Seems simple and obvious, but it isn't.
Recognizing strengths is hard for most people. And although you might be tempted to think that self-blocking mechanisms make it so, that's not the main reason most people have a hard time seeing their strengths. It's actually because very few people understand why they need to recognize their strengths in the first place.
So, that's what we're going to talk about briefly today.
PREVIEW: If you're going to do something, you probably want to do it well. You want to knock it out of the park. You don't want to struggle and feel behind, especially at something you thought you'd be great at.
Why should you know what you're good at?
At the root of this age-old question is the fundamental and well-accepted philosophy that you tend to get the most benefit from doing things that you're good at rather than things you're not so good at. In addition, we've learned that people tend to experience fatigue, burn-out, or boredom when they do things repeatedly that don't reflect their strengths, and we've also learned that people tend to enjoy doing things they're good at more than things they're not.
And that about sums up the general logic for most people. But, that's actually a problem. And here's why: those whys don't go deep enough.
While I was in college, an interesting idea popped into my head. Well, actually my father suggested it. In any case, he thought it would be a good idea to think about joining the military because of the benefits.
"Hmm," I thought. "Interesting idea."
And that idea, of course with my personality, led me to thinking that if I was going to do it, I might as well go all-out. I thought, "Why don't I do intelligence for the Marines." I mean, it reflected my strengths. I'm strategic, analytical, coordinated, and passionate. It seemed to make sense.
But after two years of transforming my 135 lb. fragile and preppy self into a gymnastic monstrosity, I quickly realized that my whys were weak. I hadn't really thought about the big picture. I realized I wasn't willing to kill, I couldn't swim, and I liked my hair the way it was.
(My mother's laughing hysterically by now.)
Lucky for me, my strategic mistake had an escape route. I went back to selling clothes part-time and spared my body the disservice. A different route would eventually reveal itself to me.
Are Your Strengths Suitable for the Job?
Now, a few things are noteworthy. Let's talk about the first one: strengths-matching. When it came to the idea of becoming a Marine officer, my strengths simply didn't match many of the strengths required to do the job well, no matter how many pull-ups I could do or miles I could run.
Once you go through the process of identifying what your strengths are, which takes more than an assessment like StrengthsFinder, you need to strategically align your strengths with the strengths required by the job or activity you want to do.
A simple side-by-side list works just fine.
If at the end of your matching analysis you discover a high number of matches, then you've probably found a winner. But if the lists don't match up much, you should probably consider throwing it out altogether.
But look, knowing what you should do goes well beyond a simple activity like this.
Matching lists of strengths against ideal strengths required to do a job well doesn't tell you whether or not you should do the job. It just provides you some additional data to consider when making the decision. Important data, though, I might add.
You have to go further.
THE STRENGTH OF STRENGTHS
How Strong are Your Strengths?
One of the major problems I have with StrengthsFinder is that it doesn't really tell you how strong your strengths are. Sure, my assessment told me that I'm stronger at being strategic than being a follower, but that doesn't tell me how strategic I am against relevant competition.
Say I go up for a new management position. They tell me they're looking for a strategic thinker to help them shape up their client offering. Just because I know that I'm a strategic thinker doesn't mean I'll have what it takes to be strategic enough to make that business' offering better in the face of their clients. I could be severely lacking and in over my head.
You want to avoid this scenario.
After you've done the easy work of identifying what strengths ideally suit a particular job and how much your strengths align with them, then you need to do the hard analytical work of determining how well you'll likely perform in those areas compared to your competition.
If you're going to do something, you probably want to do it well. You want to knock it out of the park. You don't want to struggle and feel behind, especially at something you thought you'd be great at. The critical step of knowing how strong your strengths are takes time and reflection. It requires research. It requires coaching. It requires strategy. You have to know how your strengths stack-up against what a job requires and your competition.
Furthermore, you want to be as close to certain as possible that you'll go into something new prepared to knock it out of the park. Knowing what strengths to leverage going in is not just a huge leg up, it's the whole body above the pole.
Ultimately, knowing how to recognize your strengths is the first thing to do and an entirely different matter, which I'll highlight at some point. If that's you right now, book a Work coaching session with us and we'll walk you through it simply and efficiently.
But if you generally have a good idea of what your strengths are, then you're probably right. Now go the steps further and use that knowledge strategically. Match those strengths to what you're thinking about doing and evaluate how likely those strengths will lead you toward success.
We'd love to help you with that, too.