Conventional wisdom focuses on fixing weaknesses. Unfortunately, putting all your effort into fixing weaknesses can demoralize you, drain your confidence and put you on a path to mediocrity. How, then, can you stay ahead in your knowledge-driven, fast-paced and fiercely competitive career? I recommend you take advantage of strength-based development. Let me walk you through how to utilize your strengths to accelerate your career.
People who know their strengths and actively employ them have higher levels of self-esteem and psychological well-being. A study conducted by Gallup found that employees who use their strengths every day were six times more engaged in their jobs and three times more likely to have an excellent quality of life. Given these benefits, what stops everyone from utilizing their strengths to their advantage?
While everyone has strengths, it is important to be aware of them first in order to utilize them impactfully. As humans, we possess an inherent self-serving bias that makes us fixate on our weaknesses and overlook our strengths. This tendency hinders the discovery of our talents, resulting in a poor self-image. In his book Managing Oneself, Peter Drucker says, "Most people think they know what they are good at. They are usually wrong. More often, people know what they are not good at—and even then more people are wrong than right." Apparently, your perception may not accurately reflect your true abilities and limitations. It is essential to be aware of and overcome these challenges in order to better understand and maximize your potential.
Identifying your strengths is an empowering exercise that can positively influence your attitude toward challenges and opportunities for growth. Research has shown that the act of identifying and demonstrating your strengths can reinforce the neural pathways associated with those strengths, making it easier to access and use them in the future. Here are some quick ways to discover your strengths:
1. Strengths are essentially innate talents that you yearn to use since they enable authentic expression and infuse you with energy. Think about tasks/activities that energize you and make you feel confident and successful. Ask yourself what skills and abilities you used on those occasions, and those could possibly be your strengths.
2. Have a sincere talk with your close friends, family and trusted colleagues or get assessed by your coach. Ask, “What skills/traits do you admire in me the most?” or “What am I good at?” This can give you a well-rounded understanding of your abilities and provide valuable insights into areas that you may have overlooked.
3. Keep a log of your accomplishments and the genuine appreciation that you receive, no matter how small they may be. This can help you spot patterns in your achievements and pinpoint your strongest areas.
Finding your unique value proposition requires more than simply being aware of your talents and areas of expertise. Identifying opportunities to demonstrate your talents is an essential step in creating your path to success. I recommend the following strategies for accomplishing this:
1. Identify areas of need. Look for gaps in your organization/industry where your strengths can be utilized and help create a bigger impact. For example, if you have strong analytical skills, look for areas where data analysis can improve decision-making or streamline processes. This can increase self-awareness and confidence.
A word of caution: Be mindful of overcommitting yourself and taking on too much. Make sure to prioritize your workload and ensure that you can still deliver quality work.
2. Seek opportunities. Be proactive in seeking out projects or tasks that align with your skills and expertise, and take initiative to propose new ideas and solutions. For example, if you have strong communication skills, communicate with your manager about speaking at conferences or volunteer to write reports and articles. This not only allows you to showcase your strengths but also demonstrates your willingness to take on new challenges.
A word of caution: Be cautious of coming across as too self-promoting when proposing new ideas and solutions. Make sure to frame your suggestions in a collaborative manner and uphold a positive culture.
3. Expand your strength zone. Seek out stretch assignments and take on new responsibilities such as new projects or training opportunities. For example, talk to your boss about your interest in taking cross-functional assignments or leadership roles. This can help you become even more proficient in your area of expertise and stand out as a valuable employee, leading to opportunities for promotion or advancement.
A word of caution: Be aware of potential gaps in your knowledge or expertise and seek out professional development training to gain new knowledge and skills to fill these gaps before taking on new responsibilities.
Taking opportunities to demonstrate your strengths can help you get noticed and open doors for growth and professional advancement. Putting your strengths to use consistently can have a positive impact on your well-being, vitality and career success.