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How to identify and leverage your personal strengths

Companies need employees with different skill sets to better their organizations. The strengths you bring to the workplace are an advantage for both you and your employer. Once you learn to leverage those skills, you can set professional goals and find the best role to complement the strengths you bring to the workplace. In this article, we explain how to leverage your strengths and why this is important to your career.

Why is it important to leverage your strengths in the workplace?

It’s important to leverage your strengths in the workplace so you can thrive in your role. Once you know your best skills, you can use them to your advantage to perform better on daily tasks, set goals to advance in your position within your company or in another job, and become more satisfied with your career.

Leveraging your strengths does the following for you in the workplace:

  • Helps you find the best role: If you use your strengths to your advantage to get a job, you’re more likely to find a position that is the best fit for your skills and interests. Pursue jobs that rely heavily on your strongest abilities.
  • Increases your productivity: Working in a position that utilizes your strengths makes you more productive if you set goals to focus on your strongest abilities to accomplish daily tasks.
  • Sets you up for leadership: Leaders know how to leverage their own strengths and the strengths of others. They act as mentors to identify and grow the strengths of their team.
  • Allows you to grow: Using your strengths to get the most out of your work experience can help you move toward fulfilling your potential in the workplace.

Examples of strengths to leverage at work

Here are some of the key strengths you can learn to leverage at work:

Soft Skills

Here are some examples of the personal attributes that shape how you work and interact with others:

  • Time-management
  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Leadership
  • Attention to detail
  • Creativity
  • Problem-solving
  • Teamwork
  • Adaptability
  • Organization

Hard Skills

Here are some examples of skills you can learn based on training and life experience:

  • Public speaking
  • Writing
  • Coding
  • Website development
  • Graphic design
  • Instruction
  • Programming
  • Operating machines
  • Operating software
  • Skilled trade work (carpentry, plumbing)
  • Sales
  • Mathematics
  • Engineering
  • Drafting
  • Languages

How to leverage your strengths

Your strengths come from your innate and learned skills. Here are the ways you can leverage those strengths while on the job:

1. Define your strengths

Before you can leverage your strengths, you need to understand your unique abilities. There are plenty of ways to determine your own strengths. Here are some ideas to help you find your strengths:

  • Take an assessment: You can find plenty of online assessments meant for professionals that will list your strengths with explanations of each term to help you better define your strongest skills.
  • Ask people you trust: You can always ask trusted contacts to share what they see about your abilities. You can ask a mentor to make a list of the strengths they’ve observed while mentoring you.
  • Find your passions: Take note of the tasks you’ve completed successfully that also energize you. Your strengths come from activities that you enjoy doing and can do well. Ask yourself what kind of tasks come naturally to you.
  • Consider your resume: Review the key attributes you use to describe yourself to employers in your resume. Use this as a guide to understand your stand-out skills and experience.

2. Set professional goals

Ask a manager to help you set goals that use your strengths. Discuss these strengths with your supervisor and focus on strategies that will positively impact your growth and productivity at work. Take time to address these goals throughout the year instead of just during annual reviews. Ask for feedback as you continue to utilize your strengths to achieve your professional aims. It’s important to work on your strengths no matter what role you play in the company.

3. Show evidence of your strengths

Identify the strengths you use most in your current job. Figure out what behaviors and beliefs help you apply these skills to your advantage. Then, determine what evidence you can produce that shows your strengths in the workplace. Once you can identify how your strengths positively impact your job, plan to generate more successful outcomes.

4. Strengthen your strengths

Work to improve what you’re already good at by looking for growth opportunities. Participate in advanced training for your best skills. You can even offer to mentor or instruct others in areas where you excel. When you can teach someone else from your strengths, your own knowledge automatically increases.

5. Choose strength-building behaviors

Your behaviors and habits can change how you apply your strengths. For example, if you choose to read books and articles from experts in your field, you can strengthen certain skills you want to improve. Focus on beneficial workplace behaviors that make it easier for you to use your strengths.

Tips for leveraging your strengths

Here are some ideas to help you as you leverage your strengths in the workplace:

  • Focus on you. Comparing yourself to others may not be an effective way to identify and utilize your strengths. Instead, rely on your own self-reflection to determine how you can best apply your unique gifts and talents.

Think about hard and soft skills. When you determine your strengths, remember, soft skills are equally as important as hard skills. Try to identify a mix of both as you analyze your abilities.

Fill in your strength gaps. Surround yourself with people who possess strengths different from your own. This is especially important to remember if you are in charge of leading a team. Leaders don’t need to be strong in every skill, they need to identify their own gaps and bring members into the team that have the necessary abilities to benefit the group.

  • Define your core values. Reflecting on your deeply held beliefs will help you figure out the foundation that you can use to build your strengths.
  • How to identify and leverage your personal strengths

    How to identify and leverage your personal strengths

    Does your job leverage your natural strengths?

    If you’re doing work that doesn’t tap into your greatest strengths, your performance and motivation will suffer along with your career. In contrast, when you’re aligned with your talents and interests, you gain a wellspring of confidence and expertise, and you do great work with a sense of purpose. Everyone around you benefits, as well.

    Workplace strengths are often defined in terms of competencies like teamwork, problem-solving, or leadership, but self-knowledge should not be overlooked. Self-knowledge is a powerful tool that can help you apply your greatest strengths to various aspects of your job, from excelling in your area of expertise to being a strong team collaborator and effective leader. If you’re looking to advance your career, assessing and leveraging your strengths is one of the most critical things you can do.

    Assessing and Applying Your Strengths

    Here are five tips to help you assess and apply your personal strengths at work.

    1. Listen to what others say you’re good at.

    What skills do people compliment you on?

    Others quite likely see strengths in you that you haven’t noticed. For example, if you often receive positive feedback on your listening skills, creativity, or command of details, pay attention.

    Ask a friend or colleague to spend a few minutes reflecting on what she thinks are your greatest strengths. Then, ask yourself if the perceptions ring true.

    Did honesty come up as a strength? If so, this quality could manifest at work in the way you tell a client that their budget isn’t sufficient for their project goals, rather than you being labeled a yes-person. Note the return on investment for your transparency (e.g., an expanded budget, the client’s trust, more projects). Be sure to bring it up in your next performance review.

    If dedication and reliability came up as strengths, note occasions where these attributes have paid off for your team. If your team relies on you to arrange meetings and set up conferences, include event planning on your résumé.

    How to identify and leverage your personal strengths

    2. Know what you love.

    If you were granted a wish to do anything you wanted for the rest of your working life, what would you choose? This might be an overwhelming proposal, but go for it—dream big!

    Look at the things you like to do in and out of work. If you love to write but don’t get a chance to do much at work, explore writing opportunities in your current position like an internal blog or newsletter for your department. If you’re an extroverted developer who loves to talk about your product, look for technical sales opportunities.

    Knowing where your gifts and passions lie is essential in creating a career map that plays to your greatest strengths.

    3. Find your flow state.

    Contemplate an ordinary workday. What types of tasks do you most like diving into? Do you prefer team scrums or writing technical specs with no interruptions? What are you doing at your desk when the hours seem to melt away?

    If the hours you spend reviewing new tools for your team fly by, ask for vendor selection project work.

    4. Know your relationship style.

    Knowing what kind of relationships bring out the best in you and what kind are the most difficult for you will help you navigate professional waters. If one of your main strengths is executing drama-free negotiation, ask for opportunities to serve on purchasing committees or to facilitate informal mediations between team members who don’t see eye to eye.

    5. Maximize your specialties.

    Many job candidates rely on generalizations to find employment, such as being a “people person” or an “organizational wizard.” These are great attributes, but you’ll stand out more if you give specifics.

    Tell employers you are a “wizard at conference planning” or you can “build out project schedules and make accurate estimations like nobody’s business.”

    You might have experience working on a marketing team, but you’re really, really excited about SEO. This is a unique skill, and if you master it, you can go far. Maximizing your specialty not only helps your career but also makes you more valuable to your team and organization.

    Tapping Strengths from a Leadership Position

    If you’re in a leadership role, you probably know the huge benefit that comes from knowing—and tapping into—the strengths of your team members. You can assign the right tasks to the right people with the double benefit of getting the highest quality work done as efficiently as possible.

    Then, everyone’s happy.

    How have you identified and leveraged your strengths on a project? Let us know in the comments.

    What are your greatest strengths?

    If you’ve ever sat through a job interview, you’ve probably had to answer this question. Most employers are looking for people whose strengths match the job description. After all, you don’t want to hire a sales rep that’s bad with people.

    But how many times do you think about your strengths when you’re not in a job interview? And, how often have you been asked for your best strengths but unable to articulate them well?

    To be your best, you have to leverage all your strengths on a daily basis to maximize your potential. You have to be intentional. But you can’t be intentional if you don’t know what your strengths really are and how to use them when you need them.

    How to identify and leverage your personal strengths

    What are strengths exactly?

    When most people answer the question, “What are your greatest strengths?” they tend to respond with a list of skills or talents.

    “I’m good with computers.”

    “I’m an excellent salesperson.”

    “I make a mean pot of coffee.”

    Skills and talents are things that can be taught (or forgotten); they’re what you do. But your strengths come more innately — your brain just thinks a certain way.

    One of the best ways to measure strengths is Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment. (If you haven’t taken it already, we highly recommend it.)

    The StrengthsFinder assessment provides a list of your “top five” strengths, and each one has an impact on your behavior and performance. People with an Analytical strength, for example, have the ability to think about all the factors that might affect a situation and can make decisions about how to proceed with minimal risk. Those with a Futuristic strength can see the big picture and have an easier time creating a vision for a product or their life. If you have the Connectedness strength, your technical expertise might center on systems architecture where you can see how all the parts connect as a whole.

    Each strength works in conjunction (or sometimes in conflict) to help you navigate the world. You could even layer skills on top of a strength to make it more powerful. For example, someone with a Communication strength might want to enhance that strength by get training as a public speaker.

    Do you need certain strengths to succeed as a technical expert?

    Do you have a picture in your head of what a successful person looks like? Do you think it takes a certain type of person to be truly successful, and as smart as you are, you’re not an Elon Musk-level genius? Does that mean you can’t be successful?

    Actually, not really.

    A common misconception that keeps many from moving forward is the idea that strengths and personality are the same.

    For example, one of your strengths could be Communication even though you’re introverted and hate public speaking. Perhaps you prefer one-on-one conversations so you’re better at podcasts or mentoring people.

    The reality is that you can leverage your strengths no matter what type of personality you have. Bill Gates didn’t become a household name because he was really good at chatting people up around the water cooler.

    In fact, Gallup research indicates that an individual’s inherent talent for a role — one’s natural capacity for excellence in a certain position — is a composite of innate personality traits, attitudes, motives, thinking, and values.

    This means that there’s no “ideal” combination of strengths that make someone successful. A successful person uses their strengths to fit the role they want.

    That means there isn’t a single profile for a successful technical expert. The stereotype of a programmer always being analytical is a misnomer. Yes, analytical skills can be helpful in programming but there are plenty of other strengths that can be used to accomplish the same task.

    The key is leveraging the strengths you have to fit your situation, needs, and overall goals.

    How to identify and leverage your personal strengths

    How do you use your strengths to succeed?

    Once you have a clear picture of your strengths, there are a few things you can do to make sure that you’re using them to your advantage.

    1. Own your own development

    No matter what specific combination of strengths are, you will still need to take time to develop skills to help you make the most of them. It’s up to you to recognize and identify how your strengths will help you in your career. You have to take control of your development process in order to add skills to those strengths. No one else will do it for you.

    For example, if you have a stellar Empathy strength, and can put yourself in anyone’s shoes, you could use that to see the product you’re creating through the user’s eyes. You will understand your audience because you can feel their pain points in a way that others can’t.

    2. Don’t focus on limitations

    If you’re the type of person who tends to be self-defeating or focus on limitations, you may be tempted to rule out opportunities because you don’t feel qualified.

    Instead of focusing on what you do best, you’re mentally preoccupied with your lack of experience, education, or contacts — all of which prevent you from moving forward.

    Productive people don’t think this way. Productive, successful people make decisions based on their best qualities and strengths. They focus on what will help them succeed instead of what seems impossible.

    3. Find complementary strengths in others

    Focusing on your strengths doesn’t mean you should ignore your weaknesses altogether. It just means that you find ways to overcome those weaknesses, and one of the best way to do this is by leveraging the strengths of others.

    Instead of worrying about your shortcomings, find someone with complementary strengths to make up the difference. For instance, Achievers can sometimes get focused on the checklist rather than prioritizing. In this case, you might want to team up with a Strategic who can help you narrow down the list, so you focus on the most important tasks.

    Even better, find a position that plays to your strengths and where your weaknesses are irrelevant.

    If you want to know what your strengths are, how to use them in your career or to find your next position, a Strengths Session can help.

    By Christy Cates and Katrina Onderdonk

    We recently celebrated five years working together at Caltech, so we have had the opportunity to reflect on our journey of building an advancement organization comparable to the best in American higher education. The key to our success has been leveraging our team members’ strengths.

    In 2016 when we launched our Break Through Campaign, recruitment had taken center stage. We increased our advancement staff by 33 percent over two years and kept up with regular turnover. While this alone was a huge accomplishment, we soon learned that finding and onboarding talented people was just the beginning.

    How to identify and leverage your personal strengths

    Exploring Strengths

    It was a heavier lift to begin to build a new culture and shift our management paradigm. We needed to create an environment in which team members would have the opportunity to be engaged: managers would have the knowledge and understanding to coach their staff and individuals would have the opportunity to use their strengths every day. To help us with this part of our journey, we started looking at ways to measure and improve employee engagement. We found Gallup and the StrengthsFinder instrument (now called CliftonStrengths), and this is where the fun started!

    Through Gallup’s research, we learned that doing what you love every day is the backbone of both engagement and performance. Growing your understanding of yourself can bring purpose and intention to your job and directly correlates with improved performance.

    Gallup has found that people who focus on using their strengths are:

    • 3 times as likely to have an excellent quality of life,
    • 6 times as likely to be engaged at work, and
    • 7.8 percent more productive in their roles.

    During the past three years, we have learned, trained and coached our teams on the value of using a “strengths-based” approach to the workplace. By incorporating the StrengthsFinder assessment into our team-building efforts, we have helped our team members identify and leverage their own talents and deepen the talents and potential of their teams. As a result, managers who focus on their team members’ individual strengths see improvement in their team’s overall engagement and productivity.

    Strategically Using Our Talents

    As enthusiastic practitioners of the strengths philosophy, our small talent management team of three has benefited. Our understanding of each other’s strengths allows us to use these talents strategically. For example, Christy’s strong influencing talents rally our partners for their commitment and support while Katrina’s strong executing talents ensure projects are well planned and efficiently executed. Our colleague, Lilli, has strong relationship-building talents and guarantees our partners and constituents are fully considered.

    As members of our team, we all have strategic thinking talents that help us envision and prepare for what is ahead. We pride ourselves on being a high-performing team where we use our talents every day and rely on each other’s strengths to tackle challenges, reach new heights and achieve success.

    Christy Cates in the executive director of advancement services for development and institute relations at the California Institute of Technology. Her areas of focus include prospect research, prospect management, reporting, prospect analytics, talent acquisition, professional development, staff engagement and performance management.

    Katrina Onderdonk is the director of talent management for development and institute relations at the California Institute of Technology where she specializes in executive search, employee engagement, individual coaching and team building.

    How to identify and leverage your personal strengths

    Learn more about leveraging your team’s strengths. Join conference chair Katrina Onderdonk at the CASE Strategic Talent Management conference, March 6–8, in Chicago, to address the challenges facing your organization and implement talent management solutions that fit your needs.

    Gain momentum in your personal and professional life

    Posted May 07, 2019

    Do you want to gain momentum and feel happier in your personal and professional life?

    Capitalize on your strengths. Leverage your top character strengths not only to lead more effectively but to feel greater well-being in your life and work.

    How to identify and leverage your personal strengths

    What are Character Strengths?

    Your character strengths reflect your core personal identity and can bolster your thinking, feeling, meaning, and engagement. According to Martin Seligman, Ph.D., (2011) founder of positive psychology, the 24 character strengths are the cornerstone of personal well-being and a flourishing life. These strengths are: creativity, curiosity, judgment, love of learning, perspective, bravery, perseverance, honesty, zest, love, kindness, social intelligence, teamwork, fairness, leadership, forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation, appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, and spirituality (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).

    Know Your Top Strengths

    To build greater momentum toward achieving your professional and personal goals, identify your top strengths and learn to use them more effectively. Building on our top (signature) strengths has been consistently shown to increase our happiness and improve work engagement, life satisfaction, and well-being (Niemiec, 2018). Using our strengths can increase our effectiveness across the domains of our lives, including work, school, community, relationships, and spirituality.

    Strategy 1: Here are 4 steps identified by positive psychologist Ryan Niemiec, Ph.D., to help you identify and use your top strengths. These steps have been validated internationally with populations of children and adults:

    1. To boost your personal capital for life and leadership, identify your top strengths. Take the free VIA Survey, a quick (less than 15 minutes), self-assessment of your personal strengths. It’s highly evidence-based and has been taken by over 7 million people throughout the world. You can find the VIA at http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths-Survey
    2. Look at your VIA findings, and as Dr. Niemiec suggests, ask yourself what strengths are most essential to who you are as an individual.
    3. Choose one of these strengths and find a way to use it in a new way each day for a week – at home or at work (Seligman, Steen, Park & Peterson (2005).
    4. Notice how you feel and what thoughts and emotions emerge when you capitalize on this strength.

    Strategy 2: Apply Your Top Character Strengths in Your Personal and Professional Life

    Now figure out how to apply your top strengths to propel yourself toward your goals. Here are a few ways to use some of the 24 strengths:

    Leadership – Developing and maintaining good relations among a group and engaging them toward accomplishment:

    • Complement employees, colleagues, clients, family, and friends on a job well done – one-to-one, in a meeting, or by email.
    • Strengthen interpersonal relationships by paying attention to your positivity ratio – share more positive than negative messages with people when you communicate (Cameron, 2012).
    • Create your own consultation team with co-workers or other professionals in your field, and offer each other moral support.
    • Assist a colleague, co-worker, or team member, who is struggling in the leadership process.
    • Seek assistance and encouragement from others when you need it.

    Perseverance – Staying on task toward what you start, despite challenges or obstacles:

    • Set a meaningful long-term goal for your professional or personal life.
    • On a daily or weekly basis, set small, manageable sub-goals to propel you toward this goal.
    • Track your progress on your calendar or computer.
    • When something gets in the way, be adaptive. Figure out how to move past it to reach your goal.
    • Identify your most productive hours of the day. Work on your goal during those times.

    Kindness – Caring about the needs of others and being willing to do a good deed without expecting a return:

    • Offer a kind word to people as you go through the day, for example, at home, the office, coffee shop, via email, at meetings, or while traveling.
    • Offer a small random act of kindness toward someone else – whether someone you know or a complete stranger.
    • Share something with another person or offer to help them if you know something they don’t know.
    • Be kind to yourself. Acknowledge your progress and achievements. Take good care of yourself with nutritious foods, exercise, and enough sleep.

    Strategy 3: Act As If

    If, like many people, you have a negativity bias, focusing on areas of weakness rather than strengths, here’s a strategy recommended by Shannon Polly and Kathryn Britton in their book, Character Strengths Matter. “Act as if” to pull up strengths at the lower end of your VIA strengths ratings. You can pretend you have that lower strength as a top strength and act as if. Like an actor, practice positive outcomes and create new stories about how you utilize this strength to build momentum and positive engagement. This strategy can make a difference in personal and professional realms – in your leadership role at work and as a leader in your own life.

    How will you leverage your character strengths to gain momentum and feel happier in your personal and professional life?

    *This post is for educational purposes and should not substitute for psychotherapy with a qualified professional.

    Cameron, K. (2012). Positive Leadership: Strategies for extraordinary performance. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

    Niemiec, R. (2018). Character strengths interventions: A field guide for practitioners. Boston, MA: Hogrefe.

    Peterson, C. & Seligman, E.P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

    Polly, S. & Britton, K. (2015) Character strengths matter: How to live a full life. Positive Psychology News, LLC., USA.

    Seligman, M.E.P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York: NY: Atria Paperback.

    Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410-421.

    How to identify and leverage your personal strengths

    If you want to excel at anything, it’s not enough to fix your weaknesses. You also need to leverage your strengths. When Albert Einstein failed a French exam, if he had concentrated only on his language skills, he might never have transformed physics. When J.K. Rowling realized that she was highly disorganized, if she had focused solely on becoming more orderly, she might never have honed her storytelling skills to write Harry Potter. And had Dennis Rodman worked exclusively on overcoming his weakness in shooting free throws, he might have never become a seven-time NBA rebounding champion.

    Before you can leverage your strengths, you need to figure out what they are. To identify their unique capabilities, millions of people have taken self-assessments like Gallup’s StrengthsFinder. After filling out a survey about what you do best, you get to read a report on your top talents. When I completed one of these self-assessments in 2004, I was pleased that kindness and generosity stood out as one of my signature strengths.

    Upon reflection, though, I started to question the results. Was I really generous, or did I just want to see myself in that way? As I looked at the research, I found good reason to be skeptical. In one series of studies, psychologists Nick Epley and David Dunning showed that people “consistently overestimated the likelihood that they would act in generous or selfless ways.” This isn’t just true for generosity; people are wildly inaccurate judges of their strengths in a wide range of tasks and domains — from logical thinking and reasoning skills to math aptitude, and even in estimating their own abilities to recognize a funny joke.

    So often, we see ourselves through rose-colored glasses. When I filled out the strength survey, generosity was important to me, so I thought about times that I had helped others successfully, ignoring times when I had failed in my efforts to be helpful — or failed to try and help at all.

    If you want to recognize your strengths, you need other people to hold up a mirror. When you see your reflection through the eyes of those who know you well, you can begin to identify your most unique talents. My favorite mirror is called the Reflected Best Self Exercise, which is based on research by Robert Quinn, Jane Dutton, Gretchen Spreitzer, and Laura Morgan Roberts. It involves emailing people who know you well, asking them to write a story about a time when you were at your best, and then using the common patterns to create a portrait of your strengths. Many students and executives describe it as eye-opening; some even call it life-changing. Here are the steps:

    (1) Choose your sources and seek feedback: Identify 10-20 people who know you well from different walks of life, and ask them to write a story about a time when you were at your best.

    (2) Spot patterns: Once the feedback arrives, look for the common themes that appear in multiple stories. Make a list of the themes, the key examples that support each them, and what they suggest about your strengths.

    (3) Create your self-portrait. Using this information, write out a brief profile of who you are when you’re at your best.

    (4) Put your strengths into action. Create an action plan for how and when you’ll utilize your strengths.

    When selecting your sources, diversity is critical; the best sources are a mix of personal and professional contacts. Research shows that feedback is more energizing and actionable when it comes from a diverse group of friends, family members, colleagues, and mentors who can paint a comprehensive picture of your strengths.

    Good sources don’t guarantee good feedback. A comprehensive analysis of more than 23,000 feedback interventions revealed that more than 33 percent actually decreased performance.

    When feedback backfired, it was usually because it lacked specificity. It may feel good to hear that you’re generous or creative, but it’s far more useful to hear about a specific situation in which you helped someone else effectively or generated a novel, practical idea. To learn about your strengths and the situations in which you’ve used them productively, you need concrete examples. That’s what makes these rich stories far more powerful than most 360-degree feedback exercises, where people rate each other in abstract, general terms. When the stories roll in, you’ll be surprised to see that some of your sources comment on strengths you didn’t know you had, and experiences you didn’t remember.

    In fact, the stories are sometimes so revealing and exciting that people stop there. But if you don’t map out a plan for using your strengths, the benefits will fade. In one experiment led by psychologist Martin Seligman, people who identified their strengths were temporarily happier and less depressed, but the changes didn’t last. Only those who identified their strengths and then actively used them achieved sustainable psychological gains: over the next six months, they were significantly happier and less depressed. Similar patterns emerged in a study of job crafting that Amy Wrzesniewski, Justin Berg, and I conducted at Google with Jennifer Kurkoski and Brian Welle. Employees who worked on their strengths didn’t become happier or more effective. Googlers who planned out ways to adjust their jobs to incorporate strengths were able to attain significant gains in happiness and job performance over the next six months.

    One of Oscar Wilde’s great lines read, “I don’t at all like knowing what people say of me behind my back. It makes me far too conceited.” If we only look in the mirror at our strengths, we may find ourselves falling down a slippery slope of narcissism. It would be fascinating to see whether weaknesses can be identified through a similar process: ask people to write a story about a time when you were at your worst, and create a plan for improving upon your flaws (or at least learning to manage around them).

    I learned about the Reflected Best Self Exercise right around the time that I filled out that survey about my strengths. It dawned on me that instead of gathering feedback from other people about whether I was generous, I could tweak the process to become a bit more generous. I made a list of some people who had made a difference in my life, and started sending them stories about who they were at their best. It turned out to be a very meaningful way of thanking them for their contributions.

    When it comes to assessing our own talents, we’re full of blind spots. If you can see yourself through the eyes of others, your vision will become less blurry. And by giving other people feedback about their talents, you might help their vision become clearer too.

    How to identify and leverage your personal strengths

    Leveraging Personal Strengths for Growth

    What does it mean to leverage your strengths?

    Leveraging your strengths means using what you are personally good at to get more of what you want. (As for how to use them, what they are, well that is a little more complicated.)

    I would like to place some emphasis on the word ‘strengths’ because while growing up I was pushed to place more effort in the areas where I was weak as opposed to giving more attention to the things that I was naturally good at and preferred doing. I am not saying that the concept is wrong. It is good to challenge yourself and broaden your repertoire but in this blog, my focus is on leveraging our strengths, talents, skills, and abilities to maximize our growth. It’s identifying what you are good at and becoming a master at it while utilizing other people’s help in areas where they are better than us.

    It is a fact that everyone will experience varying degrees of success and failure during their life. Sometimes, the process of accomplishing and making it to the top can be a jaded walk. One in which you take a few steps forward and more than a few backward, much to your dismay.

    So the question is: How can I maximize and increase my growth potential and elevate my chances to succeed?

    The key factor is identifying and leveraging your personal strengths.

    You may not know what your personal strengths are, so how are you to go about leveraging them?

    You first need to pinpoint your strengths and can do so by following these tips:

    • Get to know Yourself. What are you good at? What are your skillsets, strengths, weaknesses? What concrete skills and abilities do you have? What areas do you excel in and what are your weak areas?
    • Turn to a Friend/Family. Ask someone who you trust to tell you what are some things they know that you are really good at/your strengths. In some cases, others know you better than you know yourself. Our friends/family have the inside scoop. They know our personality and are often 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, and compare it to your friend/family assessment of you. If there are overlaps, great, if not perhaps you need to scrutinize either your own self-assessment or your friend/family assessment and see if the truth lies somewhere in between the two.
    • If you still don’t trust the results from the above 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. The test is implemented to help erase those biases.

    The idea of leveraging your personal strengths in order to maximize your growth is one that we should all consider and aim to pursue. It’s difficult not to be fulfilled using our natural gifts. Part of leveraging is investing in and developing those strengths/gifts. This requires action. If you’re not doing something with your skills and your knowledge, it becomes useless, it stagnates, and you start to feel bad about yourself.

    What are you good at? How about becoming better at it?

    If you are ready to identify and leverage your strengths, remember that success does not happen overnight. You as an 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 takes time, so be patient.

    How to identify and leverage your personal strengths

    When you are interviewing for a job, it’s common to be asked about your greatest strengths and how they will help you perform on the job. It’s always a good idea to have examples of your strengths ready to share with interviewers.

    Be prepared with examples to show the interviewer how you’ve used your strengths to succeed on the job.

    What the Interviewer Wants to Know

    Interviewers ask this question to see whether or not your skillset is a good fit for the position and the company. This question also helps interviewers see whether or not you have researched the job and the company thoroughly.

    How to Answer the Question

    When you’re asked to describe your strengths, be careful to set the right tone. Some interviewers may ask you to “brag a little about yourself.” In answering, you’ll want to display a gracious self-confidence.

    Don’t understate your talents, but don’t come off too boastful either.

    The best strategy is to practice answers about your strengths before the interview, taking time to plot out how you can sell your strength by also explaining how and why you think it will fill an employer’s need in a specific area.

    This allows you the great opportunity to redirect the focus upon the employer and how you’d benefit the company.

    Examples of the Best Answers

    Adapt the following answers to your background and experience.

    My greatest strength is my ability to work effectively with many different people. My strong communication skills have made me an effective project manager on dozens of projects over the past five years. Because this job involves a lot of team projects, I know that my communication and interpersonal skills make me an ideal fit for the position.

    Why it Works: This response relates the candidate’s prior work experience to the skills the job requires, showing the employer why they are a good fit for the position.

    My greatest strength is my ability to stay focused on my work and finish tasks in advance of a deadline. I’m not easily distracted, and this means my performance is very strong. This skill will come in handy because I know this is a very busy office under constant deadline pressure. My focus will allow me to meet these deadlines successfully.

    Why it Works: The candidate shows the hiring manager that they know this is a deadline-oriented position and they have the ability to thrive under pressure.

    My time management and organizational skills are my greatest strengths. I’m capable of juggling multiple projects at the same time. At my last job, I was typically assigned to be project manager on team assignments due to my ability to adhere to deadlines and keep track of the team’s progress. These organizational skills will allow me to effectively juggle all of the day-to-day operations of the office as your office manager.

    Why it Works: This answer discusses the applicant’s greatest strengths and explains how it will help them multitask to handle the job for which they are interviewing.

    My greatest strength is my listening ability. I pay careful attention to what I am being told, including specific information relating to current projects, details about future projects, and even what my colleagues did over the weekend. Being a good listener, I am highly effective at completing projects efficiently because I don’t have to be told something twice. My listening skills also enable me to effectively motivate others, which would be a part of my job as head of the department.

    Why it Works: The candidate explains how their skills can help in different facets of the job, enabling them to be successful at both motivating employees and project management.

    I am a very methodical and organized individual. In my previous administrative assistant position, I restructured the office filing system, which made it easier and quicker to access client charts. These strengths mean I will be able to keep department records and files organized and structured so that departmental tasks can be completed in a shorter amount of time.

    Why it Works: This response shows the interviewing, by sharing a specific example of a success story at work, how they could bring those abilities to the new employer.

    I think that my greatest strength is my curiosity! I’m fascinated by learning what makes people tick, and so I enjoy asking my clients questions about their backgrounds and hobbies, as well as about their requirements. This helps me to establish a personal rapport with them and ensures that our consultative dialogues are productive. Since I know that your company and your sales program emphasize the importance of quality relationship building, I think you’d find that I’d fit into your climate quite well.

    Why it Works: In this response, the applicant uses the question as an opportunity to show why they’d be a terrific fit for the company, as well as a strong candidate for the position.

    Tips for Giving the Best Response

    An effective answer to this question will demonstrate how your greatest strength, or multiple strengths, will make you an asset to the company.

    When you respond, specifically relate your strengths as they relate to the job description. It’s a good idea to use examples from prior positions you’ve held to show how your abilities helped you perform successfully in the workplace.

    If you’re not sure which strengths to discuss, this list of the top strengths employers look for can help you decide.

    Read the job description thoroughly in advance of the interview, noting key skills that fit your experiences. For each of these skills, think of a specific instance when you displayed that skill. Also, look closely at the responsibilities you would be assuming and any projects you might be undertaking.

    Possible Follow-Up Questions

    • What is your greatest weakness? – Best Answers
    • How will your greatest strength help you perform? – Best Answers
    • What motivates you? – Best Answers

    Key Takeaways

    Make a Match: Use your response to show the interviewer why you’re a perfect match for the job.

    Share Examples: Have examples of how you used your strengths at work to show the interviewer how you can perform successfully.

    Don’t Overdo It: It’s fine to be proud of your accomplishments, but don’t be boastful or brag about them.

    Gain momentum in your personal and professional life

    Posted May 07, 2019

    Do you want to gain momentum and feel happier in your personal and professional life?

    Capitalize on your strengths. Leverage your top character strengths not only to lead more effectively but to feel greater well-being in your life and work.

    How to identify and leverage your personal strengths

    What are Character Strengths?

    Your character strengths reflect your core personal identity and can bolster your thinking, feeling, meaning, and engagement. According to Martin Seligman, Ph.D., (2011) founder of positive psychology, the 24 character strengths are the cornerstone of personal well-being and a flourishing life. These strengths are: creativity, curiosity, judgment, love of learning, perspective, bravery, perseverance, honesty, zest, love, kindness, social intelligence, teamwork, fairness, leadership, forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation, appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, and spirituality (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).

    Know Your Top Strengths

    To build greater momentum toward achieving your professional and personal goals, identify your top strengths and learn to use them more effectively. Building on our top (signature) strengths has been consistently shown to increase our happiness and improve work engagement, life satisfaction, and well-being (Niemiec, 2018). Using our strengths can increase our effectiveness across the domains of our lives, including work, school, community, relationships, and spirituality.

    Strategy 1: Here are 4 steps identified by positive psychologist Ryan Niemiec, Ph.D., to help you identify and use your top strengths. These steps have been validated internationally with populations of children and adults:

    1. To boost your personal capital for life and leadership, identify your top strengths. Take the free VIA Survey, a quick (less than 15 minutes), self-assessment of your personal strengths. It’s highly evidence-based and has been taken by over 7 million people throughout the world. You can find the VIA at http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths-Survey
    2. Look at your VIA findings, and as Dr. Niemiec suggests, ask yourself what strengths are most essential to who you are as an individual.
    3. Choose one of these strengths and find a way to use it in a new way each day for a week – at home or at work (Seligman, Steen, Park & Peterson (2005).
    4. Notice how you feel and what thoughts and emotions emerge when you capitalize on this strength.

    Strategy 2: Apply Your Top Character Strengths in Your Personal and Professional Life

    Now figure out how to apply your top strengths to propel yourself toward your goals. Here are a few ways to use some of the 24 strengths:

    Leadership – Developing and maintaining good relations among a group and engaging them toward accomplishment:

    • Complement employees, colleagues, clients, family, and friends on a job well done – one-to-one, in a meeting, or by email.
    • Strengthen interpersonal relationships by paying attention to your positivity ratio – share more positive than negative messages with people when you communicate (Cameron, 2012).
    • Create your own consultation team with co-workers or other professionals in your field, and offer each other moral support.
    • Assist a colleague, co-worker, or team member, who is struggling in the leadership process.
    • Seek assistance and encouragement from others when you need it.

    Perseverance – Staying on task toward what you start, despite challenges or obstacles:

    • Set a meaningful long-term goal for your professional or personal life.
    • On a daily or weekly basis, set small, manageable sub-goals to propel you toward this goal.
    • Track your progress on your calendar or computer.
    • When something gets in the way, be adaptive. Figure out how to move past it to reach your goal.
    • Identify your most productive hours of the day. Work on your goal during those times.

    Kindness – Caring about the needs of others and being willing to do a good deed without expecting a return:

    • Offer a kind word to people as you go through the day, for example, at home, the office, coffee shop, via email, at meetings, or while traveling.
    • Offer a small random act of kindness toward someone else – whether someone you know or a complete stranger.
    • Share something with another person or offer to help them if you know something they don’t know.
    • Be kind to yourself. Acknowledge your progress and achievements. Take good care of yourself with nutritious foods, exercise, and enough sleep.

    Strategy 3: Act As If

    If, like many people, you have a negativity bias, focusing on areas of weakness rather than strengths, here’s a strategy recommended by Shannon Polly and Kathryn Britton in their book, Character Strengths Matter. “Act as if” to pull up strengths at the lower end of your VIA strengths ratings. You can pretend you have that lower strength as a top strength and act as if. Like an actor, practice positive outcomes and create new stories about how you utilize this strength to build momentum and positive engagement. This strategy can make a difference in personal and professional realms – in your leadership role at work and as a leader in your own life.

    How will you leverage your character strengths to gain momentum and feel happier in your personal and professional life?

    *This post is for educational purposes and should not substitute for psychotherapy with a qualified professional.

    Cameron, K. (2012). Positive Leadership: Strategies for extraordinary performance. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

    Niemiec, R. (2018). Character strengths interventions: A field guide for practitioners. Boston, MA: Hogrefe.

    Peterson, C. & Seligman, E.P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

    Polly, S. & Britton, K. (2015) Character strengths matter: How to live a full life. Positive Psychology News, LLC., USA.

    Seligman, M.E.P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York: NY: Atria Paperback.

    Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410-421.