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How to Identify and Leverage Your Personal Strengths

How to Identify and Leverage Your Personal Strengths
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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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Published on July 27, 2021

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

Put the Pro in Professional

After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

2. Dress the Part

While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

3. Stage Your Workspace

Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

5. Arrive on Time

In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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6. Turn on Your Video

Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

Attend to the Pesky Details

8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

Talking Has a Time and a Place

11. Chat Appropriately

Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

Manage Yourself

14. Minimize Distractions

While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

15. Save Snacking for Later

Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

Final Thoughts

Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

Reference

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