Play to your Super Strengths
Julie Batty, December 2018
I’d love to! Great idea!
But hang on…what are they?
Super Strengths? What are those when they’re at home?
Super Strengths are what we call your most powerful and unique qualities and talents. And we’re on a mission to polish them up and bring them out into the world.
So are they the things we put on our cvs? Qualifications and past job descriptions plus a line about our love of mountain climbing or macrame? Well, maybe, but if those are all we consider we’re missing more than one trick.
Our most powerful strengths and precious talents may be hiding their lights and just waiting to be brought out from under the bushel. To properly flourish in work and in life we need to bring them out and let them shine.
4,000 days of your life will be spent at work
Or think of it like this: most of us will spend as much of our waking time at work as we do with our partners. We rely on our cv to let our employers know what they’re getting but imagine if we picked our life partners on the same basis.
‘Do you take this structural engineer with 15 years’ experience in North Sea oil platforms, a post-graduate diploma in plastics and a Duke of Edinburgh Silver award to be your lawfully wedded husband?’
…Hmm. I’m not sure. He sounds well qualified but can he get dinner on the table for 3 kids and their vegan friends? Will he be able to engage our awkward neighbour in negotiations to extend our driveway? And does he make me laugh?’
Now an employer may not care whether an engineer can cook tea for children with varied nutritional needs, but they might well be looking for someone who is can-do and creative in a crisis. And swap driveway extensions for planning applications and you want to know that your candidate has communication and negotiation skills. Perhaps even some charm.
As for being able to make you laugh, well, that might be a crucial management skill for keeping perspective and diffusing tense situations.
‘Soft’ skills versus ‘hard’.
One is not necessarily more valuable than the other.
Malcolm Gladwell in his bestseller Blink, speaks eloquently about the power of so-called ‘soft skills’ when he tells us that the likelihood of being sued if you’re a surgeon doesn’t depend on how qualified you are, or even how good you are. It depends on how much your patient feels cared for by you.
Communication skills, emotional intelligence, a compassionate attitude are greater markers for what makes your patients trust and approve of you than your skill with a knife. It’s a perfect illustration of our approach to finding your greatest talents.
So what are your best strengths and where are they hiding?
Well, as I said in this blog we often look first for what you’re naturally good at, (your skills, expertise, talent, knowledge, qualifications). Then move on to your character and personality (your life experience and what you’ve made of it or it’s made of you), what really matters to you (your values and beliefs) and what makes your heart sing (your loves and passions).
Over the next few weeks we’ll take them one at a time and see if we can’t get a bit creative about nailing some of the strengths we might not have noticed in each of those categories. Right.
1. What you’re naturally good at.
Easy, right? At school you did well in History, French and English. You’ve had jobs in marketing and social media management (so you must be good at those). And you spend much of your spare time training for and running half-marathons (boy, can you run).
This is a great start. But as they say in sales, it tells us more about your features than your benefits. What we’re trying to get to is what do these achievements say about what you really have to offer? What does it all say about you as a person? Your qualities, talents, skills, strengths.
2. The trick is to be really specific.
• You have French and English qualifications. So that suggests you’re good with language.
• OK, in what way are you ‘good’? Do you have translation skills? Literal translation skills from French to English? Or is it more being able to help people understand one another when they have very different communication styles?
• Or is your expertise more about literary criticism? Being able to see the structure and effectiveness of language, how best to make an argument or a dramatic impression?
• Or maybe your language skills are about great communication. Can you use language to persuade (that would go with the marketing). Or is your skill in presenting information clearly? Are you a genius at distilling lots of information down to something very succinct (which is why you’re a fantastic Tweeter)?
Once you start getting curious about your skills you can begin to hone them down to what really is special about your abilities.
Marketing, eh? Are you good at that because you write irresistible copy?
Or because you’re cheekily persuasive in getting your products into the best places?
What are your truly special skills in that area?
3. Now prove it
Being able to say something tangible like ‘I got an article on my product onto page 2 of the best-selling magazine’ speaks many decibels louder than the vague assertion that ‘I’m good at publicity.’
It also marks you out as having the eminently transferrable skill of persuasion. Your skill goes from something general about ‘marketing’ or ‘sales’ to something much more powerful about being an effective influencer who can convince people to do what you want them to.
4. Expand your view of yourself
If you think like this, your view of yourself can shift dramatically, as can your career horizons. It may not be marketing that’s the way forward for you, it may be you’re better suited to negotiating peace treaties in the UN!
Even the ‘and finally…’ section of your cv – that marathon running. What’s the real strength there? Is it a passionate joy in the outdoors? Incredible stamina? Dogged determination that means you never, ever give up until the job is done? These may be far more interesting (and saleable) qualities than the ability to pound tarmac.
5. The difference is…
Speaking French, working in marketing and running marathons are just activities – or in sales terms, ‘features’: bringing people together who otherwise wouldn’t understand each other, being skilled at persuading others to follow you, or being able to see a project through no matter what the difficulties are talents that employers, friends and the world might be looking for. In sales terms these are your true ‘benefits’.
• Take a look at your cv. What skills, talents, jobs and experiences do you list there?
• Go through them one by one and pull out what each of them says about you.
• Name the specific talent or quality that is demonstrated by your listed job, skill or qualification.
• Consider where that talent could take you. A different direction? A pay rise? A new career…
‘We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on that experience.’
John Dewey, philosopher and psychologist