Discovering Your Strengths

I, like most people throughout my life, had a poor sense of what my true strengths were. I thought my strengths were the things I was good at. But that belief was shaped by or reinforced by the feedback of others – what others said I was good at. The very first time I took the StrengthsFinder assessment in 2001 I was amazed at how spot on the results were – I felt affirmed for behaviors others often misinterpreted. Two of my top strengths, Activator and Command, made perfect sense to me but over the years had been identified as problematic behaviors in some of my performance reviews. I felt different and misunderstood. This began my fascination with and study of the Strengths assessment.

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Our strengths are just there, underutilized at best or lying dormant and neglected. Click To Tweet

Most of us have a poor sense of our talents and strengths, or we confuse what we do well with our true strengths. Yet, we are acutely aware of our weaknesses and flaws. When most people are asked about their strengths they begin by talking about their flaws or the things they need to improve upon.

Throughout the education system, subsequent careers and performance reviews there is often significantly more attention placed on how to improve and fix our shortcomings rather than enhance our strengths.

“Most Americans 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, management expert

Parents, teachers, and managers are well versed in spotting deficits. In fact, most people — partners and spouses included — consider it their duty to point out our weaknesses with the intention of helping us improve. As a result, most of us have become experts in our weaknesses and spend our lives trying to fix these flaws or accept them as permanent character defects.

Consequently, our strengths are just there, underutilized at best or lying dormant and neglected. The tragedy of a weakness- or flaw-focused culture is that it leaves many people feeling unhappy and unfulfilled. The research, however, is clear: we grow, we develop and we are happier by focusing on our strengths, rather than trying to correct our faults.

Over the last decade, coaching and leadership professionals have become aware of, lift up and celebrate placing greater emphasis on developing personal strengths. The goal is to help individuals unlock the power of their strengths, build on their natural gifts and talents and manage their weaknesses.

Large corporations like Wells Fargo, Intel, Best Buy, Toyota, and Yahoo now require that employees take surveys measuring talents and strengths. Their CEOs recognize that company success depends on leveraging individuals’ strengths instead of trying to fix or improve upon their weaknesses. When careers are aligned with one’s strengths the quality of life is greatly improved.

What has been your experience with the strengths assessment? Does your organization and/or manager focus on your strengths or weaknesses? I would love to hear from you; you can connect me or let’s connect on LinkedIn.

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