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Identify Your Talents in 9 Easy Steps

Identify Your Talents in 9 Easy Steps

What are you good at? Would you know what to say if someone asked you to identify your talents? You may balk at the question. While you may secretly believe you don’t have any talent, you do. Often it’s hard to identify because your talent can feel like second nature. What you assumed was easy could actually be really difficult for other people.

So how do you identify your talent? Try these 9 steps to identify talents.

1. Identify What You Love to Do

Write down a list of activities you enjoy. It can include anything from hula hooping to making chicken pot pie. Without any judgment write it all down. If you’re stuck, try asking yourself these questions:

  • What do you enjoy doing without being asked?
  • What do people have to drag you away from doing?
  • What activities make you lose track of time?
  • What would you do for free?

To be fair, this list is more of a passion list than a talent list. For instance, I love dancing but that doesn’t mean I will try out for the next Step Up movie. Often, though, to truly be talented at something requires hundreds of hours of practice. Passion can give you the energy and joy to help you reach talent.

2. Know Your Interests

While similar to knowing what you love to do, interests are more about what you love learning, reading or watching. Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • What types of things do you like to read?
  • What do you enjoy talking about?
  • What do you enjoy watching?
  • What topics catch your eye?

In all likelihood, this may dovetail with your passions. Someone who likes to play music may find themselves reading music blogs online, too. But, you may also be interested in business and following the financial news.

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An interest list can help you identify possible combinations of passion and interest. From there, you can start taking your talents to new levels.

3. Identify Previous Successes

For this list, write down successes you’ve experienced in the past. This list can reveal your talents that you’ve been using without even realizing it. Some things to consider as you write include:

  • Classes you rocked at
  • Assignments or rojects you did well
  • Anything that made you say, “I did great in this”

Once you’ve written this list down, go through it. What are similar about these successes? What did you do well in them? Perhaps you were a natural facilitator in conflict. Maybe you are great at raising funds for organizations. It may take some time to find the similarities, but you will find your own patterns to emerge from your list. These patterns are crucial to identifying talents you can use for the future.

4. Take Some Tests

Test Taking

    For further clarification, there are some great personality quizzes. Myers-Briggs, DISC, or even the Book ‘Please Understand Me’ by Kiersey can help you gain further insight on yourself. None of these quizzes on their own can identify your unique talents. They do give you more insight on yourself, how you process things and what energizes or causes you fatigue. They can help make it easier for you to discover your strengths, where your talents may lie.

    5. Interview Someone

    Sometimes, an outside perspective can be clearer than your own. Talk to people who know you well: friends, family member, even a mentor. Ask them questions like:

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    • What do they think you are good at?
    • What have you’ve succeeded at doing previously?
    • What makes you light up?

    Keep an open mind while they talk. You don’t have to agree with everything they say. Still, the answers they have may surprise you.

    6. Know Your Weaknesses

    Just as everyone has talents, we all have weaknesses. Mine include going to bed before 11 pm and resisting social media, amongst others. The fact is, we can’t be good at everything. None of us is perfect, and acknowledging our weaknesses can help show what we are good at.

    It can be a bit painful, but write them down. Questions to ask yourself include:

    What takes you a long time to do?
    What do you procrastinate?
    What makes you feel awkward or uncomfortable?

    Knowing these will help you identify any weak spots in your passions and interests. This will be helpful to know for later.

    7. Start Putting it Together

    You’ve done the research; now you have to see what comes forward. You don’t have to comb through every note or thought from each of these lists. Some questions to ask yourself include:

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    Are there patterns emerging from your interests, successes and passions? What are they?
    What can you combine from these lists?
    What do you dream of doing?

    From here, you may identify multiple talents, or just one that you want to focus on.

    8. Practice, and Practice Well

      No matter what, you have to practice.

      It may come naturally to you, but you still have to work at mastery. In identifying a talent, this step is a trial by fire. Practice your talent, and practice it a lot. You don’t have to spend eight hours a day at it. If you have a full time job, try spending just 30 minutes a day.

      Groaning at trying to find 30 minutes? You can do it. Take a look through your day. Are you watching an hour or two of tv when you get home from work? Turn off the TV. If you’re struggling, put a timer on for 30 minutes, and don’t turn it on until the time has passed.

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      There are other, less obvious points in your day when you could practice. Perhaps you spend more than 25 minutes commuting. If you can, take that time to work on your talent. Sing while you’re in the car, or giving a speech. Can you take time during your lunch break? See where you have pockets of time. You can reallocate time away from Facebook or Twitter, and towards your talents. This is the real test that will prove whether or not your talent will stick. Is this a possible long term vocation or just a passing phase?

      More than just practice, you need to practice well. If you’re serious about your talent, you also need to know your weaknesses. The difference between good and great isn’t the number of hours they put in, but that they work at improving their weaknesses. Working on weakness isn’t easy, but creating a reward system for yourself can help you get through the uncomfortable aspect of looking at your own weakness.

      9. Find a Mentor

      If you’ve been practicing regularly, and want to continue with your talent, find someone with more experience than you in the field. It doesn’t have to be a nobel prize winner. What you do want is someone with some more experience who can give good advice.

      More importantly, knowing what you need and want from a mentor is crucial. Do you need support? Do you need someone to challenge you? Your personality tests and strengths and weaknesses will be helpful in figuring out these answers.

      Not sure where to look? Some good places include:

      • LinkedIn networks. If you went to college, look at your alumni network. This can be a great way to reach out to people who may do what you love. Introduce yourself and ask to meet them for coffee to learn about their experiences.
      • Networking Events. Go to events in your field of interest. Conferences, meeetup groups, or just happy hours. See who you meet, and reach out to them after the event with a follow up email
      • Ask for Help. Mention to friends and family you are looking for a mentor. They may know someone who can help you that you never thought of before.

      Identifying a talent isn’t easy. But following something you are not only good at but also passionate about will make your life more rewarding. More so, you’ll be giving something meaningful back to the world that only you can provide. Perhaps it’s your unique take on manufacturing stocks. Maybe you do a wicked Jazz guitar. Whatever your talent is, it’s worth pursuing.

      Featured photo credit: Dusty J via photopin.com

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      Last Updated on March 15, 2019

      How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

      How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

      When I began managing people 15 years ago, I thought having a fancy title was synonymous with influence. Over time, I learned that power is conferred based on likeability, authenticity, courage, relationships and consistent behavior. When leaders cultivate these attributes, they earn power, which really means influence.

      Understanding influence is essential to professional growth, and companies rise and fall based on the quality of their leadership.

      In this article, we will look into the essentials of effective leadership and how to be a leader who is inspiring and influential.

      What Makes a Leader Fail?

      A host of factors influence a leader’s ability to succeed. To the extent that leaders fail to outline a compelling vision and strategy, they risk losing the trust and confidence of their teams. Employees want to know where a company is going and the strategy for how they will get there. Having this information enables employees to feel safe, and it allows them to see mistakes as part of the learning journey versus as fatal occurrences.

      If employees and customers do not believe a company’s leadership is authentic and inspiring, they may disengage, or they may be less inclined to offer constructive criticism that can help a company innovate or help a leader improve.

      And it is not just the leadership at the top that matters. Middle managers play a distinct role in guiding teams. Depending on the company’s size, employees may have more access to mid-level managers than they do members of the C-suite, meaning their supervisors and managers have greater influence on the employee and the customer experience.

      What Is Effective Leadership?

      Effective leadership is inspiring, and it is influential. Cultivating inspiring and influential leaders requires building relationships across the company.

      Leaders must be connected to both the teams they lead as well as to their own colleagues and managers. This is key as titles do not make a person a leader, nor do they automatically confer influence. These are earned through trusting relationships. This explains why some leaders can get more out of their teams than others and why some leaders experience soaring profits and engagement while others sizzle out.

      Eric Garton said in an April 25, 2017, Harvard Business Review article:[1]

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      “… inspiring leaders are those who use their unique combination of strengths to motivate individuals and teams to take on bold missions – and hold them accountable for results. And they unlock higher performance through empowerment, not command and control.”

      How to Be an Inspiring and Influential Leader

      To be an inspiring and influential leader requires:

      1. Courage

      The late poet Maya Angelou once said,

      “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

      Courage is required in the workplace when implementing new strategies, especially when they go against professional norms.

      For instance, I heard Lisa TerKeurst, bestselling author and founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries, explain her decision to move away from her company’s magazine. While the organization had long had a magazine, she saw a future where it didn’t exist.

      In order to make the switch, she risked angering her team members and customers. She took a chance, and what started out as a monthly newsletter, has grown into a multi-dimensional organization boasting half a million followers. Had Lisa not found the courage to change the direction of her organization, they undoubtedly would not have been able to experience such exponential growth.

      It also takes courage to give and receive feedback. When leaders see employees who are not living into the company’s mission or who are engaging in behavior that may undermine their long-term success, one must risk temporary angst and speak candidly with the colleague in question.

      Similarly, it takes courage to hear constructive criticism and try to change. In business, as in life, courage is necessary for being an inspiring and influential leader.

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      2. A Commitment to Face Your Internal Demons.

      If you feel great about yourself, enter a leadership position. You are likely to be triggered in ways you didn’t think possible. You are also likely to receive feedback that may leave you second-guessing yourself and your leadership skills.

      The truth about leading others is that you get to a point where you realize that it is difficult to take people to places where you yourself haven’t gone.

      To be an influential and inspiring leader, you have to face your own demons and vow to continually improve. Influential leaders take their personal evolution serious, and they invest in coaching, therapy and mindfulness to ensure that their personal struggles do not overshadow their professional development.

      3. A Willingness to Accept Feedback

      Inspiring and influential leaders are not afraid to accept feedback. In fact, they actively solicit it. They understand that everyone in their life has a lesson to teach them, and they are willing to accept it.

      Inspirational leaders understand that feedback is neither good nor bad but rather an offering that is critical to growth. Even when it hurts or is an affront to the ego, influential leaders understand that feedback is critical to their ability to lead.

      4. Likability

      Some people will argue that leaders need not worry about being liked but should instead focus on being respected. I disagree. Both are important.

      When team members like their boss and believe their boss likes them, they are more likely to go the extra mile to fulfill departmental or organizational goals. Likable leaders are moved to the front of the line when it comes to being influential.

      Relatedly, when colleagues feel management dislikes them, they experience internal stress and can spend unnecessary time focusing on the source of their manager’s discontent versus the work they have been hired to do.

      So, likability is important for both the leader and the people she leads.

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      5. Vulnerability

      Vulnerability is critical for being an inspiring leader. People want the truth. They admire leaders who can occasionally demonstrate vulnerability. It promotes deeper relationships and inspires trust.

      When leaders can showcase vulnerability appropriately, they destroy the illusion that one must be perfect to be a leader. They also demonstrate that vulnerability is not a dirty word; they too can be vulnerable and ask for a helping hand when necessary.

      6. Authenticity

      Authenticity is about living up to one’s stated values in public and behind closed doors.

      Influential leaders are authentic. They set to live out their values and use those values to guide their decisions. The interesting thing about leadership is that people are not looking for perfect leaders. They are, in part, looking for leaders who are authentic.

      7. A True Understanding of Inspiration

      Effective leaders are inspirational. They understand the power of words and deeds and use both strategically.

      Inspiring leaders appropriately use stories and narratives to enable the teams around them to see common situations in an entirely new light.

      Inspirational leaders also showcase grit and triumph while convincing the people around them that success and victory are attainable.

      Finally, inspiring leaders encourage the teams they lead to tap into their own genius. They convince others that genius is not reserved for a select few but that most people have it in them.

      As explained in the article True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss:

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      “A leader creates visions and motivates team members to work together towards the same goal.”

      8. An Ability to See the Humanity in Others

      Inspiring and influential leaders see the humanity in others. Rather than treating their teams as mere tools to accomplish organizational goals, they believe the people around them are unique beings with inherent value.

      This means knowing when to pause to address personal challenges and dispelling with the myth that the personal is separate from the professional.

      9. A Passion for Continual Learning

      Inspiring and influential leaders are committed to continual learning. They invest in their own development and take responsibility for their professional growth.

      These leaders understand that like a college campus, the workplace is a laboratory for learning. They believe that they can learn from multiple generations in the workplace as well as from people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

      Influential leaders proactively seek out opportunities for learning.

      The Bottom Line

      No one said leadership was easy, but it is also a joy. Influencing others to action and positively impacting the lives of others is a reward unto itself.

      Since leadership abounds, there is an abundance of resources to help you grow into the type of leader who inspires and influences others.

      More Resources About Effective Leadership

      Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Harvard Business Review: How to Be an Inspiring Leader

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