avoid being biased by the results of a questionnaire-based approach. In other words, go straight to the primary data - your life experiences!

Bottom-up skills identification

There are two categories of skills:

  • transferable skills (more general skills that can be applied in a number of contexts) 
  • domain-specific skills that are applicable in your current role.

For example, a transferable skill is “presentation skills” and a domain-specific skills is “using our company’s custom-built HR application”. Focus on transferrable skills for this exercise.

The excellent job-hunting book “What color is your parachute” by Richard N. Bolles has a good appendix with around 70 transferrable skills. I recommend buying the book (see the resource list at the bottom of the page) to get the full list but the rough categorisation is along the following lines.

What Color Is Your Parachute
  • Physical skills
    • Body skills (dexterity, coordination, …)
    • Materials (craft skills)
    • Objects (food, tools, instruments)
    • Equipment (operating, maintaining,…)
    • Nature skills (gardening, animal,…)
  • Mental skills
    • Ideation & data gathering (research, sensing, inventing,…)
    • Detailed analysis (organising, planning,…)
    • Holistic analysis (visualising, synthesising, recommending…)
    • Storing & managing data (recording, retrieving…)
  • Interpersonal skills
    • Personal interactions (communicating, writing, training)
    • Group interactions (communicating, performing, facilitating, leading)

Here is the exercise the book recommends:

1. Write seven stories about things you did that were fun, adventurous or satisfying. Note down:

  • The goal
  • The obstacle you had to overcome
  • What you actual did, step-by-step
  • The result

2. Examine each story for transferable skills, using the list above as a way to direct your thinking. Write the key skills down.

3. Look at the list of all the skills. Create a shorter list with your favourite skills that came up repeatedly.

4. Boil the list down to around 6 top skills.

    Top down strength assessments

    There are two top-down strength assessment tools I highly recommend.

    Strengths finder

    Gallup’s Strength Finder is a ‘talent measurement’ questionnaire based on mining a database of over 100,000 talent-based interviews, which resulted in identifying 34 themes of talent.

    The basic questionnaire identifies your top 5 themes and assesses how these interplay to create your unique mix of strengths.

    determining your strengths

    The simplest way to access Strengths Finder is to buy the book (either physical or e-book version - see the resources section at the bottom for links). This gives you a unique access code enabling you to take the online survey, which results in:

    • Your top five theme report, built around the new Strengths Insight descriptions. This will provide the key insight as to what are your strengths.
    • 50 Ideas for Action (10 for each of your top five themes) based on thousands of best-practice suggestions
    • A Strengths Discovery Interview that helps you think about how your experience, skills, and knowledge can help you build strengths
    • A Strength-Based Action Plan for setting specific goals for building and applying your strengths in the next week, month, and year

    You can pay extra for the entire ranking of all 34 themes, but I have found the top 5 version to be sufficient.

    Finding your strengths Strengthsfinder

    Gallup Strengthsfinder Excerpt

    StandOut

    StandOut was created by Marcus Buckingham who had previously worked at Gallup on the Strengths Finder assessment, and who wanted to develop the area further by providing (his words) “not just a descriptive tool, but a prescriptive tool”.

    The stated purpose of the StandOut assessment is to pinpoint those few areas where you have a distinct advantage over most other people and then tell you how to capitalise on this advantage and “find your edge”.

    standout buckingham determine harness strengths

    The StandOut report aims to answer questions such as:

    • What are your strengths
    • How you can best describe yourself to others.
    • How you can make an immediate impact on your team.
    • How to take your performance to the next level.
    • What pitfalls you should watch out for.
    • In which careers you will have a meaningful edge.
    • How you can win as a leader, a manager, in client service, or in sales.

    StandOut is based around 9 “strength roles” that group together the most commonly correlated sets of strengths into distinct roles. The purpose of the assessment is to find your top two and consider the interaction between these. These two roles are where you will make your greatest contribution. In the words of the author, “they are your edge—where you have a natural advantage over everyone else—and your multiplier—where you can exert the most productive leverage.”

    The strength roles are:

    • Advisor. You are a practical, concrete thinker who is at your most powerful when reacting to and solving other people’s problems.
    • Connector. You are a catalyst. Your power lies in your craving to bring two people or ideas together to make something bigger and better than it is now.
    • Creator. You make sense of the world, pulling it apart, seeing a better configuration, and creating it.
    • Equalizer. You are a level-headed person whose power comes from keeping the world in balance, ethically and practically.
    • Influencer. You engage people directly and convince them to act. Your power is your persuasion.
    • Pioneer. You see the world as a friendly place where, around every corner, good things will happen. Your power comes from your optimism in the face of uncertainty.
    • Provider. You sense other people’s feelings, and you feel compelled to recognize these feelings, give them a voice, and act on them.
    • Stimulator. You are the host of other people’s emotions. You feel responsible for them, for turning them around, for elevating them.
    • Teacher. You are thrilled by the potential you see in each person. Your power comes from learning how to unleash it.

    I went through the test and was very sceptical as I answered what I found to be some pretty hard questions (asking me to choose my top response to a variety of hypothetical situations). Surprisingly for this kind of test, it was not obvious which answer related to which strength role - the answers just seemed like a selection of sensible possible responses to a particular work situation. However my jaw dropped when the final evaluation appeared - it was bang on!

    One of the benefits of the StandOut approach is that the terminology is short and memorable, helping to avoid the syndrome of a long and detailed report that never gets looked at. Once the terms are internalised, it is easy to remember that you are a “Creator-Stimulator” or whatever and know what that means. This is my current favourite strength finder style test and if you had to choose one I think it would be this.

    Standout strengths finding

    Standout report excerpt

    Finding Your Strengths (2): Temperament

    The next area of strength to explore is your personality, your temperament. The Myers-Briggs approach is the best known of these. While it has its limitations, I still find it a simple and insightful way to understand key elements of your personality and how they are core strengths.

    For those of you who aren’t familiar with Myers-Briggs, it is a personality classification based on your preferred positioning on four axes:

    • Favourite World: Introversion (drawing their energy from the inner world) versus Extraversion (engaging the things, people, places and activities in the outside world for their energy)
    • Information: Sensing (favouring clear, tangible data) versus Intuition (preferring more abstract, big-picture information and imaginative possibilities)
    • Decisions: Thinking (favouring objective, logical, and analytical decisions) versus Feeling (favouring harmony and value-oriented decision-making)
    • Structure: Judging (preference to order and structure the outside world) versus Perceiving (preference to experience and respond to the outside world)

    This creates 16 combinations resulting in the Myers-Briggs personality types.

    There are many free Myers-Briggs assessments online. I recently discovered a nice one at 16 Personalities (see the resources list for the link). It is clean, seems accurate, and gives a fairly detailed report. It doesn’t require you to create an account, which is also attractive for many.

    Myers-Briggs MBTI harnessing your strengths

    Myers-Briggs Results

    As an example of how to use Myers-Briggs to understand your core strengths and recurring themes, I recommend looking at the material on “Interaction Styles” at BestFitType.com. They assign different Myers-Briggs profiles to one of the following four styles:

    • Chart-the-Course: The theme is having a course of action to follow. People of this style focus on knowing what to do and keeping themselves, the group, or the project on track.
    • Behind-the-Scenes: The theme is getting the best result possible. People of this style focus on understanding and working with the process to create a positive outcome.
    • In-Charge: The theme is getting things accomplished through people. People of this style are focused on results, often taking action quickly.
    • Get-Things-Going: The theme is persuading and involving others. They thrive in facilitator or catalyst roles

    Part of the benefit in these kind of things is the articulation of what you probably already know about yourself, but haven’t been able to put into words. That is why I recommend you write down the key words and “yes, that’s me!” moments as you read through your type description. It allows you to realise that it’s OK to be you. For example, you might be able to be CEO (an in-charge role) but actually flourish much more in a catalyst (get-things-going) role.

    Being in a state of flow or extreme creativity will multiply the impact of everything else you do. Do what makes you happy and you will create a state of flow that is your best key to success. When you focus on your strengths, your work gives you energy. You are driven, it brings you joy, and you even stay up late because you’re having too much fun to stop.

    Lewis Howes
    Author, entrepreneur, former professional football player

    Finding Your Strengths (3): Reasons

    I think your motivations are another part of your strengths. Now you may disagree: surely motivations are why you want to do something and strengths are how you get it done? True, but when you tap into your motivations you reach a new level of enthusiasm and effectiveness. When you are in your motivation zone you become a lot stronger. So I have included ‘reasons’ in this assessment.

    Motivational maps

    I really like the motivational maps framework for finding your strengths and motivations. However it seems to require a certified coach to formally complete this assessment. If you can persuade your firm to pay for this, you can find a list of certified Motivational Maps practitioners.

    If not, here is my quick-and-dirty guide. The concept is that there are three main categories of motivation: achievement/work, relationships/belonging and personal development/growth. Each category is further subdivided into three, yielding nine fundamental motivations, namely:

    • Achievement/work
      • The Builder - wants money, material satisfactions, above average living
      • The Director - wants power, influence, control of people/resources
      • The Expert - wants expertise, mastery, specialisation
    • Relationships/belonging
      • The Defender - wants security, predictability, stability
      • The Friend - wants belonging, friendship, fulfilling relationships
      • The Star - wants recognition, respect, social esteem
    • Personal development/growth
      • The Creator - wants innovation, identification with new, expressing creative potential
      • The Spirit - wants freedom, independence, making own decisions
      • The Searcher - wants meaning, making a difference, providing worthwhile things
    Motivational Maps and applying your strengths

    Motivational Maps

    As with our purpose in life, we do not 'invent' motivations; instead, we detect them. The test basically develops a personal ranking of these motivations, with particular focus given to the top 3 and the bottom motivators.

    Finding Your Strengths (4): Experiences

    Here is another fruitful avenue for understanding your unique strength mix. Your experiences provide hard-won knowledge and savvy, strengths which cannot easily be replicated. Miss these at your peril!

    You may find that within your story there are experiences which you can draw on to teach, encourage and inspire others. Many a business, charity or ministry has indeed been built on a personal story of transformation: from weight loss to relationship breakdown (or success!) to online marketing or consulting initiatives.

    Pastor Rick Warren, in his book The Purpose-Driven Life, suggests six areas of experience to reflect on. A couple of these will resonate less with non-believers, but I reproduce the full list below as many people will find the complete list helpful.

    • Family experiences: What did you learn by growing up in your family?
    • Educational experiences: What subjects did you most enjoy in school?
    • Vocational experiences: What jobs have you most enjoyed and been effective at?
    • Spiritual experiences: What have been your most meaningful encounters with God?
    • Ministry experiences: How have you served God thus far?
    • Painful experiences: What pains, problems and trials have you learned from?

    Finding Your Strengths (5): Networks

    Your relationships are a key strength. They provide a network of advice, support and encouragement as well increase your reach and improve your ability to serve other people by making mutually-beneficial introductions. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

    • In what fields/domains do I know a large number of people?
    • Who are the most influential or high-profile people I know?
    • Who do I know who has access to very influential or high-profile people?
    • Who are my ‘raving fans’?
    • What is unique about my particular network? (think geography, range or variety of people, seniority, degree of trust, overlap of different fields)

    It’s worth considering at least the following network types.

    • Family network (immediate family, extended family, family friends, friends of your spouse, friends of your parents, friends of your children,…)
    • Local networks (friends, clubs, church,…)
    • Educational networks (school and university friends, alumni networks, …)
    • Vocational networks (former colleagues, partners, clients, industry associations/clubs…)
    • Online networks (LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, …)

    If you want to know more about maintaining relationships and networking, I do recommend John Corocan’s material . He has a great free ebook on network tips and many other resources.

    Finding Your Strengths (6): Goods & Assets

    Whilst we are doing an inventory of strengths, let’s also consider assets. This is rather different from many of the other categories in that goods and assets are more transitory and less related to our inherent nature than are some of the other areas. However, you may well find that you have physical assets - a home, a holiday house, available financial capital, that may be a strength that you can apply to your goals and ambitions.

    The exceptionally wealthy apply their fame or wealth as a key strength to tackle new challenges: think of the Clinton Global Initiative or the Bill Gates Foundation for example. But even something pretty modest might turn out to be a real strength.

    Several years ago I was a leader of a youth group. One couple we knew believed in what we were trying to accomplish with the young people and generously made their small holiday cottage in Normandy available to the group on numerous occasions. This was a venue for growing closer together and relaxed but important conversations with the youth. A simple example of how assets can support our mission and objectives.

    For this area, simply jot down any possession that is valuable, unique or unusually useful.

    Finding Your Strengths (7): Traits

    Character traits are another overlooked area of strength. I’m not talking so much about personality here, but about character. For example: patience, integrity, honesty, diligence, service, generosity. Some may call them weaknesses, but to me these are all strengths in the long-term. Sure, being honest (say) may cut you out of some short term business deal, but the long-term benefits of having a clear conscience, wide respect and no skeletons in the closet will bring their reward.

    A simple exercise would be to list out your top character traits - ideally virtues! As yourself what is the best version of yourself that you would like to be remembered as, and list out about 5 top traits. Even by writing them down as strengths you will increase your own ability to live up to them.

    Enneagram

    The Enneagram is a personality model that describes nine distinct and fundamentally different patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting. It is represented by a diagram of a nine-pointed star within a circle, each point representing a personality type based on a different way of perceiving an emotionally responding to the world. I could have included it in the Temperament section, as it does speak to personality, but it has an extra focus on our character strengths and weaknesses that led me to include it here.

    Enneagram and finding your strengths

    The Enneagram

    I found the Enneagram provided helpful and surprising insights. It seems a better model than many personality tests which simply regurgitate the information that you feed into it. The Enneagram provides insight into the unconscious motivation from which we operate, and how our behaviour changes when we are under stress or, conversely, in a safe and relaxed environment (these are the purpose of the arrows connecting the Enneagram arrows). It also describes how our emotional health has a bearing on our behaviour, and can act as a diagnostic tool.

    Helpful areas that the Enneagram speaks to include:

    • The areas I put my energy into
    • The things I attempt to avoid
    • My strengths
    • My communication style
    • What causes me stress
    • What makes me angry and defensive
    • The nature of my anger and defensiveness
    • The ultimate goal of my personal development
    • How I can further my personal development
    • What hinders my personal development
    • How others can support my development

    I recommend “The Essential Enneagram: The Definitive Personality Test and Self-Discovery Guide” by David Daniels and Virginia Price. The book features a brilliant assessment system that involves reading a few paragraphs, choosing the three that resonate the most, and then checking the more detailed profiles to validate your assessment. I found my ‘type’ in about 5 minutes, whereas I had spent hours on the Web trying different tests and being unconvinced by the results.

    enneagram book for identifying strengths

    The authors certainly do not share my philosophy/world-view and so some of the type descriptions veered into what I felt was “New Age Mumbo Jumbo”, but the book is helpful even without those paragraphs, and you may resonate with those more than I did.

    Finding Your Strengths (8): Heel

    Ok, I admit it, Heel is a bit oblique! Achille’s heel was his weakness, and our final element in the S.T.R.E.N.G.T.H. Framework is the review of our weaknesses to see if we are aware of their corresponding strength. You know what I mean. For example:

    • If you are disorganised, perhaps you are also flexible and responsive?
    • If you are lacking in empathy, perhaps you are great at making hard decisions.
    • If you tend to miss the forest for the trees, perhaps you are amazing at sorting through the details.

    Other activities

    Michael Hyatt suggests five additional activities to undertake to help you reflect on your strengths:

    1. Think about compliments you receive
    2. Ask someone who will tell you the truth
    3. Consider how someone would describe you
    4. Reflect on past successes
    5. What makes you happy and why

    If you were just to do one of these, I would make it #2. Ask your spouse, good friend or close colleague for their honest assessment. Even better, get several people to give you their views on “what’s my thing, my super-power, the thing I do particularly well?”

    STEP 2 - Reflect on your strengths.

    Now you have an inventory of your strengths across the entire S.T.R.E.N.G.T.H. framework. Phew… well done! That will have been hard work and whilst some “personality-nerds” like me will have enjoyed it, many of you will have found it awkward, a little dry, and will be unsure of the value of the entire exercise. I get it. Trust me.

    Now you need to muse on and reflect on your strengths. This is ideally done with coach or similar, but you may just want to think through things quietly. Here are a few questions to stimulate your reflections:

    • Are there strengths that I would like to dust-off and apply again, perhaps in a new context?
    • Have I ‘stereotyped myself’ and narrowed my focus onto just a small subset of my strengths?
    • What is interesting or unique about the particular mix of strengths I have?
    • Could I combine some of these strengths in a unique way?
    • Could I apply a strength from one context (e.g. hobby) in a completely different context (e.g. work)?
    • What do my strengths say about the way I deliver on tasks?
    • What do my strengths say about the way I best relate to people?
    • What do my strengths say about my best contribution to a team?
    • What do my strengths say about my satisfaction in my current job or role?
    • Which of my strengths do I want to develop/strengthen even further?
    • Where are there potentially opposing forces in my strengths, character or motivation? For example, a desire for influence couple with an absence of strengths in interpersonal skills; or a strength in (often solitary) detailed analytical work coupled with a motivation group relationships and teamwork.

    STEP 3 - Evaluate your current roles and activities in light of your strengths.

    Now list out the main activities in your life: work, home, community activities, church activities, etc. For each of them ask yourself:

    • How much of the time am I operating in my strength zone?
    • How could I make a more distinctive contribution by combining my strengths?
    • How often am I operating far from my strength zone?
    • Are there strengths I am forgetting to harness?

    STEP 4 - Develop a strategy to operate more in line with your strengths.

    To move all of this reflection into real action, I recommend you consolidate your thinking down into a simple strategy: think 3-5 points of things to work on over the next 3 months. Come back and update after that time. Here are a few ideas for building that list of bullet points:

    • Use the StrengthFinder “ideas for action” to get you started
    • Use the StandOut report, especially the areas “how to make an immediate impact”, “how to take your performance to the next level”, “what to watch out for” and “how to win”
    • Try the following simple format to get you going: “I will stop….”, “I will continue….” and “I will start…”
    • Think about personal disciplines/habits, ways of relating to other people, your role in teams, your ability to delegate, and your future goals/objectives
    • Write down a set of things you will do differently, and put it somewhere visible. Even better, add your actions to your favourite to-do list or habit-tracking app and treat this as a serious project to implement.

    Want more ideas? Blogger and coach Jonathan Milligan suggests four very practical strategies to harness your strengths (the full article is in the resources section)

    • Try something completely new or different
    • Attend a conference related to your strength
    • Reach out and connect with someone doing what you want to do
    • Attempt to create a “focus session” in order to fully immerse in your strength

    My goal is to stay focused on my strengths and say “no” to everything else or delegate it to someone else who is better equipped to handle it. The more I do this, the more productive and satisfied I will be.

    Michael Hyatt 
    Former CEO of Thomas Nelson, NY Times Bestselling Author

    STEP 5 - Communicate your strengths memorably.

    Tell your team or colleagues about your strengths, ask them about theres, and see if there is a way for you to rebalance work so that you all benefit from each others’ strengths.

    It is also worth thinking about a catchphrase to capture all these deep thinking into a soundbite. Derek Halpern of Social Triggers recounts the story of when a new and very young CEO was appointed to the Fortune 100 company he worked for. When Derek asked his colleagues “How do you think he landed that job?”, he repeatedly got the same answer: “He’s real smart. He processes information so fast.” Derek’s conclusion: this couldn’t be a coincidence: the reason why people said the same (rather obscure) phrase about him is because he must have SHAPED it. He must have PLANNED it.

    So now you know your strengths, communicate them…. Ideally in a memorable way that accurately highlights you distinctive combination. Not only will it differentiate you, it will make you the go-to person for those topics where you really do have immense value to add.

    Developing your strengths will lead to greater influence and leadership opportunities.

    Dr. Michael Nichols 
    Executive coach, keynote speaker, author

    Overwhelmed?

    You might be! As I warned at the start, this post is extremely detailed and will take hours to implement thoroughly and to really find what are your strengths. Hours you probably don’t have high now.

    To avoid this being yet another article you found on the Web but did nothing about, I’ve got a few gifts for you to help you move forward. You can:

    • Download this entire post in a convenient PDF, for printing or later reference.
    • Download a workbook (in .docx, .rtf and Evernote formats) to work through the material, document your thoughts and process your findings
    • Optionally, enrol for a short email course to take you through the different steps in this post in ten “bite-size” weekly instalments.

    SIMPLY COMPLETE THE FORM BELOW to get your FREE resources.

    Other Strength Assessment Resources

    I have found the following links, books and resources helpful in my own assessment of strengths.

    Referred to in the article above:

    Other strength assessment resources:

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