You need an inventory of your strengths.
Most people when step out to improve performance think of weaknesses first. We’re Calvinists at heart. Weakness is sin. We dwell on them in that self-talk at 2:00 in the morning when we can’t sleep, to job interviews, to performance reviews. “If only I could eliminate them, the things that I really suck at, I would be a better person, perform better, advance farther etc. etc”.
I agree with Peter Drucker … “a person can only perform from strength. One cannot build performance on (eliminating) weaknesses”.
The problem is that while our strengths are the things that make us valuable to others, sometimes they’re the things we value the least. Familiarity has bred a sort of contempt. Bring a person’s attention to an obvious strength and he’ll shrug it off. . “No big deal everybody does that…”
We recognize skills easily; our culture worships skills acquired through hard won effort. I think that puts the cart before the horse.
We build our skill base on top of our strengths.
It’s confusing for sure. When I first sit down with a client to help them build a self inventory, I usually end up telling them a story about my friend Leroy.
Leroy has passed on now, but during his life he was a talented architect, but his true calling was as an artist.
He saw differently, or I should say he” noticed” differently, than the rest of us. Whether it was a water color of the gallows frame of the High Ore mine or an oil of the face of an old sheepherder, he had the ability to pick up the one or two essential details the rest of us missed. He studied his whole life to acquire the skills to show us what he noticed. That was the essence of his art.
If you were to ask him about his strength, I have no doubt he would have pointed to some arcane (at least to me) technique with pen or brush.
And he’d be wrong. His strength, the thing that made him unique, was his ability to “notice” differently.
Strengths, as opposed skills, are personal attributes that you may have been born with or you’ve cultivated over the course of many years and life experiences.
I always mention Leroy because most folks confuse their strengths with the skills they’ve acquired. Skills are built on the foundation of the strengths we own.
My goal when I help someone is to help them uncover some of their essential and unique strengths and encourage them to build onto them the skills that magnify those strengths, while guiding them away from a fruitless correction of weaknesses.
How do we do that inventory? For most of us strengths are buried under a hundred forgotten experiences. Write down, (really write them down) a list situations and projects where you have been successful or given them particular satisfaction.
Now focus particularly on the emotions associated with those successes. Emotions are nature’s barometer. Positive ones associated with remembered actions tell us a lot about ourselves and our strengths. Search out the actions you took which gave rise to those emotions. Check out the things which your fellows complimented you on.
Maybe it was the fact that you gathered a group of disparate people together to form a productive team. Maybe you were particularly good at analyzing the facts to present a clear picture of a situation. Maybe there’s a memeory of sometime coming up to you and saying, “Damn, Joe you’re really good at this.”
I’m not a new age guy. This is a long term habit of thinking about yourself, it doesn’t just happen overnight, but believe me it’s worth it.
But the goal is to get to a point where you can say to yourself and to others calmly and confidently, “My name is Joe and I’m very good at this. Let me help.” No brag just confident fact.
(Oh, and by the way, when someone does give you a compliment get in the habit of simply saying, “Thanks for the compliment. I appreciate it.” Don’t sell yourself short….ever.