What are your strengths?
Hundreds of self-directed tests and assessments have been created to help people figure this out. It’s one of the most commonly asked interview questions, and many companies aspire to build a “strengths-based” culture, which encourages employees to discover and develop their strengths.
Studies continuously show that focusing on your strengths leads to higher levels of engagement and better performance. When you focus on using your strengths, rather than improving or “fixing” your weaknesses, your confidence and self-awareness increases.
Conversely, when you are focused on your weaknesses, you are more likely to have lower levels of confidence and be more stressed, which can negatively impact self-esteem and your ability to have healthy relationships.
Discovering Your Strengths
You may have an idea of your strengths based on past performance reviews, feedback from others, and by looking at your past successes. These can be helpful, but they are contextual and subjective. Here are a few tools for helping you discover your strengths:
- The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has been used consistently in organizations over the past 40 years to help people become more aware of how they judge and perceive situations and others. For example, are you more externally focused (extroverted) or internally-focused (introverted)? Do you look to logic for decision-making (thinking), or do you consider how you or others feel first when making a decision (feeling)? Through a questionnaire, you are assessed across four main dichotomies and given your personality type. For a fee, you can take the test and receive personalized courses and guides about how to make the most of your strengths. Because this test has been used for so long, it has been refined and validated by many professionals. There are endless resources available based on the test that help you leverage your personality type and strengths in both a personal and professional context.
- For an assessment about your character strengths, the VIA institute offers a free character test for you to identify whether things like teamwork, gratitude, and curiosity come more naturally to you than other character traits. These not only give you insights into your own strengths, it also helps you recognize strengths in others, which can improve your relationships and the gratitude you feel towards others in your professional and personal life.
- The DISC Assessment Test is a free psychologically-based assessment test that is commonly used for teams and motivational purposes. Based on your answers, you are placed into one of four different personality types: dominant, influence, steadiness, and compliant. Although you’ll likely exhibit one type more than the others, you may demonstrate the other personality types in varying degrees. Because this test is widely used, there are many free resources that help explain the implications of your result and help you understand the traits of the other personality types as well.
An important thing to remember is that there are advantages of all of the personality types, character traits, and categories that these tests diagnose, and one type or category is not “bad” or better than another. Also, while these tests are a great start to helping you determine your strengths, they have their limitations. It is impossible to capture the full essence of someone through online tests and questionnaires. To make sure you’re not missing anything important that such assessments did not detect, ask your friends and colleagues about your strengths and competencies as well.
Choosing a Career Based On Your Strengths
Knowing your strengths also allows you to choose opportunities for which you are well-suited. For instance, if creativity is a strength, choosing an R&D position rather than a sales or administrative position might be a better fit for you. Similarly, if you shine in client-facing tasks, choosing a client representative role over a position that is more focused on research and analysis will help you hone your strengths and increase your likelihood of success in that role.
In addition, being aware of your strengths can help you determine the value you can add to a team or a group, as well as identify the types of people with whom you work best. For example, if you are very detail-oriented, then you might add a lot of value to the team by taking note of the action items from each meeting and holding people accountable. If you have this trait, you would work well with someone who is more big-picture focused, since they will complement your detail-oriented approach by keeping the overall project or purpose of the task in mind.
Using Your Strengths To Build Positive Relationships
Authentic relationships are the key to unlocking your true potential. Understanding your strengths and recognizing others’ strengths will help you find and build positive professional relationships that will be mutually beneficial. The Enneagram Test is a tool commonly used in the workplace to help improve team dynamics and business relationships. It measures your personality across 9 personality types, giving you a better understanding of your tendencies, stressors, fears, and strengths. It helps you understand how you interact with others and how others will interact with you based on their personalities. The better you understand your strengths and how to use them, the more you’ll be able to bring to a relationship.
For example, if one of your personality strengths is making people feel connected and comfortable, help your contacts connect with others and start conversations. If you’re task-oriented, use that strength to stay in touch with your contacts on a regular basis or help them accomplish a task they’ve mentioned to you.
Using your strengths in relationships will likely feel natural to you in situations or relationships in which you feel comfortable. It may take a little more effort and practice when you’re feeling vulnerable, but that’s when focusing on using your strengths, rather than worrying about your weaknesses, will help you build and develop relationships that create opportunities.
Using Your Strengths To Serve Others
Understanding your strengths and confidently using them will allow you to serve others in meaningful ways. Serving others increases your sense of purpose, which leads to greater happiness. Conversely, knowing your strengths also enables you to set boundaries and say “no” to projects, requests, or relationships that aren’t a fit. Focusing on how you can use your strengths to best serve others, rather than how you can please others, will enable you to thrive in your relationships and career.
Going through the process of discovering your strengths and the best ways to use them will also improve your ability to help others discover and use their strengths successfully. Bringing out strengths in others is a highly desirable leadership skill, one that will serve you well in business, relationships and your career.
- Focusing on your developing strengths rather than “fixing” your weaknesses will help you build a successful career and positive relationships.
- Use the available personality tests and assessments to get an idea of your strengths, weaknesses, and relational style. However, recognize that automated test results don’t fully define you. Ask trusted friends or colleagues to share their feedback and do some self-reflecting to fully understand your strengths.
- Knowing your strengths and using them to serve others is the best way to build authentic relationships, feel a sense of purpose, and thrive in your career.
How are you using your strengths to serve others in your career and relationships? Write down a few ways you are or want to and let them guide you!