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How to Identify and Leverage Your Personal Strengths

How to Identify and Leverage Your Personal Strengths

Finding your own path in life is a real challenge that we all have to face as we come of age and begin to look at how we might make our mark on the world. If only it were so easy that everyone was guaranteed success in their pursuits instead of the starker reality that most of us contend with in our daily lives.

The truth is that everyone will experience varying degrees of success and failure during their life. It’s an inescapable fact. No one who ever made it somewhere in terms of accomplishments did so by following a straight path to the top. For most it’s a zig zag of give and take, where one might take 2 steps forward followed by 4 steps back.

So then the question becomes this: If I am surely going to fail and succeed at different points of my life, how can I work to reduce risk and increase the likelihood that I spend more time succeeding and less time failing?

All of this has to do with identifying and leveraging your personal strengths.

How to Identify Your Personal Strengths

You may not be sure exactly what your personal strengths are, so how are you to go about leveraging them? If you first need to pinpoint your strengths, follow these tips.

1. Know Yourself

Step one in my mind is to exercise some self-awareness and start evaluating yourself in order to make a few key determinations about your personality and general outlook on life. Put simply, this step could be described with the phrase, “Know yourself.”

Who could be better than you in identifying your own core strengths and weaknesses? Taking the time to better understand those strengths and weaknesses will help to provide some context or foundational background for you to then project forward to try and imagine what your future may hold.

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If you haven’t previously taken the time to really evaluate where you stand as a person and analyze your own skillsets, strengths, weaknesses, and long term objectives in life, then you are definitely holding yourself back from where you could be as an individual. Knowing yourself and taking the time to learn even more about yourself is vital in working towards maximizing your strengths.

2. Ask a Friend

Interestingly enough, some research out there that suggests the near opposite of the above: perhaps others know you better than you know yourself. So ask!

On Oprah.com, the writer Barbara Sher suggests that one way to better identify your own strengths is to “Ask your friend to name three of your strengths.”[1] I also like this approach because it removes the potential for personal biases to impact your own self-assessment.

Our friends have a solid window into our personality and often are as equipped to help us identify our strengths and weaknesses because they have a valuable outsider perspective. It’s probably a good idea to take your own self-assessment, bounce that information off of a friend and compare notes.

If there are areas of overlap, then you might be headed in the right direction. If not, then perhaps you need to scrutinize either your own self-assessment or your friend’s assessment and see if the truth lies somewhere in between the two.

Whichever method you take, it is important that during this part of the process you take an honest assessment of yourself because if you are unwilling to make an honest judgement of your own strengths and weaknesses, then this exercise will be futile. We are probably all generally aware of the areas that we excel in as well as where we are lacking.

3. Find Clues in Your Attempts and Failures

As we all get older, the hope is that we also become more self-aware. Why? As we experience life in a one way direction, we ought to learn some things through the process of trying and failing. I learned how powerful love could be after I got my heart broken by my first girlfriend. I learned how much I appreciated a steady paycheck after I got fired from a job. I learned how to be a better driver after experiencing for my first major car wreck.

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Failure is indeed a foundational piece of building long term success in any pursuit.

Through our failures we become more equipped to recognize future hazards and engrain those lessons into the fiber of our being so that we ultimately see gains from what were once losses. In the middle of a failure, it is almost impossible to see these lessons. It isn’t until after the storm has passed that you begin to put the puzzle pieces together and find the lesson to be learned in that situation.

The important thing to remember is that in your failings, in your moments where you fall short, if you pay enough attention you might be able to start identifying the weaknesses in your own life that may have a hand in those failures, and if you are smart, you will start trying to learn how to minimize those issues and maximize what you are great at so that you see a path to success start to develop.

4. Analyze Your Successes

While failure can be a great teacher at times, success also begets more success. Any experience, whether positive or negative, can be a teaching tool for the individual if that individual is willing to utilize it. The key, of course, is to get into the thick of things and start finding ways to gain that necessary experience.

So often at corporate companies I hear the phrase, “You’ve got to put in your time,” referencing the idea that you have to put a certain amount of years into a company before you start to see that result in a positive correlation within your career.

5. Maintain a Hold on Your Identity

Whether you are trying to be a good parent or a good employee, it’s important that you as an individual have an extremely strong grip on your own identity. Knowing yourself will be paramount in your aim to leverage those strengths in order to experience future success.

6. Use a Strength Test

If at the end of this you still find yourself questioning what your own strengths are, then you can look into taking a “strength test.” These are designed to help users identify their own strengths with the idea that our own individual biases could have an impact on how we evaluate our own strengths, and the test is implemented to help erase those biases.[2]

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How to Leverage Your Personal Strengths

The idea of leveraging your personal strengths in order to capitalize on your skill set and propel yourself towards success is one that we should all consider and aim to pursue.

You can think about leverage by envisioning a see-saw. Typically on a see-saw, one person puts all of their weight on one end of the see-saw, which then propels the other person up into the air. In the same way, if you utilized your personal strengths as the foundation for your growth, you would see a positive correlation as your success increased.

Invest in Yourself

Another element to consider is to think about how investing in yourself is actually very different than how we invest in the stock markets. When you invest in the stock market, most experts will tell you that you should diversify your asset classes or invest in index funds so that you aren’t concentrated in a singular position that could potentially weigh down your portfolio.

This is the exact opposite approach that one should take when looking to identify and leverage your personal strengths. When it comes to capitalizing on one’s strengths, you should be looking to invest more of your time, energy, and money into a more singularly focused move that builds up your greatest strengths or skillsets.

Andrew Carnegie said of investing,

“The way to become rich is to put all your eggs in one basket and then watch the basket.”

I’d say that is a bad approach for investing when looking at S&P benchmark performance year after year, but when it comes to your own strengths as an individual, it is an excellent approach.

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Not only should you be putting your eggs in a smaller range of baskets when working on your strengths, but also when you work on your weaknesses. If you are fantastic at communicating and managing relationships but terrible at sales, then it makes sense to me that you’d pour more resources into making a sale.

Identify and Improve Your Weaknesses

In order to leverage your strengths, you should focus on what areas of weakness exist in your current body of work and then work to shore those areas of weakness up in order to create a broader foundation for success.

In decreasing your areas of weakness and growing their strength, you will doing what you are aiming to do in looking to leverage your strengths. Reducing weakness allows for you as an individual to perform at a higher level and naturally lends more power to the strengths that you have in your repertoire.

Final Thoughts

Whatever method you take in order to identify your strengths, remember that no success happens overnight. You as the individual have to work hard to identify your strengths and then work out a way in which to leverage them to your overall benefit and growth. It will take time and research, but if you are reading this article, you are already on your way!

More Tips on Personal Strengths

Featured photo credit: Julian Santa Ana via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Colton Black

Motivational Coach, Self-Help Blogger, Recording Engineer, Professional Dad

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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