It’s the hallmark of every performance review. Your boss tells you everything you are doing great and then ends with the motivational “You really need to work on” laundry lists of faults, problem areas, and things that annoy you about him/her. Some of the feedback is really helpful, and some isn’t.
As a manager, I subscribe to the StrengthsFinder management philosophy. In a nutshell this means that everyone is really good at certain things and as a team we should spend our time and energy making sure that everyone is doing stuff they are really good at. If we find we need a skill that no one is good at, we should hire someone who is really good at that skill and offload that work to them rather than making someone magically change into a new and different human being.
Now, the strengths in StrengthsFinder aren’t normal work things. They are themes that exist at work and in life and help you understand what you are good at in the big picture. Mine, in my own words, are:
Ideation – the ability to tie different things together in new and innovative ideas
Responsibility – the ability to own tasks and problems and bring them to resolution
Maximizer – the ability to make the most out of people
Relator – the ability to build relationships with the people around me so I can really understand them and work with them
Strategic – the ability to think about the big picture and move a team together in a common direction
Note I do not have all 34 of the strengths, only five. I am not great at everything. For example I do not have Woo (“Winning others over”.) Woos like to talk to strangers; I DO NOT HAVE WOO. However, there are times in life when I really need to talk to strangers. I need to network with new people and not seem like I am not being tortured, because cringing makes new people uncomfortable. As a traditional manager I would think, “I really need to work on being more comfortable talking to strangers, because if I don’t change it’s going to hamper my career going forward.” As a strength based manager I say, “Susie really likes talking to strangers. Maybe I can offload this part of the project to her, or take her with me to meetings to help with the networking.”
Strength based management isn’t about making you better at what you hate, it’s about teaching everyone that different people like and excel at different things. Let me state that another way: there really are people who enjoy doing the stuff you hate and you should find those people and hang out with them and work together. Also, they might hate doing things you love, so you’ll get to do more things you enjoy. You will be happy and more successful and they will be happy and more successful.
I’ve found StrengthsFinder useful in my home life too. It was mind blowing when I realized that many of the conflicts between me and Mr. Afthead happened because we are both Responsibility people. While you might think that means every problem in our home gets an owner and resolution you would be wrong. I see an issue and take responsibility for it; I own it and will see it through to conclusion. However, my husband sees the same problem takes responsibility for it, owns it and sees it through to conclusion. Conflict occurs as we both try to solve one problem, each in our own way. Because of StrengthsFinder we see these problems coming and can circumvent anger…sometimes.
The last thing I love about Strengthsfinder is that is relatively cheap to get started. For $18.35 on Amazon you can get the book, which includes a code to take the online test. The book will lay all 34 of the strengths and the test will tell you which 5 are yours. It will also tell you how your strengths interact with each other. Knowing and understanding you own strengths is incredibly powerful. Then, if you can get those around you to take the same test, you can start to find your partners. If you can’t get anyone to take the test, you can use the book to try to derive the abilities of those around you and start to make partnerships that way.
As a person who isn’t always self-aware or people aware, this has really helped me. It’s helped me realize that everyone is good at different things. It’s helped me really understand where I thrive, and it’s given me a way to understand weaknesses in our team and solve them productively. I’m not affiliated with the Gallup folks who created this idea, but I am a fan of their work.
If you have the means, go get a copy of StrengthsFinder 2.0. If you want to learn more before you invest, get a copy from the library and read about the Strength Themes. Note that the one-time-use code will probably be used already in the library book, so if you like the idea you’ll need to make an investment. Once you take the test you’ll learn what you are great at and what makes you special as a person. It will also provide you with suggestions for strengths you can partner with. Start finding those people.
If you really love the concept, like I did, recommend to your manager that they get the Strengths Based Leadership book. This will help them understand their strengths as a leader and introduce them to the concept of team based strengths: everyone needs partners to be successful. Then maybe they’ll get everyone you work with to take the test. (That’s what I did.)
If you love the concept, but your manager is a jerk, you can still tell colleagues about it or family members. Then you get to have fun conversations about what others are good at and how they can maximize their own strengths. No one dislikes talking about what makes them special and different, trust me.
I highly recommend you go find out what makes you special and different, if you don’t know already. You’ll be able to use that knowledge to build opportunities for yourself that will make you happy and successful. It’s like magic!