One of the chief objectives in forming a team is to find people with complimentary strengths, talents, and skills. The mix provides the team with the necessary breadth to cover a wide range of demands, and allows for more flexibility to adjust to the inevitable challenges that arise during projects.
Steven Covey puts it this way, “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.”
To achieve this mixture in teams, it is first necessary for individuals to understand their own strengths. Most of us have plenty of thoughts about our own strengths. After all, we all had to answer the same standard interview question, didn’t we? “So [interviewee name], what are you greatest strengths?”
Answers that I have heard (and used) are typically fairly vague, in the vein of: attention to detail, team player, organized, self-motivated, etc.
In his book Go Put Your Strengths to Work, Marcus Buckingham argues that our greatest opportunity for improvement lies in capitalizing on our strengths. To achieve real improvement, however, we need to get beyond vague descriptions of strengths by focusing on the activities that allow us to utilize our strengths.
Strength activities have 4 SIGNs
- Success – you are successful when playing to a strength
- Instinct – you are drawn to, and look forward to, strength activities
- Growth – strength activities feel natural (more on this below)
- Needs – strength activities seem to fill certain innate needs
Under the header of GROWTH, Buckingham writes engagingly about how strength activities make us feel.
It feels easy. It feels like you’re not trying very hard. It feels like an activity that for some reason, proved quite simple for you to pick up. You learned it quickly and now, when you are doing it, you don’t struggle to concentrate. Instead you naturally stay focused and time speeds up, and you still stay focused and time speeds up some more. You have to remind yourself to step and look up at the clock, and when you do, whole hours have flown by.
Sounds to me like being “in the zone.”
Identify your strength activities
Buckingham suggests a process of self-observation whereby you write down what you are doing when you catch yourself engaging in activities that have the 4 SIGNs described above. Continue the process for about 2 weeks, recording each activity on a separate card, along with how it makes you feel.
At the end of the time, review all the cards to reveal those with the highest SIGN rankings. These are the daily activities that most play to your strengths. You will want clarify whether the activity has caveats or special circumstances. For example, attending brainstorming meetings may be a strength activity for you, whereas attending other types of meetings may not.
Related Post: Playing to your strengths on teams
By the way, I will post a review of Go Put Your Strengths to Work by Marcus Buckingham at Joyful Jubilant Learning’s A Love Affair with Books on March 30.
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