I am fortunate enough to work for a company that focuses on the building of strengths. Rather than looking for gaps or "area of opportunities" we look for what are people good at. In the book Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D. they approach human resource development from this aspect. In so much that strengths are a person's greatest room for growth.
Each person has a unique combination of thirty-four different individual strengths or themes. The book defines strength as consistent and almost near perfect performance of of a given activity. Some people have Restorative as one of their top strengths. That means they are good at solving problems where others might find frustration. Others have Arranger where they especially good taking a multitude of variations and aligning them in the best possible order.
My top three strengths are Relator, Context and Futuristic. I like them because they really help explain the way I think about things. That is something that does not come up in conversation that often. Even around the office we often talk about or mention our strengths but never discuss how we actually use them. In this article I will attempt to explain how I use these tools and how I feel they influence my decision making.
Relator is described as how one relates to people and information. I look for connecting with people in ways we both already know. This works especially well in my current job role as I once managed a technology department. Now I help people who are coming from similar experiences and assist them in adopting the cloud.
I look for things that are common to people. Renting versus owning housing is a good analogy for hosting in the cloud versus hosting on-site. Almost everybody at one time or another had the experience of moving into an apartment. Or, moving from an apartment into a house. Although the amenities are the same, the responsibilities change. The same concept applies to servers and the cloud.
When I do this, it becomes easy then to draw similarities for, what may seem like, abstract concepts. It also acts as a point of reference should there be ambiguity or doubt. The person I am speaking with might ask as a way to verify their thought processes, "Is it like when you...?" That tells me that they are starting to understand these new ideas.
To take things in context means to look to the past for answers. For example, when I was asked to create a set of skill requirements, I looked at what the skill requirements were of other positions that were similar to mine. The last thing I wanted to do was to draft up a set of skill requirements that didn't align with other positions in the organization. Somebody, one day, might want to change positions and it would be easier if the fundamentals they already put in place applied to the new role they were seeking.
To me Context also means what else is currently going on. I like to look at things from a larger picture point of view. Is there a marketing plan, for example, that this project might align with? If yes, then there are questions that might need to asked to help put things into greater clarity. Some of those questions might include the budget of the project, expected outcome, deadlines and so on. Although these could be discussed in terms of the past, I like to think about what is currently in play and how these decisions will impact the future.
Finally, with the strength as futuristic I like to take look at the road ahead and think about how the decisions make today will influence tomorrow. I find people who speak with a vision of the future very interesting. Because, I can think about what they say, analyze it and then see if I come to the same conclusions.
Ever since I was a little child, I can always remember thinking "What if..." Many times asking "What if..." leads to experimentation and exploration of ideas. Since Activator is not one of my top five strengths, many ideas do not come to fruition.
Nevertheless, I can always talk about what could be. It can be frustrating to some that I speak with because when I'm done explaining my thoughts, there are usually choices to be made. In my mind, I have thought out so many scenarios it can be confusing even for me to keep track.
In conclusion, we all have a unique combination of strengths. This is why it's important to not only study your strengths, but the strengths in others. You can collaborate with other individuals as a team each leveraging their own strengths to accomplish a goal.
If you want to know what your strengths are, visit the Gallup Strength Center. When you encounter a Racker, ask them which is their favorite strengths and how they use them.
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So, what do you think? Did I miss anything? Is any part unclear?