As we approach my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, I wanted to reprise a previous post about defining your strengths. My gratitude begins with acknowledging my strengths, building on them, and allowing them to fuel my confidence.
Be as thankful for your strengths as the rest of your network. Enjoy.[In August 2014,] I presented a keynote address at a conference in Owatonna, MN. During the day, it became clear that each speaker had a different take on how to leverage our strengths in any given situation: mobile media, negotiating, conflict management, and networking. I came away from the day wondering if we’d given attendees enough information pinpoint their strengths. Below are my three favorite ways to help clients become aware of their strengths and begin using them to transform the way you live and work.
- Strengths Based Leadership: There are many “free” strength assessments on the internet, but for a small investment I recommend the StrengthFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. You would receive the book and an access code to take the assessment. I prefer this resource for two reasons. First, it puts the focus on your strengths rather than trying to “fix” something. I’ll write a subsequent post about what this realization meant to me and my strengths. Secondly, we all try to “have it all” or be “well-rounded” and this book reminds us that we are part of a community. When we use our strengths we allow others to use theirs. Together, we build stronger teams, communities, and families.
- Johari’s Window – interactive tool: We all have blind spots and this interactive tool can help you discover yours. Conceptualized by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in the 1950s as a model for mapping personality awareness, the tool helps you understand the difference between how you see yourself and how others see you. When I first used the free Interactive Johari’s Window Tool I found it tremendously easy to use and gain feedback. You use the tool, save your profile, then email the tool to others. As their answers come back your window begins to populate and a story emerges. At least one concept in each the “Blind Spot” box and “Façade” box changed the way I see myself and lead others. Note: Please don’t be enticed by the darker, Nohari’s window. The last thing we all need is more negative reinforcement.
- Ask your mom/best-friend: I know this suggestion seems out of place in the list, but don’t underestimate its power. A large majority of us are uncomfortable discussing our strengths. We may easily talk about our accomplishments, the strengths of our teammates, or areas we’d like to improve – but we hesitate to discuss our personal leadership assets. One way to break the barrier is to image how your parent or best-friend would describe you. If you’re not sure, ask. It’s these people who would sing our praises without hesitation. They love us and support us through all our faults, but they are very clear about what makes us strong.
Now, it’s time to take action. Simply knowing your strengths is the first step in self-awareness. It is no small feat and will take some time. When you’re ready, take 1-2 of the actions below and begin using your knowledge.
- Discuss your new understanding with someone you trust. Gather stories about how you’ve used your strengths. Write them on notecards and review them once a week.
- Practice one strength at a time by creating an action plan just for that strength. Are you a connector? Schedule a networking event 1x per month and let your strength shine.
- Find a community of like-minded people and begin a discussion about leadership strengths and how you all use them. LinkedIn, Facebook, and blog communities are all great resources.
- Be a mentor. When you realize the power of leading with your strengths you’ll want to share it with others. Find a new college grad, new entrepreneur, or friend and offer yourself as a mentor to help them further their self-awareness.
When we lead with strengths we lead with our power.
Do you have a favorite strength assessment tool? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Fearless Follow-Up after a networking event can become a strength that sets you apart from your competition. If you’d like to learn more, order a copy of Fearless Follow-Up: How to Turn Conversations into Clients.