Playing to our strengths
It’s a term we hear a lot, but what does “playing to our strengths” really mean?
How is it possible to do that in reality, especially if you are a one-person business, doing everything yourself? You are likely a highly capable person and very good at most of what you do. But lurking somewhere within your range of abilities are some serious superpowers.
Can you name your top five strengths?
My biggest breakthrough yet
One sunny Friday morning a few months back, I attended a business networking session where the presenter delivered a workshop about working exclusively in our areas of strength. Something she said that morning entirely changed my attitude to learning. It was a real penny-drop, jaw-drop moment that has led to a big breakthrough in my business journey.
Before I share this enlightenment with you, I want to ask you a question. When you think about areas to develop your skills in, what do you normally reflect on? I have always tended to approach CPD by thinking about the areas I believe I need to develop my skills in. What are the weak links in my armory? What could I be better at? It has always seemed the logical approach and has led me to become an ‘all-rounder’, which is what we are encouraged to be through school. But I realised that I have got this completely backwards.
When we concentrate our learning on our areas of weakness, we can develop and improve, but we must work especially hard for it. If we apply that time and energy to working on our strengths, we will see rapid development and we will find it easy and enjoyable. It seems obvious, but our education system does not instill these values in us, so we are left to discover it for ourselves.
This fundamental attitude change has already made a huge difference to me. Can it help you, too?
Testing your strengths
In the introduction to this post, I asked whether you can name your top five strengths. When you try to do this, it’s not as easy as you might think, especially if you are an ‘all-rounder’.
The presenter at the workshop told us about the CliftonStrengths (formerly known as StrengthsFinder) assessment by Gallup. It’s a tool that has been built on decades of research. To complete it, you simply respond to pairs of statements in a timed test. I am always skeptical when it comes to things like this, but after the earlier revelation I decided to give it a chance.
The results of my test made me laugh aloud. How on Earth had it managed to describe me so accurately? It was like holding up a mirror.
Take a moment to picture a world where we could all work exclusively in our fields of strength, doing the work that comes so easily to us and is the most enjoyable. You only do what you are best at, and you excel far more quickly than before, when you were doing everything, even the things you are not so good at.
That can happen in reality. If you outsource the areas of business that are not your strong points, you create time to work in your areas of strength and see rapid growth. You can outsource different tasks to different people and create a network of support that enables you to flourish.
Filling in your weaknesses with someone else’s strengths is the key to success, and finding the right people for this is essential. Below, I am going to share my top five strengths with you. If you are interested in finding out more and seeing the level of detail in the report, you are welcome to take a nosey at my Strengths insight report here.
“People exceptionally talented in the Futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be. They energize others with their visions of the future.
…You trust your own intelligence and imagination when setting a direction for your life. It’s very likely that you generate ideas quickly. You draw clever linkages between facts, events, people, problems, or solutions. You present others with numerous options.”
“You usually have more innovative ideas or original suggestions than others in the group.
…It’s very likely that you automatically search for new or fresh ways to make
upgrades or enhancements. You really enjoy doing things no one has ever considered. You usually find novel and fresh ways to do things. People turn to you when they find themselves struggling to generate ideas.”
“It’s very likely that you long to know more so you remain on the cutting edge of your field or areas of interest.
…You study everything involved in a situation and conceive entirely new ways of seeing or doing things. What you already know prompts you to ask questions and delve even deeper into a subject or problem.”
“You fill your mind with new ideas by asking questions, reading, studying, observing, or listening.
…Normally, you accumulate facts, data, stories, examples, or background information from the people you meet. Determining what they want to accomplish in the coming weeks, months, or years generally satisfies your curiosity. Others quickly notice you are genuinely interested in what they say.”
“People exceptionally talented in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.
…It’s very likely that you are mentally quick and highly resourceful. You constantly consider how you can upgrade all sorts of things in your personal or professional life. You eagerly seek and find opportunities to better yourself. “
Turning strengths into services
After I took the test, I met Debbie, the speaker from the workshop, for a 1:1 coaching session. As an expert who has worked with the CliftonStrengths for decades, she was inspirational in helping me to interpret my results and think about how I can apply them to my business.
Debbie helped me to realise that my strengths can be transformed into service packages that I can sell. Anybody who knows me would testify that I am forever suggesting ideas of things they could do to fulfill their potential. “Have you thought about becoming X?”, “you could sell Y”, “you should totally do Z”. I seek out useful information for them, and support them with any help they need in the process.
“That’s just how I am though”, I said to Debbie. “It’s too easy! I can’t charge for that.”
“You can, and you must”, replied Debbie. “Many people find it difficult to look into the future and to keep coming up with ideas. They are two very valuable strengths for business owners to have on board. There are people out there who need exactly that type of support.”
Floored, enlightened and buzzing with excitement, I came straight home and set to work creating the packages. A few days later, my ‘Business Navigator’ service was born. Was it that easy? Yes. Has it been well-received? Yes. Has this translated into paid work? Yes.
People have responded so well to it and I began getting work from it straight away. What’s more, I am absolutely in my element when I do this work. I will post more details about the services on here pronto, but if you can’t wait and want to find out more, let’s chat.
Can your strengths be packaged into additional services to add to your business?
Reveal your strengths
So, what are your strengths? You might think you know the answers instinctively, but this exercise calls for some objectivity.
Our strengths and our identities can be too closely aligned for us to tell them apart easily. This happened to me with ‘futuristic’ and ‘ideation’. My thinking tends to exist in the future. I thought it was just me. Nope, turns out it’s a strength that is valuable to others! Ideas pop into my head all day long. That’s just how I am, and it’s also my number two strength.
There are a few different tools you can use to objectively test your strengths. The CliftonStrengths assessment that I took is a paid-for test. It costs around £35 to take the full assessment and discover the order in which you possess the 34 strengths that are measured. There is also a less expensive version that concentrates on your top five – which is all you really need. The reports you receive are comprehensive, and in my case at least, eerily accurate. There are some free alternatives out there, although I can’t vouch for the veracity of these.
It can be very valuable to follow this up with a coaching session to interpret your results and apply them to your work. If you take the CliftonStrengths, I can’t recommend Debbie highly enough. She is an absolute expert and I will be very happy to put you in touch with her.
I’ve shown you mine; now show me yours. What are your top five strengths? How did you identify them? Could my strengths compliment yours? Let me know in the comments below, or if you’d like to have a chat about what I can help you to achieve, book a call.