The Strengths Series – part 2
Using your strengths and plugging the weaknesses
Welcome back! In the first post we talked about the definition of strengths being a bit different to what you might find in a dictionary / on Google (delete as appropriate) – that it’s all about what energises you, that you might be skilfully great at it already but if you’re not you have the potential to be in the future. Now we’ve got the definition and you’ve hopefully spent some time using the questions to actually figure out what energises you, we’re going to go all practical about how you can use them as well as how you can keep an eye on the things that are holding you back.
First up, how to use your strengths more. I’ll bring some examples to life that should help apply to your own strengths…
- If you found from your list that you really love working with other people, it’s time to do a bit of an audit on where you’re spending your time. Are you working with others enough? If you spend most of your day solo but you know you’d be more energised with other people around, how can you make that happen? It might be changing where you work – if you’re home based, can you go into an office a couple of days a week? If you can’t, do you want to put in some virtual meetings? You might need to speak to your employer if it comes down to logistics outside of your control but explaining that you need a bit more collaboration and human interaction will make them sit up and listen. If you’re a one-person band maybe co-working spaces or even pitching up to a coffee shop for a couple of hours is the way to go. It doesn’t have to be costly, lots of places offer free trials and it’s amazing how long you can stretch a drink out for! Beyond the work context, you might want to put in some more outings for either you and your hangers on, or just you by yourself when you can. It doesn’t have to mean costly baby groups, it can be a walk where you know you’ll see some different faces and get some fresh air, whatever works for you.
- What skills can you share? If the goal is to do more of what you love, you can get a bit creative with how you do that because regardless of who you’re helping, at the centre of it, it will always directly link back to your wellbeing. You might be one of those people who is great at talking to others and pitching ideas, being at your best when you’re needing to persuade someone to come around to your way of thinking. There’s always someone who is drained by this particular type of interaction and you could absolutely make their day by offering to help – you get to use your strengths and someone else gets help…winner winner. You can insert pretty much any other strength to this example!
- A personal favourite of mine is planning your day around your usual energy levels and your strengths. For me there are peak times in the day when I know I’m at my best (energy and productivity wise), so I use those times to pick off the tasks that don’t fire me up – that way I’m not on a double whammy of feeling low energy plus doing something that is going to leave me drained – and vice versa. If you consciously observe for about a week / 10 days your energy patterns, you’ll start to tune in to how you fluctuate.
What about when strengths go too far though? That phrase about having too much of a good thing really comes into play with this. If you use your strengths in the wrong situation or just generally go too far, you’re likely to switch other people off and end up getting the gift of ‘constructive’ feedback. For example, if you feel energised by getting to a result but you get there at the expense of engaging other people, what was a good thing (getting the outcome) becomes distracted by the desire to achieve. Make sense? Here are some tips and questions to help you get to grips with when this kind of thing happens…
- Feedback. Now, I think feedback and knowing how you’re doing is incredibly important, however I’ve seen some truly horrific examples of ‘helping’ with apparently constructive thoughts. Someone once said to me that feedback is yours to do what you want with, and you can be open to receiving feedback without agreeing all the time – so please, hold on to this before we go any further!! It’s not always easy to spot in yourself where you’re going too far or to figure out the consistent triggers, which is why it can be helpful when you ask for someone else to input. Being specific about what you want help with is really important though, so just asking ‘how am I doing’ will rarely get you any quality stuff to work with. Phrasing your request with something like; ‘I’m working on ‘xxxx’ (insert whatever is relevant; things like working with bigger teams, building relationships, coaching others etc) – what do you see me doing well with this at the moment? What could I do more of? Is there anything I need to do less of?’. That way, you get feedback that should directly impact what’s important.
- What works well together? Thinking about your strengths, are there any that can work together to stop you going too far? I gave the example of being too focused on results before, so let’s use that to bring this to life. You might like getting stuff done, but if you also like working with other people and being collaborative then reminding yourself that delivering as part of a team will also energise you will help you balance the need for the result. That’s one example, there are thousands of combinations of getting your strengths to work together, but hopefully that gives you a flavour for it.
If you want to ask any specifics on this particular topic you can drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to answer any quick queries, I know it can take a bit of practice to get into the swing of working with what energises you but once you do I promise it unlocks a spark that you won’t want to lose. The final spotlight on strengths will focus on some conversation tips and how you can use them at home and at work, particularly if you’re returning after a period of time away. Until next time, bye!