I work for a leadership development consulting company. We talk a lot about strengths. Strengths in management. Strengths in Emotional Intelligence. Strengths in self-development. During my first week with the company I took the critically acclaimed StregthsFinder 2.0 assessment test for the first time and in the three years since, have supported over 2,000 managers around the world in taking the same assessment and understanding their results. Most describe strengths as the area in between Things You Enjoy and Things You are good at. And while knowing your specific strengths as areas that you are prone to successfully utilize due to natural talent or deep practice/comfort is helpful, it’s not the full story.
For example, according to Gallup (the company that designed the assessment based on Tom Rath’s book) my top five strengths of Connectedness, Strategic, Empathy, Maximizer and Intellection should be highlighted in the projects or programs I work on. In an ideal world, my work environment would support the ongoing application of my strengths as the means of optimizing (my) human resource. While my work supporting the design and delivery of international leadership programs utilizes some of these strengths, my day-to-day activities rarely utilize each of them to their fullest capacity.
I remember one task I was assigned by my VP to research leadership styles that are culture/nationality specific and I was on Cloud 9 for the entire week! I was doing internet searches, calling organizations, interviewing folks from our global consultant network, tabulating all this information into a descriptive and informative report. Hands down it was the best project I’ve ever done for this company. But it was over way too soon, and all the other projects I avoided in order to focus on this single task were screaming for attention. It wasn’t until months later that I realized that project allowed me to utilize all my strengths, that’s what made it so appealing and enjoyable. Since then, I’ve tried in vain to request similar assignments, resulting in a frustrating awareness of minimal strength usage.
So then I decided to shift my perspective about limiting myself to tasks that highlighted my strengths to integrating them into everyday work I get paid to do. It was in this process of how that I found the gift behind appreciating strengths. The real strength in the SF tool is in action. What folks do with this new presentation of their skills and talents, is where the power is. And when you examine what made those results successful, as I have in our evaluation processes, it can usually be summed up in the following five areas of improvement:
Vision—the ability to see what others do not see
Courage—the ability to act despite fear
Creativity—the ability to think outside the box
Self-confidence—the ability to withstand criticism
Self-control—the ability to delay gratification
These areas shouldn’t surprise you. They’re really simple concepts and each of us has varying degrees of success with all of them at some point in our lives. I think the unique attribute of successful people is that they are attentive to these areas ALL THE TIME.
They’re not courageous just when it’s comfortable, but when it’s freakin’ difficult as crap.
They know who they are, are fueled by this clarity and don’t feed themselves with opinions of others.
These folks don’t limit their creativity to appreciating the art of others, but they go out and start painting or building or innovating something.
This crowd has perspective, they value the long-term and are willing to put in the work now already knowing the gratification it will harvest.
Lastly, these people see. They are seers and seekers. The ancient world called them mystics because they saw a reality before it came into form.
The beautiful thing about all this is that the ability to be like the successful people we idolize is completely available to us. Just start where you are and choose a moment to display a little more confidence, control or vision in the situation you are facing. Embody these strengths and there’s no room for failure.