Learn to Recognise Your True Strengths – Hint: they aren’t just what you are good at!

Learn to Recognise Your True Strengths – Hint: they aren’t just what you are good at!


By Kim Seeling Smith – Ignite-Global.com

Your parents were wrong! But it wasn’t their fault. Everyone has been taught that in order to be successful, more productive, more well-rounded and happier we need to learn to overcome our weaknesses. That’s why, if you brought home 3 As and a C on your report card your parents wouldn’t praise you nearly as much for the 3 As as they would admonish you for the C.

The message was ‘You need to lift that C to be (happy, successful, etc.)’. And that’s still the message we convey to our staff at work.

But a 30 year research study with over seven million people conducted by the Gallup Organization tells us that’s wrong. If you understand what your strengths are and spend most of your time playing to those you will actually be much more fulfilled and (studies show) successful. If you help your teams do the same they will be much more engaged and productive.

According to the Gallup Organization:

  • Companies who have teams who play to their strengths are 50% more likely to have low employee turnover
  • Teams who play to their strengths are 38% more likely to be ‘highly productive’
  • People who play to their strengths are 44% more likely to have higher customer satisfaction scores

The strengths movement has been originally credited to various sources including Peter Drucker. But most of the work in this area has been done by the Gallup Organization as a result of their massive research study mentioned above. The authors of Now Discover Your Strengths, Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton outline this research, in which they asked “What constitutes excellence?” They were trying to determine what makes the difference between people who perform at or below expectations and those who were truly excellent at their jobs.

It turns out that the common denominator across all lines of business and socio-economic strata is this:

Those who are truly excellent at their jobs are those who are able to play to their strengths during the majority of their work week.

Just what are strengths? Gallup defines strengths as those innate abilities that are hard wired in your brain from the ages of three and fifteen.

It is incredibly difficult to rewire these behavioural patterns after the age of fifteen. They are fairly well ingrained and cannot be changed without a great deal of effort and stress on the part of the individual. The contexts in which these behavioral patterns are exhibited differ as we grow older, but the patterns remain the same. For example, the children who freely share their toys at the age of five on the playground may grow into teenagers who help mentor lesser students in their homework. These teenagers then grow into adults who exhibit a high degree of collaboration in the work place.

But Marcus Buckingham points out that this is just part of the Strengths equation. He asks the question, “Can’t you be good at tasks you just hate?”

Of course you can. I am very very good at putting together detailed proposals and project plans. I know how important this is to both myself, and my client. But doing this work literally makes my head hurt!

I recently had a client who recognised that he was doing a dis-service to a staff member by piling a certain type of project on him. He was excellent at doing this type of work, but consistently asked if someone else could be trained to take it over. This request was largely ignored until my client took part in my Strengths Workshop and realised that his poor staff member really hated this work.

The next day my client sat down with his employee and told him he would no longer have to do this type of project. The extremely relieved employee shared that he’d actually started to look for another job as a result of this. He said that he never thought he’d be able to get out from under this work and, as much as he loved the other parts of this job and the company, that he couldn’t see himself doing it for much longer.

So how do you recognise a Strength if it’s not just something you’re good at? Marcus Buckingham will tell you to pay attention to how you feel before, during or after doing specific tasks.

  • Before: Look for those activities that you look forward to doing
  • During: Look for those activities that, when you do them time stands still
  • After: Look for those activities where you feel GREAT after wards

And what about those weaknesses? Those tasks that you are either no good at or that you do well but hate?

For the answer to that, be sure to read our next article on managing or mitigating your weaknesses.

Kim Seeling Smith

Kim Seeling Smith is the Founder and CEO of Ignite Global, a consultancy whose mission is to deliver the much needed breakthroughs in attracting, engaging and retaining staff in today’s Social Age.


If you are interested in learning more, contact me now

AU    61 2 9953 5655
US    1-512-333-4587


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