I'VE WRITTEN AN UPDATED POST HERE.
It's that time of year again. If you are like most employees you have already started the process of looking back on this past year and assessing your performance or your team's performance.
Did you accomplish your goals?
What can you improve upon for next year? What can your employees improve upon for next year? Employee evaluations always focus on what needs improvement. Instead of taking the time to point out what people did well, they almost always lead to highlighting our weaknesses.
Which begs the question, why are we so infatuated with weakness? From interview questions to professional and personal development plans we always seem to gravitate to what we or someone else thinks we don't do well.
Why is that do you think?
As people managers, we are trained early on to look for areas where people need to get better. In fact, our indoctrination into looking for weaknesses starts long before we become people managers.
Throughout our lives from parents to teachers to coaches and ultimately our bosses, people are generally not hesitant to point out our weaknesses. Maybe it's because it easier to notice what people do not do well rather than compliment them on areas where they excel.
After all what kind of develop plan can you put together for someone who is already good at a particular skill? It is this question that StrengthsFinder 2.0 (affiliate link) seeks to answer by turning traditional thinking on its head.
Instead of focusing on a person's weakness, StrengthsFinder 2.0 takes the glass is half full approach to development by focusing on the things that we are naturally wired to do well. I
t is based on research originally conducted and then later published by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton, both of whom worked for Gallup at the time. The book was titled, Now, Discover Your Strengths (affiliate link) and in it Buckingham and Clifton offered a simple and controversial yet powerful thesis.
“The best way to get ahead in your career and be satisfied in your job is to focus on developing your strengths”
It went further to suggest that no matter how hard you try, you really can’t improve your weaknesses. You are wasting time and energy trying to do so. The best thing you can do is discover your strengths and then find a role that allows you to use them.
In their extensive research, Buckingham and Clifton identified 34 different strength themes and developed an online strengths assessment that identifies your five top strengths.
Since the release of their book, Buckingham left Gallup and Clifton has passed away. Their work, however, was picked up by Tom Rath who refined the research to develop an, even more, accurate, reliable, and faster assessment tool.
In 2007, he published StrengthsFinder 2.0, documenting his research and Gallup released a new online assessment. It is now called the “Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0” test in honor of Donald Clifton.
Like yourself, I have heard of this test before and to be honest, I was skeptical. How could you not be?
After managing from the middle for many years now, I have been trained very well to look for “opportunities for improvement” in others. So well, in fact, I often spend time assessing myself in order to evaluate what I can “do better”.
Who spends time reviewing what they are good at? Besides, determining what you are good at is difficult.
So I finally decided to take the test. What I discovered during the process fascinates me. I now understand why I gravitate towards certain situations, tasks and thought processes.
As I reflect on my list of top five strengths I can easily see how my personal employee engagement would ebb and flow with various assignments and positions throughout my career. During assignments where I was operating within my strengths, my engagement was high.
When I was assigned to projects that did not call on my strengths, I was predictably (although I didn't know it at the time) disengaged.
After reflecting on the results of this test I do believe that the best development plans for your career and your life are those that allow you to work within your strengths. So what are my strengths?
My top five strengths, along with the descriptions I received in the customized report are:
- Strategic: People who are especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.
- Context: People who are especially talented in the Context theme enjoy thinking about the past. They understand the present by researching its history.
- Futuristic: People who are especially talented in the Futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be. They inspire others with their visions of the future.
- Relator: People who are especially talented in the Relator theme enjoy close relationships with others. They find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal.
- Restorative: People who are especially talented in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.
So what does this mean? At a high level, it means that I will be most satisfied in a position that allows me to address and resolve even the most complex problems, challenge others to think beyond the status quo by establishing future visions of what could be and developing the plans necessary to achieve them.
If it is true that knowledge is power, it is now incumbent upon me to begin to work within my strengths or that knowledge will be wasted and I will not be able to grow as quickly.
The more I operate in my strength zone, the more productive and satisfied I will be. Anything outside of my strengths needs to be delegated to someone else who is more naturally wired to handle it.
But what about you? Do you know what your strengths are? Does your current position give you an opportunity to express them? If not, my guess is that your engagement level is low and may even contribute to why you feel so little satisfaction in your career.
Want to learn more? You can start by taking these five steps:
- Buy the StrengthsFinder 2.0 (affiliate link) book and take the test. There is an “access key” inside that enables you to take the online assessment.
- Review your customized report and reflect on your strengths. Ask yourself, “How well do these strengths describe me?” If you are like me and you are honest with yourself you will be surprised at how well your strengths resonate.
- Evaluate your current job in light of your strengths. Now the tough part. Does your current position allow you to work within your strengths? If not, you may have just determined the reason your job satisfaction and level of engagement is low.
- Develop a strategy to align your strengths and your job. To do this, you will need to start focusing on those aspects of your job where you can express your strengths. Areas not within your strengths will need to be delegated or offloaded completely if possible. In the worst cases, you may need to start looking for a new opportunity.
- Share your strengths with your boss and take charge of your next development review. Share with him or her your strengths and your desire to start working within them. Explain to them that by doing so you will be able to make your greatest contribution to them and the team. Let them know that you want their assistance finding opportunities to express them.
Employee engagement whether yours or your teams is critical to the success of any organization. The research outlined in Strengths Finder 2.0 has proven that real job satisfaction comes from working with your strengths.
Take the test today and discover what you are naturally wired to do. If you are a people manager think about how you could manage your team differently if you knew the strengths of each individual on your team and could focus them on the activities where they excel rather than having them work on projects where they use none of their strengths.
For roughly $20 an employee you might just find this test to be the best training investment you make next year. After all, don’t you want yourself and your team to be more productive and more engaged?
Understanding your team's strengths is a big move in that direction.
Have you taken the test? What are your top five strengths?
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”