The subject of one’s personal weaknesses can be one of most commonly awkward points of an interview, job review or even a chat with a dear friend. No one enjoys honing in on the area which needs the most work, or admitting to what may be a source of insecurity.
You could say that what isn’t emphasized enough in our professional and personal lives is the importance of our STRENGTHS. Yep, what we’re already and naturally good at. Tom Rath’s Strengthsfinders 2.0 first peaked my fascination with this idea (while still at USC), which talks about the ways in which we can maximize our potential – through realizing and executing our best natural abilities. Based on super-extensive and interview-driven research, the philosophy goes on to both delineate 34 critical human attributes and empower readers to identify which of them encompass their own “top 5 strengths.” Several of mine were Empathy, Maximizer, and “Woo” (or the capacity to Win Others Over).
“Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?” – Benjamin Franklin (credit to the Strengthsfinder website!)
As a young and new professional who’s passionate about being happy with, engaged in and the best at what I do, these ideas both intrigue me and have inspired me to do some reflection and internal software-updating this past month. Gallup’s literature on these “strengths” in leadership in particular stresses the tasks of recognizing ones own strengths, investing in those of others and “getting people with the right strengths on your team.” This, in my mind, points to generating self-awareness and practicing positive reinforcement around you – by giving feed back and giving high-fives often. But could it also come back around to that first icky thing I mentioned: our weaknesses, too?
Last week, I took a competencies assessment that reminded me of Strengthsfinder: The Leadership Architect by thought leaders Lombardo and Eichinger (funnily enough, their company took the name Lominger). Unique in that this tool’s format prompts one to gauge talents, skills and unskilled areas into three categories, the L Architect made an interesting connection possible; that is, the question of which talents could fit directly in with a corresponding unskilled area for improvement.
This connection – between the difficulty of facing our weaknesses and the potential for maximizing our strengths in what we do – blows my mind. So, I have 1) set out several new self-improvement goals that tied a few “competencies” recognized by my managers lately to my largest areas of opportunity, and 2) set out to share these ideas with my peers at work, and fellow professionals and interns like YOU. I’d recommend lining up lists of both what your closest friends would say they love about you or what traits you’re most proud of, and what you have been meaning to try harder at or work on lately.
For now, here are a few of my examples (for inspiration and accountability’s sake):
1. An unskilled area which my assessment distinguished is called Sizing People Up, or the ability to make efficient judgments of peers’ intentions and feelings. I credit my inclinations toward sensitivity, wariness and being overly apologetic, but I also chose to think about my natural knack for Compassion with friends and new acquaintances, another competency laid out by Lominger. This will allow me to build long-term rapport with clients and customers in my new job, as well as help me to understand my colleagues and the ways in which they’re best supported and motivated.
2. As a moderate technology and social media user, I have a lot to learn in terms of Technical Skills for the purposes of most of my company’s products and services – much of which has been required of me through Learning on the Fly (by the way, these in bold are the actual terms labeled in the assessment). The talents which I realized are perfectly fit to help me improve are Problem-solving and Perseverance, or my ability to stick with a project and exhaust all resources before moving on from a challenge.
You can find more information about what these assessments provide at the Strengthsfinder website and Lominger’s, as well. While neither is a free assessment, Strengthsfinder 2.0 can be found on Amazon and includes a unique URL which directs you to your own, self-assessment portal! My Strengthsfinder book is one of my favorite keepsakes from my days of college learning.
To doing – and recognizing – our best on the daily!