Assessing your personal strengths especially and your weaknesses is key to improving your effectiveness and hence results. Improving your results starts with you because YOU are the only person YOU can change. I’m sure you’ve tried changing other people, such as your partner or boss. How did that go? You may have been lucky if they changed at all. The greatest opportunity for improvement lies in knowing yourself well and focusing on what’s within your control.
How to Identify Your Strengths
There are essentially two steps to identifying your strengths – looking at what you already have and then getting more input to ensure you have a well-rounded view. You want to reflect on your own thoughts about your strengths and you want the opinions of others too as you might have blind spots (strengths you aren’t aware of about yourself) and/or have an unrealistic view of yourself.
- Start by taking an inventory of all the available data you have on you. Look for all the evidence you have accumulated from recent years, including:
- Performance reviews (this will have your manager’s perspective and probably your own as well as many companies get the employee’s input as well as the management’s)
- 360⁰ surveys (surveys that your boss, team and peers have completed on you)
- Awards and certifications
- What are your passions? What do you enjoy doing?
- Any feedback you’ve received, e.g. verbal accolades, congratulatory cards, letters and emails
- Any assessments you’ve had done whether about strengths, personality, behaviour, preferences or aptitude
- Comments from your friends and family (yes, really!)
- If you don’t have any of the above, then initiate getting the feedback as other peoples’ opinions of your impact are important. One thing you can do is send a simple email to a variety of personal and professional contacts asking them for input. You can use the following verbatim to make it fast and easy for yourself, don’t overthink it:
I am working on my leadership development (always a work in progress I feel) and would genuinely appreciate your input. Would you please respond to the following 4 questions with as much detail or specificity as you can (bearing in mind, your initial, quick response is best for both you and me):
What should I start doing?
What should I stop doing?
What should I continue doing?
What is unique about me versus other leaders/people you know or with whom you work?
Thank you so much for your feedback.
How to Identify Your Weaknesses
Go through the same process as above and pull out your weaknesses, development opportunities and any complaints and criticism you’ve received. It’s especially important to ask for feedback from others so you have an accurate view of yourself as often we don’t know what we don’t know.
Personal SWOT Analysis
The SWOT model is commonly used in business and competitive analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The model can also be used to analyse your leadership situation and career advancement. There will be overlap in some of the items because opportunities are often derived from addressing threats. Complete it for yourself. If you have a close colleague, ask them to complete it for you as well or do what I did when I started my coaching practice, I had a few friends complete it on my behalf. That made for ‘interesting’ reading.
Personal Strength List and Weakness List
A reminder that the list of your strengths and weaknesses aren’t just what you do; it’s also how you do things and how you interact with people to get the work done. The lists should include skills, behaviours, attributes, characteristics, qualities and mindsets and can be things you were born with or things for which you received training. Often my clients ‘forget’ some of the things they do well because they are so habitual to them. As I say, a fish doesn’t know fish swim in water. If you want to delve into yourself even deeper, do my exercise, A Development Activity to Learn, to identify more ingrained, sometimes subtler, aspects of yourself.
Personal Strengths – Use Them More
While every leader should have an understanding of their weaknesses, sometimes called development areas, in order to grow their leadership, I often focus on strengths. This view is rooted in positive psychology theory.
What strengths can you use more often? The benefit of doing so is that you’re good at those strengths already and you probably enjoy using them too. I start every coaching session asking my client to identify the strengths that have contributed to their accomplishments since the last coaching session. This reminds them of their good qualities rather than always focusing on the development or deficit.
How do you leverage your strengths to address a weakness? For example, if you are great at listening however, you avoid dealing with poor performance issues in your team, how can you apply your strength of listening to understand the performance issue and then address the issues?
Don’t overuse a strength as you could enter the ‘shadow’ side of that strength. If you have a strength of driving action to timely completion and that’s all you do, ignoring how you interact with the team doing those actions, you might demotivate them or cause burnout. Not every building project is solved with a hammer, you need a saw and wrench in your toolkit too.
Personal Strengths Test
There are a variety of strengths tests that help people identify their strengths and preferences including those they aren’t aware of, aka their blind spots. Examples are: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), DiSC Workplace Profile, Discovery Insights, The Leadership Circle, Hogan, Belbin Team Roles Assessment, Point Positive, Realize Strengths, Gallup Strengths Finder, Enneagram, Princeton MCG Leadership Blindspot, 16Personalities, etc.
If you don’t have many of these types of assessments, you can find some of them online with free or inexpensive versions to complete now. It’s often best to review the learnings from these assessments with a coach certified in it to understand the results and get support to leverage the assessment’s full potential.
Where could you benefit from an objective view of your strengths and weaknesses?
Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore your strengths and weaknesses and identify some tangible actions for moving forward.