For the final post in my series on gaps in self-awareness, I thought it worth considering another costly self-awareness deficit: what if you’re clueless about your strengths?
After talking about the damage done by people unaware of the impact of their negative behaviors, it’s important to remember that being naïve about your strong suits can also be a problem.
Why You Need to Understand Your Strengths
Having a superpower isn’t much good if you don’t know you’ve got it at your disposal—or that you’re the only one who can save the day. Plus, if you’re unaware of your strength, you might inadvertently wreak havoc by overpowering those who don’t have your gifts.
Here are a few more reasons why you want to be aware of your strengths.
When you’re in tune with your talents, skills, insights, and perspectives, it’s good for your confidence. When you know you have something unique to contribute, you realize that staying silent means foregoing an angle that others might not see. Knowing your strengths helps you overcome awkwardness or sheepishness and bolsters the sense of obligation to share what you have to offer.
Teach and Model
When you’re aware of the skills and behaviors that make you stand out, you’re in a better position to model and teach them to others. You might take your Excel prowess for granted, but the person next to you might be struggling with their pivot table and longing for someone to help them. If you think your skills are run-of-the-mill, dime-a-dozen, you don’t realize others would love to learn from you.
Build on Strengths
It’s easy to fill up your developmental plan with all the weaknesses you want to address or new things you need to learn. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is essential, but having strengths to build on is also important. You’ll probably get more traction by investing in developing your strengths than trying to remedy your weaknesses.
Shape Your Career
Over your career, you can move toward tasks and roles that amplify your strengths. According to Gallup’s research, doing so is associated with massive engagement and quality of life increases. You won’t know which roles you’re best suited to if you aren’t clear on those strengths. Your strengths are your differentiators in earning new jobs and promotions, so be sure you’re seeking out the spots where they matter and then highlighting them in the selection process.
When you’re aware of your strengths, you can be deliberate about when you use them. Just because your default approach works most of the time doesn’t mean it works all the time or that doubling down on it will lead to good outcomes. And you may be so intense at something that you can inadvertently overpower a colleague or pull a whole deliberation off track if you aren’t aware of the force of your contributions.
How to Become More Aware of Your Strengths
In How to Become More Self-Aware, I shared a template you can use to solicit feedback from trusted colleagues. Two of the questions I included can provide valuable insight into your strengths.
Understand What Works
First, ask people to share what they see as your strengths, particularly the skills, behaviors, competencies, attitudes, and contributions that you’re uniquely good at. Hopefully, you’ll recognize most things on their list, but maybe you’ll hear about something you hadn’t appreciated before. Highlighting it allows you to reflect on how you might further deploy that strength.
Learn When It’s Too Much of a Good Thing
The second question from the feedback tool is, “What are my over-strengths?” You want your confidant to give you their perspective on how your strengths might have an unintended downside or be causing issues. For example, you might be an extrovert, confident speaking off the cuff but starting to rely on that comfort to shoot from the hip too often.
Alternatively, the problem might be that your strengths could be taking up more space and leaving little room for others to contribute. If you’re amazingly analytical, you might see the underlying issue in a dataset, and someone needs to tell you that your teammates need time to get there themselves.
Finally, it’s also possible that you’re using your strength in a situation that doesn’t make sense. You want your teammate’s perspective on those scenarios, too. If you’re a great debater using your fierce attacks to undermine your client’s logic, you might be doing more harm than good.
Reflected Best Self
The Reflected Best Self exercise is another option for increasing your appreciation of your strengths. A team of organizational psychology experts developed this exercise. You can find all the instructions in this concise Harvard Business Review article.
Whichever way you choose to do it, make sure that your journey of self-exploration doesn’t just focus on your gaps, flaws, and foibles. Be just as deliberate about raising your awareness of your strengths. You’ll have much more to contribute once you tap into all your unique talents.