You can’t be anything you want to be. I realize that sounds harsh, but it’s true! There are some things you are good at; and some roles that are better suited to you.
The reality is that a person who struggles with numbers will never be a great accountant or statistician. A person without much empathy will not be able to counsel an upset client in a warm and sincere way. And no matter how much I practice, I will never become the next Celine Dion!
At work, sometimes this happens: A star salesperson gets promoted to manager. He (and the company) expects that he will instantly become a great leader. Of course that doesn’t happen, so he invests a lot of time and effort into studying how to become a better leader. A few years in, he realizes he just doesn’t have the natural talent to develop other people. Not only has he wasted a lot of time, but he probably could have increased his contribution even more if he had stayed in the sales role – where he naturally shined.
“Most people think they know what they are good at. They are usually wrong.” — Peter Drucker
The basic premise behind the “strengths revolution” is that the best way to find satisfaction and success is to focus on your strengths. You are more creative, innovative, and wise when operating in your area of strength.
Trying to change your weaknesses can be a waste of time and energy because, at best, you can only get yourself to neutral (average). Focusing on your strengths and finding a role that uses them will bring you to excellence, the place where you stand out from everyone else.
Research shows that when you’re not using your strengths, you are likely to:
- be 6 times less engaged at work
- dread going to work
- treat your customers poorly
- have more negative interactions with your colleagues
- achieve less on a daily basis
- tell your friends what a miserable company you work for…
Unlock Your Hidden Strengths
I like to use the StrengthsFinder 2.0 in my leadership development programs and coaching practice. I have seen it raise awareness, grow confidence, and reassure leaders that they don’t have to be great at everything; just be who they are.
The StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment is based on more than 40 years of research. It measures the presence of your natural talents – out of 34 possible themes – and provides ideas for action.
In order to identify your strengths, take the on-line assessment. The corresponding book explains each strength in detail; take the time to read about your top 5.
Now put your strengths into practice by considering these 5 questions:
- Does your report confirm strengths that others have observed in you?
- How do you exhibit these strengths in different facets of your life (e.g., work, family, community, etc)?
- How have your strengths helped you in the past?
- Which strengths will best help you manage stress? How?
- Consider how the over-use of a strength may have a negative impact on others
The last question is a bit complicated. You want to capitalize on your strengths, but acknowledge that over-doing it can get you into trouble as well. For example, with too much “harmony” as your strength, you may never take a stand or have your own opinion heard. Too much “empathy” and people can take advantage of you. “Strategic” is a great strength for leaders, but take it too far and you may never actually follow through to accomplish anything.