compelling results through coaching, training & organizational development

Resolve to Play to Your Strengths

"Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least." - Goethe
So, it's now the first week of January 2008 and I'll bet you've been thinking about what resolutions you're going to make. Mostly likely those resolutions are around and about things you don't like about yourself or are not happy with. Probably spreading your list among losing weight, exercising more, making more money, spending less, saving more, communicating better, etc. Do any of these sound familiar? How many previous years have you resolved the same? What makes this year different?

Did you know that Lance Armstrong began his sports career as a tri-athlete? Prior to becoming the world's premiere cyclist, Lance spread his energy among running, swimming and cycling. He was a good swimmer and fast on his feet as a runner, but he truly excelled at cycling. Recognizing that biking was his strength, Lance concentrated his efforts on cycling competitions, and the payoff is historic, both for the world of sports and for Lance!

Unlike Lance, many people focus their efforts on improving and overcoming their weaknesses. Those areas they don't like or feel unhappy with.This is not only ineffective for driving sustainable personal growth; it's also boring and uninspiring!

Most of us were raised in the grip of society's myth of well-roundedness. Early in life we learn that being well-rounded–being a little bit good at everything–is the desirable end-state of our schooling. We're taught to overcome all of our weaknesses by simply "trying harder." We're encouraged to practice ballet or the clarinet even if we hate it.

How utterly exhausting and frustrating! I'm convinced that the truth of the matter is, there's a better way to work with ourselves and our employees Our work isn't about weakness at all. It's about our strengths. It's about their strengths

Our strengths create the platform from which we can excel. Our strengths fuel our passions, and bring joy, success, fulfillment and sustainability to our work.

Most of us–certainly most of my clients–have never focused on our strengths. We discount them, if we notice them at all. For many, our strengths are the sea in which we swim–and so, we don't even see them.

We may be dimly aware that we sometimes overuse a strength–say, a strength of compassion or a strength of directness–but how often do we really stop and assess our strengths? How often do we acknowledge and claim them? How often do we celebrate them? For that matter, how often do we even think about this sea of power in which we're swimming?

Shifting ourselves and our team to focus on their strengths is profound, tantalizing and fun work!

When we help others clearly see their strengths, we create an impact in our clients' lives that is next to none. When clients discover what they're good at, when they understand their natural gifts, when they come to accept and acknowledge and commit to growing and utilizing their strengths, we witness a profound self-acceptance in our team and release from the constraints of "never being good enough."

The Clifton StrengthsFinder is one instrument I use for helping clients assess their strengths. StrengthsFinder is rich and deep and helps create a language around strengths not replicated in the few other instruments that exist.

I've used the StrengthsFinder for seven years and still marvel at the deep acknowledgement clients give themselves when they understand their strengths as innate, unique, and intriguing gifts. Even clients who believe they know their strengths are surprised to discover they actually know the behaviors they excel at–not the underlying strength.

For example, a senior leader in one very rational, hard-driving corporation was shocked to discover that "Harmony" is one of his strengths. He's learned to manage and embrace conflict, and he doesn't shy away from tough issues.

However, as we explored the strength of Harmony, we realized that it isn't conflict management he is good at–it's achieving the outcome of harmony among people and aligning them with an approach, a strategy, or an idea. In fact, his ability to create harmony among disparate parties has fueled his success and draws talented people to clamor to work for him. Because he now sees his strength in a much broader light, he also sees many more possibilities open to him for applying his strength!

Working with the StrengthsFinder, my clients and their teams open up to bold new perspectives and many new options.

Top strengths such as Maximizer and Strategic can tell one that they excel at taking something good and turning it into something excellent, that they can pick the right path to do this successfully, and then quickly spot the patterns so they pick the right thing to transform. As you might guess, these strengths serve a person well in all aspects of their life and can be applied to almost any career, hobby, relationship, interest, or passion.

I love the positive relationships and expanding potential of working with my clients' strengths! Strengths are a powerful resource to invigorate growth and development, from the basis of a solid understanding of the client's natural creativity, resourcefulness and wholeness.

Inviting your clients or team members to complete the StrengthsFinder is also very easy. Buy the small book StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath at Amazon for $11.97. Inside the cover of the book, is a code that can be used one time to take the StrengthsFinder instrument. This is an inexpensive way to purchase the book and the assessment.

You don't need any particular training or certification to assist your clients or your team in understanding their strengths–just the natural curiosity and desire to learn that I know you have as a leader! And, of course, the willingness to see strength in everyone.

"A person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weaknesses, let alone on something one cannot do at all." Peter F. Drucker, "Managing Oneself," Harvard Business Review, March-April 1999

(adapted from an article by Andrea Sigetich, MCC)

Back to Articles