Play to Your Strengths

Julianne Schwietz MA, CPCC - June 2011

Striving to improve yourself? Doing so with a focus on fixing your weaknesses is exhausting, de-motivating, and does not deliver a great return on your effort. As a professional leadership coach I find more success helping clients establish a strengths-based foundation for their improvement journey. Identifying your strengths and how to leverage them delivers a much higher ROI on your time and effort. Do you know your strengths?

I use Strengths Finder 2.0 with nearly every coaching client as a foundation from which they will work to their best potential. Getting the results of this assessment tool is truly a gift. The fit one feels in the skin of their own strengths is affirming and confidence building.

The assessment gets to the core of who you are at your best. We all have skills we have learned over time, but they may not be aligned with our innate talents. Strengths Finder zeros in on things that come so naturally to us that we may not even recognize them as abilities let alone see them as strengths. You could be taking your strengths for granted.

You Might Be Surprised

A recent client (we'll call him Rolf) is a perfect example of someone who overlooked his strengths. Rolf has a strength called WOO, which stands for Winning Others Over. This means that he enjoys meeting new people, getting them to like him, and being energized among strangers. In fact, striking up conversations, making connections and finding common areas of interest, are as easy for him as it is for others (who don't have this strength) to avoid such challenging opportunities. And yet, to Rolf, his ability to Win Others Over does not feel like a strength. He says it is simply who and how he is.

One of the greatest benefits of Rolf knowing that WOO is one of his strengths is his growing understanding of how to leverage it. Rolf explained:

"When I first learned that WOO is one of my top strengths, honestly, I didn't want to admit it to anyone. I was disappointed, thinking of it as no big deal; so what if I can meet people easily and talk to them comfortably? What makes that a strength? Then I was coached to take a look at how I can use this ability in my work. I began to see that others who don't have this strength really struggle to put customers at ease because they are not at ease themselves. Once I accepted Winning Others Over as a strength of mine, I was able to build upon it. Now I look for how I can assist others in bridging difficult conversations and starting relationships. I know I've become a more important asset to our team. And, my own self-worth as a team member has improved. I look for ways to put this social ability to work in my profession."

Leverage the Positive

Another client (let's call her Michelle) discovered her strengths after her manager announced to Michelle's team that their performance reviews would be based upon their ability to work to their strengths. Each of the team members took the assessment and then worked with me to identify how each strength applied to their individual and team work-plans.

Michelle's assessment reveals that of her five strengths, none of them fall in the Relationship Building category. Her two top strengths are Achiever and Command. However, her role in her team is one that requires a high amount of collaboration and interpersonal interaction. Michelle was worried that she didn't have the "right" strengths to be successful in her position.

This is why it is critical to understand how your strengths play out. In doing so, you will be able to direct the positive effects of your strengths into areas outside of your talents. In this way, you build upon strengths; you do not try to improve upon weaknesses. As we looked closely at Michelle's strength "Command," we could see that people tend to be drawn to those who take a stance. Having others drawn to her was a positive effect that would overflow into areas in which she needed to build relationships. At the same time, Michelle learned that it would serve her best to be assertive in her approach rather than to come across as taking charge. This small nuance was a way of leveraging one strength to work for her in an area of deficit.

To discover your innate strengths, go to There are 34 strengths from which your top five will be narrowed. The revelation of your strengths will be surprising and affirming!

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