When I was twelve, I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I’d grown up, and I spent years deliberately chasing that very goal. Fast-forward to age 30, and I was no longer committed to this goal that I’d put all my energy into achieving. What happened? I discovered Strengths Finder and realised I had many more goals to pursue.
While my friends explored all that youth and freedom could offer, I was studying and working in near equal parts, often at the expense of family time and a good night’s rest. I was unapologetic, unrelenting and unstoppable. By age 24 I’d achieved what I’d set out to do – I’d started my journey as a software engineer and with each passing year, I worked hard to improve my skills and impact by continuing to study academically and absorbing all the mentorship that came my way.
Fast-forward to age 30, and I was no longer committed to this goal that I’d put all my energy into achieving. I’d satisfied my twelve-year-old self, but my energy had diminished and I no longer felt the same determination about this so deliberately chosen career. There were things about my work that I still loved, but I felt drawn to a different goal. And so the pursuit of a new goal started again.
Discover your strengths
What had happened? Had I mistaken earlier ideals of success for passion and purpose? I can’t with certainty say that it was any kind of mistake. I had to get to this point for my strengths to come to the fore. I needed this time to be able to recognise the types of activities that truly brought these strengths to life.
Research by Gallup suggests that I needn’t have worked this out through years of experience in what was possibly a mismatched career choice. This research describes 34 themes that exist in each of us, and its accompanying assessment known as Strengths Finder, ranks these themes for an individual according to where they feel most energised, engaged and strong. In summary, the assessment reveals your unique top five strengths (what you naturally do best) with guidance for developing your greatest talents in order to live your best life.
Focus on the positive
They claim that developing one’s weak areas is not as beneficial as developing the areas in which you are strong. Working on your weakness is draining and requires more energy than if you were to focus on your strengths. Instead, and this is the beauty, we should partner with others who are strong in the areas that we are not.
According to Marcus Buckingham, the author of ‘Now, discover your strengths’, our strengths are already apparent during childhood. The Strengths Finder assessment results are valid for life, meaning that you don’t need to take the assessment more than once in your lifetime.
My top-ranked strength is ‘Learner’ – someone who is energised by the process of learning and developing a new competence. True to my ‘Learner’ strength, I’ve become fascinated with developing an understanding of the Strengths work and how it might benefit me personally, my colleagues, and especially the collective.
I began an exercise this year to bring Strengths into our awareness at work. Today, everyone in our business unit has completed the assessment. For those who had not done it before, I used my Individualisation strength to sit with each person to help them make sense of their own strengths and draw their own insights. I’ve worked with our teams so that they can learn to understand where their colleagues are most talented and how this plays out, as well as to identify opportunities to partner with one another.
In my own life, I’ve realised what it was that encouraged my career shift after age 30. I was hitting maybe three of my top five strengths, and not consistently every day. What I was learning felt repetitive. I’d learned to learn. I wasn’t enjoying as much time with people either, and I’m incredibly motivated by working with different personalities and learning about each person’s unique qualities. I am in a role today where I can enjoy the use of my top five strengths nearly every day. My teammates are diverse in their strengths, and I’m noticing fabulous opportunities to partner.
Knowledge is power
There are more exercises I’d like to try by incorporating Strengths such as recruitment, but already there have been positive results from the exercise. I’ve started to notice how some people’s behaviours (which previously frustrated their colleagues) are now understood, and I see others empathetically seeking balance, and equally being open to having their own boundaries challenged. It has created self-awareness for people, and the Strengths Finder tool with descriptions has served as a way for people to describe themselves to their teammates. The awareness and appreciation of others has been incredibly rewarding for me to witness.
I would really recommend that any team of people wanting to elevate their teamwork dynamic to each take the assessment, spend a few months in self-awareness to take note of when and how their strengths come out at work, and then sit together as a team to get to know one another better. By discovering where people’s strengths are complementary, and to think of ways to work together, each person can do what they do best more often.
by Candice Herodotou