Skills are what you are good at doing, but do not necessarily enjoy. Strengths are what energizes you, but you may not be extremely good at them. However, strengths are where you have the greatest opportunity to improve your performance because they energize you.
The question is: How do you know which is which – for yourself and your team members?
- Observe carefully. If you take a moment to observe both yourself and your team as they go about their daily duties, you will see the times when their faces light up, when they begin to work a bit quicker and when they put their nose to the grindstone and stay focused and determined. Those are the times they are working within their areas of strength.
- Listen closely. Listen to how your team members speak about certain tasks and roles. Are they animated, thoughtful and asking good questions? When do they talk more than usual? Or when do they think more than usual? These are times where they are probably talking about their strengths.
- Start a discussion. After you’ve observed and listened to those with whom you work, ask them what they enjoy doing the most. If you ask them to do a task or assist you in a certain project area, notice how they approach it and then ask them afterwards if they enjoyed what they did. If they respond with, “Sure, no problem,” ask more questions to clarify. “I really appreciate your assistance and need your expertise, but it seems like you’d rather I was able to do it on my own or get someone else to help me?” Then, be ready to do so.
People-pleasers. The challenge with the above activities is that there are different personality types that make pinpointing strengths difficult. There are people who will never say “No!” would never admit they did not want to help and will always step in with a smile. You must observe them much more carefully in order to see what is really energizing to them, and what they do out of need to please others. Rarely is the desire to please others their actual strength.
Grouches. The other challenge is those people who have tried very hard to cover any energy they might have in a veil of grouchiness. In order to protect their ego, their personal space or their fears, they respond almost always with a lack of energy. You may need to watch them carefully for a longer period of time, offer extra recognition and appreciation for what they do for you, and encourage the things they are good at to see if you can uncover some energizing activities.
Strengths are not always the things you are best at, but certainly can be. Pinpointing what you are good at can be a decent place to start if you are struggling to identify strengths.
What about you? What activity are you doing when your energy levels the highest during the day?