Focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses

Right before reading week, my boss handed all of us copies of the book Strengths Finder 2.0, by Tom Rath, and gave us an assignment. We all had to log on to the Strengths Finder website and do an assessment, and then come back to residence with our top five strengths written out. We all groaned and complained, because the last thing we wanted to do on our break was MORE homework. Our boss told us very politely to shut up, and that personal development activities were part of our contract. So one day while sitting by the pool in Florida, I took out the book, logged onto the site, and did the assessment.

I’m so glad I did. The strengths finder theory is that people spend the majority of their time trying to improve upon their weaknesses, or following goals that don’t play to their natural strengths. The goal of the assessment is to find the strengths that come to you naturally, and give you the tools to develop them. The assessment told me that my top 5 strengths were:

1) Input (collecting knowledge or information)
2)  Restorative (solving problems)
3) WOO (Winning others over)
4) Communication (self-explanatory)
5) Includer (helping others feel included)

At first, I looked at the results skeptically. The test seemed a little too simple to be able to know what my strengths were. Not only that, but some of the questions required knowledge of myself I’m not sure I possessed. But the more I read about the different strengths, the more I agreed.

Input, in particular, really seems to fuel a lot of what I do. I love collecting bits of information, whether its random facts, new ideas, or even jokes. I don’t always know what I’m going to do with the information, but simply collecting it makes me happy. When I’m able to make connections between the knowledge, or able to turn it into something useful, like a story or an essay, that’s when I really feel engaged. This desire fuels the restorative strength, because I like to help other people solve problems using my knowledge or ideas. It fuels the WOO and Includer strengths, because that knowledge helps me make connections with other people. The communication strength is both assisted by and assists all of the other strengths–I love talking, and writing, and when I can talk or right about the information I’m interested in, I am happy as a clam.

Tonight we did a seminar based on the findings from the book. We found out who had similar strengths, and who had complimentary strengths. For example, my SRA had Disciple as her #1 strength, which works well with my Input because I can get sidetracked when I’m chasing information and lose focus. We also talked about how to explain and give examples of these strengths in a job interview.

We realized that we all had very similar strengths, and it was pointed out that RAs all would–after all, you need particular skills and interests in order to even want the job, let alone to do the job well. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the skills that came up were the ones that really involved interacting with people.

I loved learning more about myself and figuring out how to use those strengths to my advantage. So often I focus on my weakness and areas to improve, rather than on developing the skills I already have. I’m definitely going to be referring to this book again, both for career purposes and for my own personal development purposes.

On another note: I also won employee of the month tonight. It was a great way to start a night that was all about focusing on strengths 🙂

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