One of my favorite topics for developing leaders is living in your strengths. In our culture, we spend much of our waking and working hours worried about our weaknesses. Think about the number of times your parents focused on the one “bad” grade on your report card, instead of all the other good ones! Studies show that putting your energy to developing your strengths, and managing around your weaknesses, is a far better approach to success. Here’s one such study from Gallup, and perhaps the most comprehensive.
At Momentum, we put so much stock in this approach that it is the first session we do with both our executive and early-career classes. One of the tools commonly used by our facilitators is Strengthscope. They define the results of working in your strengths as follows:
Our strengths are the qualities that energize us and enable us to perform at our best. By getting the balance right between developing your strengths and reducing performance risks, you will achieve higher levels of:
For the past few years, Kathy Boswell has delivered this training for our Upward classes, and Gwen Hall for our Executive classes. The results are impressive. Many participants find that they are not currently working in their strengths and are able to define a path to incorporate “strength training” into their work and family life.
If you don’t have access to strength training or a strength coach, there is still a simple exercise you can do to help. I call it “Love and Loathe.” For one month, keep a notepad handy and end each day reflecting on your day. Make a “love” column and a “loathed” column. Write down the work/activities you did that day that you loved doing–the ones that gave you energy and made you feel stronger. Put the activities that drained you in the loathe column. After a few weeks of doing this, the “love” column will show where you should invest more of your time. The “loathe” column will show areas you should delegate, manage around, or ask for help.
I get the most questions from the loathed column. “How do I manage around this thing I hate to do, but it’s essential to my job?” I’ll give a personal example as a possibility.
I hate expense reports. I’ve always hated expense reports. The level of tracking, detail, and reporting just drained me. My time was much better spent designing marketing campaigns, pitching clients, and understanding needs of our customers. One day I found out that another person on our executive team had our office admin doing his expense reports. I asked our CEO about it. He was unaware. I approached the office admin and found out that she loved filing expense reports, but got really stressed about making signs or writing office memos! I agreed to help her with those things if she would file my expense reports once a month. That worked out perfectly!
Another example was bigger, and more strategic. I needed to come up with revenue goals for our sales team. I am not great at math, or spreadsheets, but I did know our sales team and prospect-base very well. I came up with an “intuitive” shot, based on that knowledge. Our CFO ran numbers and predictive models, based on past performance and market trends. Our numbers were surprisingly close, so by putting both of our strengths to work, we were able to come up with a number we could use to set budgets and commissions plans. A win/win using both of our strengths.
Beyond a love and loathe exercise, here are a few resources for more background on working in your strengths:
- Clifton strength resources
- Marcus Buckingham’s Standout Strengths (a personal favorite)
- Strengthscope Resources
Need more help? Request a Momentum mentor to chaperone you through finding your strengths.
April Benetollo is CEO of Momentum, and a passionate advocate of strengths training for all leaders.
Interested in strengths training for you or you organization? Contact us.