We all have things that we are good at and enjoy doing. These are our natural capacities and strengths. They make us and make us feel energized and engaged, ready and able to do our best. People often mistake learned behaviors for strengths. Learned behaviors are often things that you are good at, can do well, yet de-energize you.
These are things that someone can be taught fairly easily through demonstration. Think of driving. I can show you how to turn the car on, how to accelerate, brake, indicate, park, etc. If all other factors are normal, then I could reasonably expect you to slowly acquire and perfect the skill of driving as I demonstrated more and more how to do it.
Leveraging your personal strengths means using more of what you are good at to get more of what you want. To leverage your strengths is more than simply using your strengths. It means you intentionally seek out ways to make the best use of your natural talents in order to develop them into strengths.
It’s important to note that just because a task energizes you, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically a strength. If you complete a project that requires major revisions or extra work, it may not be an area where you excel. Conversely, you might have great success in sales, but after a deal closes, all you can envision is never having to make another. Use self-reflection to pinpoint the activities that both energize you and where you have been successful to find your true strengths.
Theodore Roosevelt once said: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” So while it’s quite common to cast about for others’ strengths to figure out what you are good at, it’s also a terrible way to go about it. To help you stop comparing yourself to others, focus on creating self-awareness, which includes recognition and acceptance of who you are.
If you want to motivate people to try something new, ask the person which of their strengths would help them most in achieving the desired change. Motivation will increase as goals are accomplished and setbacks overcome. All this while doing what they enjoy most and feel is aligned to their best self.
By equipping people with a positive focus on what they do well and can do more of, and helping them create pathways to better access and develop their strengths, they will feel far more motivated to learn and adopt new behaviour. This is partly because using strengths is intrinsically motivating and rewarding. When people are operating from their strengths they feel more confident.
When you know your own strengths and the strengths of others, you are better equipped to leverage strengths together. One of the most powerful things you can do to increase collaboration is give people a language to talk about each other’s’ strengths and how they can contribute them specifically toward team goals.