How often have you heard from a speaker at a conference, on a podcast, or read on a blog, “play to your strengths” or “leverage your strengths?” “Strengths” is a persistent, perennial strategy to enhance engagement, fulfillment, and happiness at work.
However, do you know you know your strengths?
To identify your strengths is an excavation process. When you excavate you remove rocks and soil to find precious minerals, like gold. To find your gold, or your strengths, you will have to look below the surface of your day-to-day tasks. You will need to strip away generic descriptions to uncover the essence of your strengths.
The three processes that I use in my executive coaching practice to help my clients excavate their strengths are: reflection journaling, performance reviews/370 feedback reports, and calendar and task list analysis.
Process #1: Reflection Journaling
Reflection journaling is a powerful tool for learning, growth, and change. It can help you identify important insights or key themes from experiences and events in your life.
Here’s how to use reflection journaling to excavate your strengths.
Reflect on the following questions and record your answers to the questions below for one week.
- Think about your best day at work ever. What were you doing? (Hint: think about specific activities.)
- When people praise you at work, what do they applaud?
- What is the best compliment you’ve ever received at work? What made it the best?
- I feel strong when . . .
- I loved it today when I . . .
- I can’t but help to . . .
- How would you describe your strengths?
At the end of the week, review your notes for any themes and patterns that emerged and use them to identify your strengths.
Process #2: Performance Reviews/360 Feedback Reports
Performance reviews and 360 feedback reports provide data on instances when others observed consistent, near perfect performance from you, which is indicative of your strengths. However, it is important to remember that this is how others perceive your strengths, so you will still need to think about their feedback and then draft your own list of your strengths.
Follow the steps below to identify your strengths based on others’ feedback.
Step 1: Collect as many of your prior performance reviews and/or 360 feedback reports as possible. I typically ask clients to collect at least four total, and one should be your most recent performance review or 360 feedback report.
Step 2: As you read through your reviews and/or reports, write down any statements that are made by at least four people. These statements indicate a pattern of consistent performance and illuminate a strength.
Step 3: Read through what you highlighted or wrote down and group the themes that emerged.
Step 4: Review the themes you grouped in the prior step and list what others observed as your strengths.
Step 5: Reflect on this list of strengths and modify or add any additional strengths that were not stated on your performance reviews or 360s.
Process #3: Calendar and Task List Analysis
The calendar and task list analysis is my favorite method for my clients to identify their strengths. Why? Because this shows you, in black and white, how you spend your time and energy each day. As you examine your calendar and task list, you will be able to identify your strengths. And, with this information, you will find opportunities to shift how you use your time so you can spend more time leveraging your strengths.
Complete your calendar and task list analysis by following the steps below.
Step 1. Review each meeting, appointment, and task you completed for the workday. Next to each meeting, appointment, and task, place either a smiley face, plus sign, check mark, or up arrow beside anything you did that made you feel powerful, confident, natural, smooth, on fire, authentic, awesome, and/or made you say “that was easy” or “when do I get to do this again?” This step will help you identify the activities you love doing.
Step 2. Now, go back to the meetings, appointments, and tasks that you did not put a mark next to. If that task made you feel drained, bored, frustrated, irritated, forced, or made you think “time is going so slowly,” or “how much longer?” put a frowny face, minus sign, or down arrow. Your goal is to identify the activities you loathe doing.
There will be some meetings, appointments, and tasks that are neutral because you neither love nor hate them. Leave them unmarked.
Step 3. At the end of the week, create a list of all the meetings, appointments, and tasks you loved doing. Then, rank them in order of what made you feel the most alive, engaged, authentic, and powerful.
Step 4. Take your list of ranked activities and select the top three activities. Then, ask yourself the questions below from Marcus Buckingham for each:
- Does it matter why I do this activity?
- Does it matter who I do this activity with/to/for?
- Does it matter when I am I doing this activity?
- Does it matter what this activity is about?*
(* Buckingham, Go Put Your Strengths to Work.)
When you ask yourself each of these four questions, you will discover exactly which aspects of this activity must be present for you to generate positive emotion. If you want to be engaged and fulfilled, you need to spend more time and energy on tasks that cause positive emotion.
Your strengths are enablers of the life you want to lead. Strengths magnify your performance and potential. They can, and will, create opportunities for you to design your work in a way that meets both your professional and personal goals. When you use your strengths, you are more productive, impactful, and ultimately more fulfilled and engaged. Your strengths benefit your company and you. It is essential to know your strengths.
Own It. Love It. Make It Work. is the guide to help you identify and leverage your strengths. Purchase your copy here and leave me a review to let me know what you think.