My pastor has a little bit of an unusual background; his undergraduate degree is in music. I heard him once say that he was only a mediocre flutist but that he was able to outperform many of his classmates. The secret? He had to work hard just to keep up, but those with more natural talent chose to coast along. In the end, he graduated a better performer, and we are very blessed each time we hear him play.
Experts in human potential say that you should develop your strengths, not your weaknesses. This seems counterintuitive to most; we think we should try to do better what we don’t do well. However, the truth is you will only really shine in areas of strength, but you will never reach your full potential until you invest the time and energy to grow in your areas of raw talent. Just like my pastor’s classmates, if you choose not to grow in those areas, you will never truly excel.
John Maxwell says that we “should get out of [our] comfort zone but stay in [our] strength zone,” but this assumes we know what our strengths are.
Years ago, when I first read The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, I started tracking my SHAPE. This proved to be an excellent tool for me to refer to when making life choices. However, it has not always been easy to explain my process to other people, especially those less prone to introspection or self-reflection. It is difficult to teach something that seems as natural as breathing to you.
I have just recently taken the Gallup StrengthsFinders assessment, and I think it will provide a useful tool for the less reflective.
What StrengthsFinder Is
If you aren’t familiar with StrengthsFinders, let me give just a brief overview.
- It measures your talents, not your strengths. The premise is that you start with raw talent and develop it into a strength. The assessment purports to reveal where you have the potential to develop a strength.
- It identifies your 5 most prominent talents from a list of 34. These talents describe “what’s right with people” as opposed to what they might not do well.
- This assessment actively discourages introspection! You are given only 20 seconds to answer each question because the designers believe a snap reaction is more accurate.
While the results of my assessment haven’t been tremendously surprising to me, it has provided some interesting insights. What it has done is given me a framework to help me in ways perhaps not intended by the designers.
How I Am Using the Insights
The assessment is intended to provide teams with insights so that they can be built around complimentary strengths, but at the moment I am a “solo-preneur” (a business of just one), without a work team. I have to fill every role, whether I am talented at it or not.
As an example, I know I need to get out and network in order to build my business. One of the 34 talents is called “woo” – winning others over – which is what makes for great networkers. I am certain my father has this talent since he really has never met a stranger.
However, I did not get that talent! That descriptor is truly the opposite of my natural inclination; I am an introvert who would much rather sit in a corner with a book than mingle with the crowds.
In order to enable me to become a more outgoing and proactive networker, I have dug into the descriptions of my existing talents looking for elements that could draw me out of my shell and compel me to approach people. I have only found one potential strength that had anything remotely outgoing; the “developer” talent is “drawn toward people” for the purpose of helping them develop their talents.
I am now applying this talent insight to my networking approach; instead of looking at a room full of strangers, I choose to look at it as a room full of potential. Since this is a new approach, it is hard to tell you how well it’s working, but my first couple events using the approach have been more positive experiences than before.
The day will soon come when I recruit a partner for my business, and I now know what talents and strengths that partner must have in order to balance my weaknesses. Until that day comes, I will continue to leverage new facets of my talents to keep growing!
Where are your greatest strengths? Which talents are you using, and which ones are you growing?
If you would like to learn more about personal growth, join me for a 3-session mastermind group in December (2015) on the first three Laws of Growth. You can find details at A Taste of Growth.
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The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: The Law of Priorities, by John Maxwell
The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren
StrengthsFinder 2.0, by Tom Rath