You cannot be anything you want to be—but you can be a lot more of who you already are.
Towards the end of the last century there was a focus on exploring what people excelled at instead of highlighting where they needed to grow. This foundational work led to the identification of innate talents that when invested in become people’s strengths. An assessment was developed by the Gallup organization to measure the 34 most common talents and was widely dispersed throughout the world. What does this mean for teams? The research proved that it is more advantageous for both individuals and teams to focus on and invest in strengths rather than attempt to improve in areas of weaknesses. This is especially true when considering that most teams have a range of strengths and can leverage those strengths across the entire team.
How does an individual know when he or she is using a strength? They have near perfect performance in the talent, they experience intrinsic satisfaction, and they can perform the activity happily, repeatedly and successfully. Gallup, Inc believes that ‘Understanding ourselves starts with knowing our top themes and then advances to understanding the talents within those themes so that we can apply them in our lives every day’.
In Now Discover Your Strengths, Buckingham and Clifton provide a set of tools that people can utilize to maximize their full potential. The authors believe that there is a need to distinguish between natural talents and things that can be learned. Talents as defined by the authors are “naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling and behavior”. If an individual doesn’t have a talent in a specific area, learning more in that area will not necessarily lead to strength development. Rather, identifying talents, investing in them through learning and activities is what builds talents into strengths.
Buckingham and Clifton also found that a system is needed for identifying dominant talents. One way to determine strengths is to take an observer role in life. Without taking the assessment, a question that can be asked is “what am I doing when I am passionate about the endeavor and how does the endeavor brings me great joy”? However, I have found that most teams want observations confirmed so they buy the book, StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath, which includes an access code for taking the assessment.
Focusing on your strengths is a mindset shift. Sixty percent of people think it is better to try to get stronger in areas of weaknesses. This faulty assumption can prevent both individuals and teams from their greatest potential because the area for greatest growth is in the investment in strengths. So, what can be done with our weaknesses? Of important note here is that weaknesses are simply areas that we do not have passion for nor do we talents for those activities. They are not inherently negative, they just are and only become problems when we do not find ways to manage them. On teams, it become easier to manage weaknesses as frequently there might be individuals who do have talents in areas that other team members do not. For example, when one team member has a talent for activation and another team member has a talent for deliberative, it’s a great match.
Taking the time to assess the strengths of the team, identifying the top talents for investment and matching strengths with weaknesses can lead to unparalleled successes for a team.
To Your Success!