Five Ways to Use Your “Strengths” at Work Each Day
Boy oh Boy! I could talk at long length about my fandom for StrengthsQuest and StrengthsFinder 2.0. Since being introduced to this assessment in 2007, I have gone bull goose looney over the opportunity it provides to really focus on things that come naturally to us individually. Even if you haven’t taken the StrengthsQuest assessment, you should have an idea of things you are good at. If nothing else, surely you have a job evaluation from this year or last year or two years ago (I sure hope you do!). For the purpose of this exercise, list your Top Five Talents according to StrengthsQuest or your job evaluation or yourself. Why not, right?
Here are mine, just to give you an idea of what this post is all about…
People with Maximizer want to take a good thing and make it Great! We also look at daily tasks and discover their importance, but we also make them fun! Think of us as the Mary Poppins of the work environment – Maximizer’s are the Spoonful of Sugar that helps the Medicine go Down. We tend to connect with people who appreciate us this way and distance ourselves from people who don’t appreciate us this way.
Empathy is all about walking in someone else’s shoes. We sense the feelings of others. And we are those folks at work who know when someone is having a bad day and sit with them to ask how we can help. Our awareness of others’ feelings helps us nurture relationships and bring people together.
I LOVE my Developer talent because I can get people to come out and play! We notice everyone’s contribution to the “game” and inspire people to keep kicking ass. We’re the Cheerleaders of the office team. All of us know who will have fun regardless of the “game” and who will be disappointed if they “lose”. And we figure this out because we are very skilled at seeing the potential of others.
I have a love/hate relationship with my Activator talent. On the one hand, I like that it spurs me to action – I’m the one at the end of the meeting who wants to have everyone put a hand in and yell out, “GOOOOOO TEAM!” We like to take the lead and we like to move things along. On the other hand, we are impatient because we want shit to get done, like, now. We operate on the basis that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. Which, as a big rules follower, I struggle with immensely. This is a talent for me that has a Shadow Side and I need to watch over it carefully.
Finally, my Connectedness is my faith that everything happens for a reason. I believe that there are no coincidences. I’m the person who’s constantly reminding you of your ability to manifest good things. And I am a little hippie-esque because I believe I’m part of everything and that everything is part of me. I’m at one with the world, man.
Okay, so you may know these things already, or you may be sitting there with your pencil going, “Hmmm, what am I good at?” No problem if you are thinking about this and struggling with a good list. So try this instead – what in your current job do you enjoy doing? What is the skill you need to perform that task? That will be your strength.
Example – you know that you enjoy setting up the monthly professional development meeting for your team. You like scheduling the speaker, ordering the snacks, and putting the room together. To do this task every month, you need to be organized and have good followup. Was the room reserved? Did the speaker confirm? How many people are coming and how much food is needed? Right? So – you are good at planning events and organization.
So get yourself a piece of paper and write those strengths/talents down.
And finally, after 600 words, I’m going to share with you five ways to use these things at work every day!
#1 – Analyze Your Job
You may have to dig deep, but find a copy of your job description, then compare it to the tasks you do every day. I recently did this myself, because I am trying to help my supervisor restructure our office. So I grabbed my job description and took a peek at it. Based on the example of duties and the minimum qualifications, I picked out a few ways that I can continue using my strengths at work:
One of my duties is to oversee all the programs of my department. Maximizer fits in here because of course I will want to look at every program and determine how to make it better. Activator also is in play here, as I’ll be jumping up when one program is complete and the next one is starting so I can get right into the mix and get started!
If you are having trouble doing this exercise, it may be time to have a conversation with your supervisor about ways you can use your talents (talking to your supervisor is going to be another blog post soon, I promise!)
#2 – Consider How Your Strengths Prepare You For Promotion
Maybe you’ve been in your current gig for a few years and you eye an opportunity to move up at your organization. How is that possible promotion different from what you do now? Do you have access that job description? Or maybe it’s safe to ask the person in that position what he or she thinks? And then…when you are ready to apply for that job, you find every way possible to define your strengths in the job application and your resume – and make sure you are clear about how your strengths make you a solid candidate for that position and will help the company or department move forward.
#3 – Use Your Strengths to Build a Team
In my current position, we use StrengthsFinder 2.0 to help us build our team. While we would love to require every candidate to actually take the assessment prior to interview, that’s not a savory practice here. Instead, once we have hired the person, we check to see if they have a Top Five from StrengthsFinder; if not, we buy them a copy of the book. We use a spreadsheet to chart everyone’s Top Five Talents and the different leadership categories they fall in (Strategic, Relationship Building, Influencing, and Executing). The book outlines specifics in each talent on possible pitfalls, and who you might want to partner with to work on certain projects. We have used that over the past four years to insure that everyone has the opportunity to use their strengths every day in supporting each other and doing their jobs. It’s actually quite fun.
Another way to use your strengths this way is if you are struggling with a colleague or team member. You can use your strengths to determine the best action to take to strengthen the relationship; and you’re really lucky if you know your colleagues Top Five as well – you can use the book to locate strategies on how to work with someone with a particular strength or talent.
#4 – Make Time to Talk About Your Strengths with your Supervisor
Your supervisor, your boss, that person who is responsible for your professional development and evaluation…this person should definitely be aware of your strengths; and if you are using StrengthsFinder 2.0 in the workplace, you probably know hers as well.
Let’s say your boss gives you a piece of critical feedback you don’t quite understand. Consider how that feedback connects with any of your talents. Is there a way that your talent can help you improve upon that area of feedback? Can you ask your supervisor how it might be done differently, and then work to align your strengths with her suggestions.
It IS entirely possible that you won’t find a solution using your strengths, so you might have the opportunity to negotiate a way to have another team member perform that task and get you something to do that aligns more completely with your strengths. This here can be serious higher-level conversations, so make sure you feel comfortable approaching your supervisor in this way and you are prepared for the dialogue.
#5 – Pursue Professional Development Opportunities that will Reinforce Your Strengths
I mentioned earlier that I have Maximizer – I want to make good things great. I would be able to reinforce this strengths getting on a committee that is doing strategic planning or forecasting. My talent for Connectedness may improve if I attend a conference for something like counseling or teambuilding.
Remember the example I used earlier, about the employee who enjoyed planning events? That person would get a great deal of professional development by sitting on a conference committee or volunteering to plan the annual staff picnic. There will be something out there for you that resonates with one or more of your strengths. If nothing else, just buy a bunch of books that align with your strengths.
Someone with Empathy like me might want to read books on listening. My Developer would enjoy books on team building activities or leadership development. You have endless choices – you just need to do the work to figure it all out.
I love the fact that we have the opportunity to use our strengths and talents every day. Some days you need to be more intentional than others. And if you come to the realization that you can’t or aren’t using those strengths every day…maybe you need a new gig or a conversation with a mentor or supervisor. Do not despair! Just keep focusing on the position you seek and work those talents every…single…day.
You got this.