Posts Tagged ‘skills’

Love what you do #3: Maximise your strengths

February 10, 2012

I’ve always found that making the most of what I’m good at ensures I enjoy my job more. Knowing what I’m good at comes from different areas:

– I get feedback from others when I coach or train them

– I feel it; I come away feeling on a high; I have that sense of self-satisfaction that comes from just knowing I’ve done a good job

– I can measure the results against success criteria I’ve set myself (or others have set)

But sometimes we lose sight of what we’re good at. We get caught up in the day-to-day stuff, and take our strengths for granted.

Key questions

  • When was the last time you carried out a SWOT analysis on yourself? If it’s been a while, try it again and focus mainly on your Strengths.

*Here’s a SWOT grid I use when working with clients. In each section I’ve included some prompts; things to consider when completing the grid.

  • When was the last time you asked others what you’re good at? Sometimes it’s easier to do it this way. My experience in carrying out SWOT analyses with people is that they find it hard to think about their own strengths, and easier to think of other peoples’. A common reaction to others telling you what you’re good at is: “but that’s just my job, that’s what I do.” As you’re carrying out your daily duties, you are building up your skill set, developing your capabilities and growing these into your strengths.

Once you’ve got your strengths list, look for opportunities to use these more often. You’ll probably find that some activities relating to your strengths give you more enjoyment than others. For example, one of my strengths is organisation, but I don’t get as much enjoyment from being organised with my quarterly accounts as I do being organised in preparing for work with my clients!

What are your strengths, and how do you maximise them?

(Photo credit: Idea go)

Are you making the most of who you are? (Part 2)

August 24, 2011

In Part 1 we set the scene for making lists of your skills, strengths and personal qualities. I also introduced an exercise to provide you with external feedback.

So what did you find?

  • Were there common strengths that crossed over different areas of your life?
  • Were there strengths, skills or qualities that others recognised in you, which you had on your list too?
  • Were there any surprises?
  • Has this boosted your confidence in any areas?

Interpreting the results from the ‘Ask 6 People …’ exercise

So, hopefully you gained a range of responses from this. Here’s what to do with them …

1. Look for common trends / themes – perhaps more than one person said the same thing, or there were different comments but around a common theme. How can you use this to enhance or support your own list of skills / strengths?

For example, sometimes this exercise can highlight a skill others notice in you, which you don’t see as a strength … “It’s just the norm; it’s what I usually do” … are examples of how people have responded to this outcome. Changing your perception of this area as a strength can be a good confidence booster. It can also provide you with a further area to make the most of!

2. Be aware that the odd negative comment by a family member might be more about their agenda than yours. For example, a parent / sibling may say you don’t visit often enough.

3. Look at areas where you can stretch yourself. Perhaps, for example, there’s a comment that you are good at leading meetings at work, and could be even better if you just had a bit more confidence.

4. Where people have suggested what you could do less of (question 4), is this something you can delegate?

As Ellen Degeneres once said, “sometimes you can’t see yourself clearly until you see yourself through the eyes of others.” This exercise is good for highlighting this, but needs to be acknowledged alongside your own observations. So let’s turn to these.

Interpreting your list of strengths, from different areas of your life

For each item on your list, ask yourself how often you get the opportunity to show / use this. Are you satisfied with this, or could you find more opportunities?

Example 1: If your time management at work is good, could you transfer this skill-set to your home-life (or vice versa) ?

Example 2: If you’re good at writing or being creative, how often do you have time to do this? Is it enough? How else could you maximise it? Could you offer to do some writing for someone else in return for them providing something you need (skills-swap) ?

There may be some strengths, skills or qualities you have which you don’t want to do more of, as these would be more about meeting others’ needs and ignoring your own. Be mindful of these.

Philosopher Bertrand Russell said, “anything you’re good at contributes to happiness“. So what other benefits do we find when we make the most of what we’re good at? When I apply this exercise to myself the outcomes for me are:

  • I feel more confident
  • I have a more positive outlook
  • I am more motivated / more productive
  • I have more energy

For me, maximising my potential is also about developing myself, as well as others. It’s about a level of self-awareness about my personal strengths and knowing what my emerging strengths are that I could further develop. I then use this knowledge to set appropriate goals.

What are the benefits you’ve found from this exercise, or maximising your potential in other ways?

Would love to hear your thoughts / experiences. Feel free to comment below.

(Photo credit: Kongsky)

Are you making the most of who you are? (Part 1)

August 17, 2011

I often hear, and have used, the phrase “maximising your potential” in the context of personal and professional development.

But what does it mean in practice?

From your perspective …

In order to make the most of who you are, you need to recognise what you have; your skills, strengths, qualities, etc.

How often do we do this? During training events and coaching sessions, when I ask people to list their strengths, they often find this difficult. Lack of practice? Lack of awareness? The concern about not wanting to appear big-headed? Once you get started though, it’s surprising how your list grows! And there’s nothing wrong with celebrating your talents, successes and achievements. In fact it’s very healthy!

When building your list of skills / strengths, it helps to break it down into different areas of your life:

Work – e.g. reliable, organised, time-keeping, leading meetings

Family – e.g. ability to juggle many tasks, decision-making, organisation, creativity

Friends – e.g. trustworthy, honest, reliable, spending time with them

Hobbies & interests – e.g. running, cooking, playing a musical instrument

Some skills / strengths may cross over into more than one area, as you can see from the examples above.

Have fun making up your lists! We’ll come back to these in Part 2.

From others’ perspectives …

Other people often see us in a different light to how we see ourselves; they recognise positive qualities and strengths that we don’t necessarily see.

Finding out our strengths from others is a good way to top up our own list. You could also ask yourself, “What would (my close friend) say I’m good at?”; which could elicit a few more items for your list!

A useful task I’ve used before to gain feedback from others is “Ask 6 People 6 Questions”. Here’s how it works …

1. Make a list of at least* 6 people from different areas of your life (work, family, friends, clubs, associations, etc). The more varied the better; it will give you a good cross-section of responses and potentially more strengths / qualities / skills. Make sure they are people you believe will give you an honest response to your questions, and not just say what they think you want to hear.

*Thinking of more than 6 helps if some people you ask don’t have time.

2. Provide them with a list of the following questions:

  • What am I good at?
  • When have you seen me at my best?
  • What should I do more of?
  • What should I do less of?
  • What can you rely on me for?
  • Where do you think I can stretch myself?

They are suitably vague and non-leading. Encourage your responders to answer the questions as fully as they can.

3. If they (or you) want the responses to be anonymous, you could ask a trusted friend / colleague if the responses could be emailed (or posted) to them. The friend will then collate the responses and send you them, with names omitted. I usually find people don’t want / need to do this, but it’s entirely up to you. Do what works best.

Some of these questions may give you responses that highlight areas that you see as ‘weaknesses’. We’ll come back to this in Part 2, when I will look at interpreting the results from this exercise, as well as what to do with the lists you have devised for yourself.

In the meantime, make a note of the things you do well over the coming week, and make sure these things are somewhere on your lists. Also listen out for positive feedback from others. Does this reflect a skill / strength you’ve so far omitted?

(Photo credit: Danilo Rizzuti)