Want to rock your tasks, goals, projects, relationships, and career? Exploit yourself at work, in a good way. Build a custom strategy for success based on your unique Strengths and those of the people around you.
Step 1: Clarify Your Strengths
We’re all good at something. Everybody has a unique set of talents. The trick is naming them with enough specificity to take action. Saying I’m good at “details” sounds good but leaves much to be desired for turning that into action. Are you good at collecting details, organizing them, discovering them, communicating them, analyzing them? A little more “detail” please.
Clarify your Strengths with specifics. Gallup’s StrengthsFinder tool is a good place to start. The StrengthsFinder assessment provides you with a unique combination of 34 total Strengths. Your top five are your dominant strengths and opportunity for greatness. Each individual taking the assessment gets a detailed report customized based on their unique combination of top strengths.
Note: the math says there’s a 1 in 33 million chance you’ll find someone with the exact same combination, so you get to be unique AND have clarity.
Here’s a quick example: If one of your top five is “Strategic,” Gallup’s short definition says you “create alternative ways to proceed” and “faced with any given scenario, you can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.” Aha! We can start to understand better how this might be applied.
Step 2: Personal Strategy (moving from knowledge to action)
Knowing your Strengths is just a start. Putting them to work in a strategy is where the rubber meets the road.
Like a coach determining a strategy for an upcoming game, develop your personal strategy for the next project, meeting, assignment, annual performance goal, etc. built on your Strengths.
Pretend you’re a pitcher with a wicked curveball and excellent breaking ball. Your fastball is average at best, and your slider is definitely below average. Your strategy probably relies heavily on your two best pitches, not your two worst.
Knowing your strengths does the same thing for you at work. Focus your strategy on what you do best.
For example, if you’re great at collecting, organizing, and providing information, it comes natural and you often find you’re a go-to person on the team for questions and info, in the Strengths world, this talent is called “Input.” Put it to work! Be that go-to person with all the info. Those of us that don’t have this strength need you. Without you, we lose valuable time struggling to do what you do with ease.
A project manager with this strength may take the action of creating a robust reference file of information for everyone on her team to pull contract details, best practices, contact information, etc. This frees her team to focus on their actions without worrying about where to find information or creating their own, less effective files.
Perhaps you have a solid reputation for being dependable, loyal, and highly responsible. What you say you’ll do, you do. Period, end of story. StrengthsFinder calls this “Responsibility.” Your strategy may be owning the action item list and establishing a follow-up system to help everyone stay on task. Or, perhaps you take on the most time-sensitive tasks.
A VP of Operations might leverage his Responsibility strength to take on the most time-sensitive projects knowing his drive and passion to meet commitments will keep him and his team energized and focused.
Step 3: Team Strategy (incorporate your team in your strategy)
Don’t stop with yourself. Up your game by leveraging the Strengths of those around you. Remember that 1:33 million stat in Step 1 above? Here’s where it comes into play. Everyone around you is unique. They all have different combinations of Strengths, education, experience, and knowledge. Seek out those who are rocking it where you aren’t.
Differences across people equal advantage when it comes to strategy for success. Leverage those around you to fill your gaps instead of beating your head against the wall.
Consider your team has been tasked with developing and rolling out a new attendance policy. Brainstorming and thinking through the details typically energizes those with Strategic Thinking Strengths (Ideation, Analytical, etc.). Ask them to help develop the initial process.
Look to your folks high in Relationship Building Strengths for insight into staff morale, concerns, and needs to be sure you address these as part of the plan and customize your roll-out strategy accordingly for smooth delivery. These team members will know the pulse of the team better than anyone.
Leverage your team members high in Executing Strengths to build a detailed project plan keeping the team on task and on time. Leverage team members strong in Influencing Strengths to develop the communication plan and help with presentations for clear, confident delivery.
You’ll be amazed by the energy of your team when they’re asked to help with tasks that align with their Strengths and relieved when you don’t feel like the Lone Ranger trying to do things out of alignment with your Strengths.
Step 4: Build a Strengths-Based Ecosystem (sustain gains and grow the culture)
A Strengths-Based Ecosystem is an evolving culture within an organization focused on the productively leveraged strengths of its people, resulting in a thriving work environment.
This matters because, according to Gallup’s research, “People who focus on using their Strengths are 3X as likely to report having an excellent quality of life and are 6X as likely to be engaged in their jobs.”
Steps 1-3 are a start, and much like learning a new language, use it or lose it. To sustain and grow gains in productivity, engagement, quality, safety, efficiency, and retention requires dedication. An ecosystem evolves and thrives based on contribution and balance of all components.
Never stop learning about yourself and those around you. The more you understand about yourself and teammates, the more you can leverage the right people at the right time.
Make Strengths a common part of your workplace language. Post Strengths on name tents in meetings, email signature lines, office nameplates, etc.
Implement Strengths-based communication tools for tough conversations, such as Trybal Performance’s “How To Talk About It.” Seek understanding. Ask teammates about their Strengths. How do their unique combinations of Strengths affect how they see, hear, and understand the world?
Share how your Strengths affect the way you filter inputs and outputs. The more we understand, the more we move away from unproductive stories about each other and into productive communication with each other.
Consider Strengths as part of every goal, project, conversation, and team.
One final example of what this could look like:
To reduce time spent in meetings, the supply chain team develops a strategy for attendance and communication based on their Strengths.
The manager, high in Analytical and Deliberative, needs data to feel comfortable with decisions.
The raw material buyer, high in Focus and Achiever, gets things done and works best with clear priority and minimal distraction.
The services buyer, high in Communication and Significance, is dynamic and effective at networking with new vendors and clients.
Based on this information, the team divides meeting responsibilities. They create a shared file for listing updates on projects with clear data points which the manager uses to attend production meetings without needing the buyers present. When projects kick off with new clients or vendors, the services buyer attends, representing the team while the manager and raw material buyer are only on call if needed.
For projects already underway, project status meetings are attended only by the raw material buyer who is most efficient at providing the updates and actions remaining on the specific project.
Bottom line: we spend a lot of time focusing on weaknesses. We think we have to “fix” areas in which we struggle. We think others need to “fix” areas in which they struggle. We miss opportunities because we’re stuck in stories about why others don’t see things the way we do.
Challenge your perspective. Focus on what you’re good at. Look for what others are good at. Get out of stories and into understanding.
Build your strategy for rocking it at work based on what you and others do best. And finally, sustain it to lock in gains and grow.