You cannot have great personal leadership without knowing your personal strengths, and leveraging them for maximum impact at work, and at home.
In this post, I will highlight the research that explains why this is vitally important, then give you practical steps you can take to get yourself, and your team members, into a strength zone.
The Big Idea—”Day for day, the person who loves what they do will outperform the person that doesn’t. It’s that simple.” -Gary Vaynerchuk
The person who loves what they do every day—and is good at it—will persist through setbacks, stay committed longer, and simply put more energy into what they are doing.
Why do leaders need to know their strengths?
Imagine for a moment that you never discovered your strengths in your entire lifetime.
Without knowing, and working, in your strength zones—you will likely never create your masterpiece, launch your business, or reach your potential.
There is almost no greater tragedy than when your gifts die with you, and the world never gets the positive impact your talent would bring.
I love the question author John Acuff poses, “What do you love to do so much that time seems to disappear?”
Or reflect on this for a moment—What were you made to do?
As a leader, identifying strengths and gifts in yourself, and others, is critical for two big reasons:
- First—If a leader is going to be truly successful, they need to know their greatest areas of giftedness and spend the majority of their time in those areas. That is what brings exponential impact. Can you picture a great leader spending most of their life doing something they weren’t very good at?
- Second—Your potential as a leader and the morale of your team depend upon your ability to put the right person in the right position.
Why is it important to put team members in their strength zones?
Simple fact—No one likes to work in an area of weakness for a prolonged period of time.
Think of the last time you had a job that was a terrible match for your skills or passions. It’s a recipe for low motivation, burnout, and turnover.
Years ago, I heard leadership expert John Maxwell tell a powerful story about his high school basketball team. One day during practice, his coach had the second-string team play against the first-string team. But here’s the catch—all of the first-string players had to play in positions they never played in.
The result? The second-string team trounced the first-string players!
A team with great individual players in the wrong positions will either be very limited, or not succeed at all.
In 2001, the Gallup Organization did a well-known massive meta-analysis (combining several studies) with 198,000 employees at 36 companies. They have probably done more research on this than any other company in the world. Shockingly, they found that only 2 out of 10 employees is working in an area of strength.
Their research also shows that people who work in a strength zone are:
- Nearly 8x more productive
- 3x as likely to have an excellent quality of life
- 6x as likely to be engaged at work
If you want an easy way to discover your strengths, Gallup has a great research-based assessment for $19.99 (I will include the link at bottom and I receive no commercial benefits from this).
It is important to note that psychologist Donald Clifton (chair of the Gallup Organization) was recently honored by the American Psychological Association with a Presidential Commendation as the father of strengths-based psychology, and grandfather of positive psychology.
The following things also happen when you help put your team members in their strength zones:
- People want to come to work
- You dramatically lower your odds of burning people out
- Absenteeism and turnover go down
- Team morale goes up because people know their roles and contribution in the bigger mission
- Your results improve—profits go up
- Your fulfillment as a leader goes up
It may take time up front, but it is clearly worth your time investment to experiment with moving people around.
Gallup research also clearly shows that people are more successful when they really hone their strengths as opposed to working on their weaknesses. I do believe we can learn important character lessons from working on our weaknesses or things we aren’t good at, so those experiences shouldn’t be totally avoided.
But in general, in our short lifetimes, we need to primarily focus on identifying and maximizing our greatest gifts.
People sometimes ask, “What if I am good at something I hate to do?”
Then it’s not a real strength, Gallup says. It’s unlikely that you will persist for 10,000+ hours to get really good at something you hate to do. Better to redirect those efforts to a skill you can really invest in because you enjoy it.
We all have to do things we don’t like to do, just don’t make it your life mission.
Commit today that you will not go to your grave with your gifts still inside of you. You have something unique to offer the world that no one else can—because no one else is YOU.
Now is the time to get intentional about finding your gifts so that you can experience the fulfillment that comes with doing what you were made to do—as often as you can. The world will be better for it!
And there may be no greater fulfillment as a leader than helping others find their strengths and helping them become intentional about using them every day.
Turn information into action
- Take the Strengthsfinder test. Take this test yourself and then have your team take it for $20, share it at your next team meeting.
- But don’t get hung up thinking you need a testto identify strengths either. Make a list of your own strengths, gifts, and passions or ask others what talents they see in you. Then ask your team members what their strengths are, have a conversation about it, find opportunities for them to use their gifts for your organization.
- Experiment with moving people around. Do you have current team members that are struggling and might be a better fit for a different position?
- Sometimes someone’s strength zone is outside the current company!It is crucially important that you spend some time experimenting with moving people around. However, I once had a person who was a terrible match for the job. Helping her leave was actually the kindest thing I could have done for her and she was much happier in the long run. Sometimes people need you to help them out of their comfort zone, so they can find a job that is a better fit. This allowed me to stop micromanaging her (freeing up my time) and allowed her not to feel anxious every day at work.
- Make a list of the things you hate doing. What can you eliminate, delegate, or automate in an effort to spend more of that time in your strength zone? We often develop blind habits of simply repeating things every week that bring no real value to anyone and don’t really need to be done.
Have a great weekend!
*If you have enjoyed Parker’s blog, check out The Next Peak Podcast that Parker co-hosts. We interview successful leaders and discuss research-based principles that help people win in the workplace without compromising the things that matter most—relationships, a life of purpose, and health.
- The 360 Leader—by John Maxwell