Playing to Your Strengths: How to Make the Most of Your Talent

strYou’re told to play to your strengths, but what are they and how do you do it? Many people are not fully aware of their strengths. When people get feedback about a strength, they often look surprised. They say it is just their job or they ask “Doesn’t everybody do that?” This shows that we discount the things we find easy to do or enjoy doing. Then we assume that everyone can do them. This is poor self-perception if you are overly aware of one or two weaknesses but unaware of your core strengths.

Strong self-confidence is the most important benefit of changing this imbalance so that we are more aware of our strengths. Confidence is our number one strength. Without confidence, we struggle to make full use of our strengths. When we are under pressure, we revert to our natural selves, but if we lack confidence, we freeze and cannot perform. Think of a golfer, baseball pitcher or tennis player who has an abundance of talent but who has lost confidence. These otherwise excellent performers can’t do their stuff if their confidence is lacking.

How to Assess Your Strengths

The first step in assessing your strengths is to determine which ones are most important in your role and your line of work. These are your strategic strengths, the ones most critical for success in your current job or next one. When you have a list of core competencies for the role, list them in order of strength for you from top to bottom. Ask yourself which ones you enjoy using the most and find easiest to use. This is a good way of identifying what you are good at. You could rate yourself on a five point scale for each competency but you might be tempted to give yourself overly high or low scores across the board. It is harder but more accurate to rank order them in a list. If you have some colleagues who know you well and are willing to give you honest feedback, ask them to do the same for you. Keep in mind, however, that they may not know you well enough to assess you accurately. Ask your boss to rate you too. You might include a few blank spaces for your raters to add extra competencies. It also helps to have questions on your feedback form where you ask people to list three things they would like you to start doing, three to stop doing and three to do more of.

How to Play to Your Strengths

If you are a manager whose strengths revolve around product development but you don’t like managing people, then you may simply have to set up a personal development plan for this area. However, if you have weaknesses in budgeting, planning, innovation or strategic thinking, you could delegate some of these tasks. You might cover off innovation and strategic thinking by brainstorming future possibilities with your team. The point is to apply the 80-20 rule. You should spend 80 percent of your time making use of your key strengths. This is just wise investment strategy. You need to invest your resources where you will get the best return.