If Only I Had Known My Strengths...
I Would Have Been More Comfortable In My Own Skin
The truth is I have struggled with insecurity for as long as I can remember. Growing up in rugged Montana didn’t make it easier because I was never athletic, or outdoorsy type (although I have enjoyed both at times). Change the location though and I don’t think things would have been any different.
It might have been my upbringing, but I was always more aware of my weaknesses than my strengths. Almost everything I did wasn’t good enough. And being a poor student with learning disabilities (possibly ADHD) didn’t help. I can still remember being sick with anxiety in the1st and 2nd grade. And I remember the F’s written across my spelling papers when I was in the 3rd grade. School was hard!
In Jr. High something clicked and all a sudden I started reading (a huge deal). I even started liking some things about school. I still struggled academically through Jr. High and most of High School, but my mind started working. I had no idea that hidden talents had been buried by insecurity, disability(?), and childhood chaos.
I didn’t have the words for those talents, but I began, first unconsciously, then more consciously to know that I had an innate ability to process certain things. Some subjects were almost easy for me and I was able to navigate most of college with relative ease. When I started working on a graduate degree there was confidence that I couldn’t even imagine when I was younger.
The CliftonStrengths assessment gave me language to understand what was going on. My top three CliftonStrengths talents are Intellection, Learner, and Input. They are all strategic thinking talents. It wasn’t until college and then later as an adult that people began to describe me as smart, good with words, a quick thinker, and an information collector. I still don’t feel that smart sometimes, but I do like to learn. When I found out that people with the intellection talent theme like to think, it explained a lot about me. Each of the descriptions just seemed to fit .
The talent themes of Restorative and Empathy rounded out my top 5 with Achiever, also very strong in me, being number 6. I wish I would have had the language for these talents earlier. My talents once buried, had become strengths almost without me knowing it was happening. If I had known that I had these talents, I would have been more equipped to navigate early adult life, college, my first years of working, and even family life.
I Would Have Spent My Time Better
As a strategic thinker, I tend to get stuck in my own head, endlessly thinking about how to word things, do things, and say things. My CliftonStrengths 34 description of Learner made sense; “Rarely a stranger to hard work and long hours, you attempt to reinforce your grasp of a subject by reading, studying, discussing, or writing about it.” Like a lot of young people I wasn’t aware of my talents and I tried to be good at everything. That doesn’t work. Trying to be good at everything means that you’re not good at anything. You’re just busy!
Furthermore, since I didn’t have the language for my strengths, I also didn’t have the language for the raw side of these talents. I didn’t know that the raw side of Intellection can be “wasting time thinking and the tendency to be a loner.” Or that the raw side of Learner can be a lack of focus and loss of productivity. These blind spots were more prevalent than I care to admit. Even knowing my potential blind spots would have helped me to at least be aware and do something about time wasters and productivity suckers.
I Would Have Partnered with Others More Often
One of the dangers of having several top talents in the Strategic Thinking themes is the tendency toward being a loner. Having some kind of language for Strengths has helped me to appreciate my talents. It has also helped me to appreciate the talents of others. Prior to having the language of talents I may have even been critical of others who didn’t think like me. Now, I am able to see how other people with different strengths than my own can be partners. I am much more likely to look for those with strengths that I do not have to help me move forward in life.
I Would Have Focussed Less On Trying to Fix My Weaknesses
I have written about why focussing on strengths is way more productive than trying to fix weaknesses. Consider reading that article because it’s a helpful description of the benefit of focusing on strengths versus fixing weaknesses.
In the book “Turning Talents Into Strengths: Stories of Coaching Transformation” Murray Guest writes about how perceived weaknesses can actually be strengths that are not refined. He writes, “All through school, I was the kid who couldn't stop talking in class. Report after report highlighted the weakness of this trait and its disruption to the other students, led me to rush my work and had me in trouble for not focusing” (Boyle, Kindle Edition).
It wasn’t until much later and after learning about the Clifton Strengths assessment the Murray realized that this weakness was actually a misdirected talent. Misdirected talents are easier to work on than weaknesses. It’s much harder to grow a weaknesses than a talent. Misdirected or overused talents when aligned, refined, and strengthened have incredible growth potential. It’s not wise to try to fix a weakness. Instead, manage areas of weakness and pour your energy into refining and developing your talents.
Knight Boyle, Rhonda. Turning Talents into Strengths: Stories of Coaching Transformation. #BeeInspired Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Would you be interested in getting coaching around your strengths?
There are several assessments that focus on identifying strengths. Gallup’s Clifton Strengths assessment is one of the most well known and has decades of research to back it up. If you have already taken the assessment formerly called the StrengthsFinder then consider reengaging your results. If you haven’t taken it, then consider purchasing the full CliftonStrengths 34 report. If you would like some help getting the most out of the assessment then contact me. As a WeAlign Associate Coach, we also have a number of packages that help people and organizations align their lives and their work to their strengths. You can visit my services page or the WeAlign services page for more information about Personal Strengths Alignments, Team Strengths Alignments, or Team Transformations. Reach out to schedule a complimentary, no-obligation conversation about strengths coaching for yourself or your entire team.
WeAlign is a professional coaching firm that identifies the genius in each person. We help teams build workplace cultures that leverage their strengths and are fueled by joy. We accomplish this through our exclusive coaching process that utilizes the CliftonStrengths assessment and neuroscience relational tools. Our coaches use individual coaching sessions to align people with their unique design. And through our dynamic group training, teams learn to value each other’s unique contribution for maximum impact.