My organization is in the process of an incredible change to its process of performance evaluation. The best part about it, from my perspective, is that it is focused less on performance as the end all and be all of evaluation, and more on preparedness for progression to the next level for all employees. Obviously, I’m biased….and yes, I’ve had just a little bit of the kool-aid, but the truth of the matter is that this Is really cutting edge and others in the market are looking to us for insight so they can do the same. As you can imagine, we’ve had so many conversations internally about it and some of the more junior staff have been relying on the leaders to be their guide through their transition into the new process. This coupled with some recent coaching sessions I’ve had with new clients has highlighted something for me-most of us are more comfortable focusing on our weaknesses and trying to developing them than we are even identifying our strengths, let alone amplifying them.
This lead me to wonder, what would our experiences be in this life, individually and collectively, if we opted to spend more time considering our strengths , investing more time there than on our weaknesses. I’m not saying that we completely ignore the areas in which we can improve and develop. Instead, I’m just proposing that we invest more time and energy in the areas in which we are already distinct or can be even more accomplished . For instance, I would benefit me much more to invest time in my speaking skills because this is something I can acknowledge that I’m good at and yet there is so much more I can glean from more focused efforts on this skill. Besides, more often than not, a good portion of any energy we place on our weaknesses is not that productive. We spend more time “wishing I was good at x” than actually trying to find ways to be better in those weaker areas or comparing ourselves to others when it comes to weaknesses. So, as we shift toward amplifying our strengths, what does this enteail?
1-Identifying your strengths: Just for level setting, let’s agree that a strength is a skill or area of expertise in which you have experienced some level of accomplishment and can serve as resource to others. Personal brand building would be one of mine. Just this week I was asked to facilitate two sessions on the topic, one internal to my organization and the second for a local professional organization. We all have skills for which others seek us out. What three skills or areas of expertise can you identify as strengths?
DO NOT DISCOUNT ANYTHING!!! More often than not, when I’m working with folks, it is at this stage that they will identify strengths and then pull back because “it’s nothing really special”. If you’re already going there, one question I have for you: Can anyone and everyone exhibit that particular skill or area of expertise to the same degree you have? If not, DO NOT DISCOUNT IT! Just identify it and let’s keep moving.
2-Owning your strengths: Once you identify your strengths, you’ve really got to commit to owning them. What this means is really committing to cultivating them. As it relates to personal brand building for me, I read any and everything I can get my hands on about the topic. I am constantly tweaking or adding to the Bernier Brand Building model I developed years ago. If you’re a phenomenal singer, you’ve got to keep singing, taking opportunities to enhance, amplify, this strength. If you’re a stay at home mom, managing a household, keeping everyone on track with many different schedules, you may pursue another opportunity around project management or additional experiences that will position you to enhance this strength. Star Athlete? I think it goes without saying, you’ve got to keep practicing and performing on the court, field, track, dance stage, etc. The first strength you identified, how will you own this strength by continuing to cultivate it?
3-Advocating for yourself based on these strengths: So often we’re afraid of tooting our own horn for fear of being perceived as cocky, over-confident, assuming, etc. You’re not alone! I’m just starting to be more comfortable in advocating for myself as it relates to my strengths. It’s actually not the advocating that seems so tough. It’s more being able to say, “yes, I’m really good at public speaking….building relationships….coaching.” Once you’ve identified and owned your strengths though, it’s a natural extension toward advocacy for yourself because it is then that you realize you’ve made an investment and now it’s simply time to seek a return by sharing your skills with others. It may sound something like “You know, I understand you’re hosting a conference next month and I’d love to share my insights into the topic of XX through a workshop I’ve facilitated for many different audiences. I can assure the experience of the participants who sign up for the session will learn x, y, and z.” Create one advocacy statement. Still tough to imagine yourself doing this? Start with the mirror-I promise it makes it easier when it’s time to go live!
I always try to find something to share with all of you after I write my thoughts. This was the first thing to pop up as I searched images around amplifying your strengths. #Fitting!