What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? We have all been in an interview where we have been asked these questions. The interviewers seem more interested in our answer about our weaknesses than strengths. Then when we are in a position and work reviews are done, there is talk about weaknesses and what can be done to lessen them.
Traditionally, our work culture has a fixation on people’s weaknesses. When it comes to business, the traditional approach is to focus on weaknesses and make people fit into a role description, or behave like other people in a similar role. It is usually referred to making the person well rounded.
However, the progressive way to motivate people is to look at their strengths. Research from Gallup shows people working in their strengths zone look forward to going to work, have more positive than negative interactions with co-workers and treat customers better. They also tell their friends they work for a great company, achieve more on a daily basis and have more positive and innovative moments. Additionally, they are three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life and are six times more likely to be engaged in their jobs.
Strengths are sometimes confused with talents; however, while they are different, they are linked. Strengths develop from our talents through experiences, skill building, coaching and feedback. For example, my natural talent for talking – which wasn’t always productively applied in school or in my career – has developed into a strength in communication.
Some examples of different talents include seeing different options in a way forward, effortlessly and instinctively starting conversations or thinking in an orderly or timely manner. Others are being able to easily influence others, seeing patterns in data or consistently having a positive outlook on life.
One of the best ways is to discover your strengths is through the Clifton StrengthsFinder, created by Don Clifton. He is famous for saying “what will happen when we think about what is right with people, rather than fixating on what is wrong with them?” He also believed that weakness filing prevented failure where strengths building led to success.
His belief and process have been popular, with more than16 million people completing the assessment and an average of 3,500 people completing it daily. Knowing and applying my strengths has impacted my business and personal life in so many positive ways and it’s been fascinating seeing the impact on others.
Completing the StrengthsFinder assessment is just the start. Through a process coaching where people NAME (identify), CLAIM (own and embrace how they make them unique) and AIM (consciously apply) their dominant strengths is where the real success happens.
People gain greater self-confidence and self-awareness, an improved understanding of others, greater collaboration, renewed joy in their work and a different perspective in how they can approach their work.
For example, a supervisor found out connectedness was one of his top five strengths. He learnt he had “faith in the links among all things” and believed “there were few coincidences and that almost everything had a meaning”. This gave him an understanding of how he could readily and easily see how everything was connected on a job site. This insight enabled him greater confidence in his planning and communicating his plan to the team.
Another example is a job seeker who discovered he/she had Strategic and Restorative in their top 5 strengths. Through understanding the definitions of these strengths and claiming them as their own, he/she was more confidently able to articulate how he/she would be successful in a future role.This can lead to greater productivity, satisfaction and being in a state of flow.
Focusing on your strengths can be easier said than done; it really comes down to insight and clarity of what your strengths actually are and how these can be applied both professionally and personally.
There are 34 themes in the StrengthsFinder framework; imagine what success, growth, innovation and engagement you could achieve through knowing and applying your dominant strengths.
Murray Guest has more than 15 years’ experience in cultural change across a range of industries, including FMCG, mining, manufacturing and transport. He has also worked with a number of international organisations and government agencies.
Having worked with over 700 people, helping them claim their strengths, he is passionate about people understanding their strengths and having conversations that matter. Murray worked for Mars, Tomago Aluminum and Sentis before starting his own business topartner with organisations to develop effective leadership, engaged teams, cultural changeand sustainable growth.
Murray’s top five strengths are relator, futuristic, individualisation, communication and responsibility.