By September 22, 2008 10 Comments Read More →

How To Put Your Strengths to Work

How To Put Your Strengths to Work

“Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.” — Marilyn vos Savant

Want to feel strong and alive each day?  Put your strengths to work.  You have some skills that just make you feel powerful and engaged.  They grow you.  You could spend all day doing these activities and still want more.  These skills come easy for you and you look forward to using them.  Maybe you don’t know what they are yet, but you just notice that some days feel better than others.  Then there’s the activities that drag you down.  They make you weak.  Just the thought of them takes away your energy and zest.   You need to find a way to spend your time in your strengths and stop spending time in activities that weaken you. 

Having spent significant time working on my weaknesses, and then making the shift to working on my strengths, I can say it make a huge difference.  Working on my weaknesses did NOT give me any advantages at work and it drained me each day.  Once I started to focus exclusively on my strengths, I started to find new ways to unleash my potential.    I have energy throughout the day and I get better at finding ways to use my strengths in each scenario or each challenge I find myself in.  It’s a stronger path of growth and a better way of life.

In Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance, Marcus Buckingham shows you the key steps to putting your strengths to work.

Key Take Aways
Here are my key take aways:

  • Focus on strengths.  Shift your mindset from focusing on weaknesses to focusing on strengths.
  • Learn your strengths and weaknesses.  Know thy self.  Know your own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Contribute you strengths to the team.  Identify the strengths that will help your team.  Find ways to help out the team using your strengths.
  • Stop spending time in weaknesses. Find ways to stop spending time in your weaknesses.
  • Team up with your manager.  Have them help you spend more time in your strengths.
  • Turn your strengths into habits.   Continuously find ways to spend time in your strengths and stop working in your weaknesses.

Summary of Steps for Putting Your Strengths to Work
Here are the steps to put your strengths to work:

  • Step 1. Bust the Myths
  • Step 2. Get Clear
  • Step 3. Free Your Strengths
  • Step 4. Stop Your Weaknesses
  • Step 5. Speak Up
  • Step 6. Build Strong Habits

Step 1. Bust the Myths
The first step is a shift in mindset. You need to shift from working on your weaknesses to working on your strengths.  Should Naturally, you’ll want to work on issues that hold you back, but the key point is you’ll grow more and be more successful if you play to your strengths.  You will succeed by capitalizing on your strengths.

Buckingham writes:

“You will succeed in putting your strengths to work only if you believe that capitalizing on your strengths is the best way to compete.  Many organizations now do.  Most individuals still don’t.  Ask people point-blank, “Is finding your weaknesses and fixing them the best way to achieve outstanding performance?” and, in repeated polls, 87  percent either agree or strongly agree.”

See 3 Revealing Questions for Myth Busting, 3 Myths About Strengths and Weaknesses, and The Strengths Movement.

Step 2. Get Clear
The next step is about self-awareness.  You may not know your own strengths.  You may not be aware of which activities weaken you.  You need to identify your own strengths and weaknesses.

Buckingham writes:

“Armed with a strengths-based mindset, you’ll take the next step: identifying your own strengths and weaknesses.  And by strengths and weaknesses, I’m not referring to a list of personality labels such as those you might learn if you took the Clifton StrengthsFinder or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), or the Kolbe Conative Index, or DiSC, or any similar personality profile.”

See SIGN – The 4 Signs of a Strength and Finding Your Key Strengths.

Step 3. Free Your Strengths
In this step, you find ways to use your strengths.  According to Buckingham, in this step you learn different strategies for volunteering your strengths to the team and how to put these ideas into practice.

See Volunteer Your Strengths to the Team.

Step 4. Stop Your Weaknesses
In this step, you stop working on your weaknesses.  It really is as simple as doing less of the activities that make you weaker, and more of the activities that make you stronger.  The double impact of spending time in your weaknesses is that not only do they take away time and energy from your strengths, but it’s a bad investment that will never pay off.According to Buckingham, there are three key reasons why you need to stop your weaknesses.

Buckingham writes:

“You’ll fall off your strengths path quickly if you don’t know how to navigate away from those activities that weaken you.  For many reason, this proves especially challenging.  First, because it takes a fair amount of creativity to figure out how to stop doing what weakens you, you still get your job done.  Second, because, even if you generate some good ideas, it’s hard not to feel guilty or self-absorbed when you start to put these ideas into practice.  The world at large reserves a special kind of praise for those of us who suffer through it, who keep at it no matter what.  In the face of this, to stop focusing on a weakness can feel a lot like giving up, or handing off.  And third, because as the data reveal, most of us don’t think we should steer away from our weaknesses.  On the contrary, 87 percent of us believe that we should take dead aim at our weaknesses and work diligently to improve them.”

Step 5. Speak Up
Get your manager to team up with you.  You should speak up when the work is divided and in your one-on-one with your manager.

Buckingham writes:

“At work, the two most common situations where you should have a my-strengths-and-weaknesses conversation are the how-are-we-going-to-divide-up-the-work conversations with your teammates, and, the one-on-one with your manager.  Although these two situations have their own dynamic, in both you are trying to communicate the same thing: ‘Listen, there are certain activities that thrill me and challenge me, and others that seem to bore me or drain me.  I am going to contribute my utmost if I spend more time on the first kind and less on the other kind.  Can you help?’”

Step 6. Build Strong Habits
Make your strengths part of your routine.  If you schedule it, it happens.  Continuously find ways to spend more time in your strengths, and less time in your weaknesses.  According to Bucking, you need to build strong habits.

Buckingham writes:

“To keep on it for our entire career, we need to stay clear-headed.  We need to build the right habits, so that week in, week out, and year upon year, we stay in control, always pushing toward activities that strengthen us, even watchful for those that drag us down.”

My Related Posts

Posted in: Book Nuggets, Strengths

10 Comments on "How To Put Your Strengths to Work"

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  1. Writer Dad says:

    I’m so with you, I wrote my post before I even read this one. Making your strengths work, indeed.

  2. Evelyn Lim says:

    It is so important to harness our strengths. Sometimes, an over emphasis on our weaknesses can distract us from making use of more of our strengths. There is a reason why we are gifted in some areas compared to others. It will be a waste not to make use of our natural abilities!

  3. Focusing on strengths is so important. I’m reading a book right now that also encourages you to make strengths part of your routine. It also goes back to The Secret… what you focus on expands.

  4. J.D. Meier says:

    @Writer Dad – Interestingly, weaknesses are a dark side of the force and a very powerful one. I’m glad you’re on the strengths path. It’s the right side of the force.

    @Evelyn – Oh so true. That’s a great way to put it. It’s a distraction. I would hate to spend a lifetime wasting my abilities. I think sharing our gifts is one of our greatest contributions we can make on the planet.

    @Stacey – I agree — what you focus on you get more of. Expanding our strengths helps snowball our success. It’s a beautiful synergy.

  5. OK, I have a question. What if my weakness is an important life skill, such as public speaking?

    This is my own personal weakness and I’m not sure it’s a good idea to just forget about it and only focus on the stuff I’m good at.

  6. J.D. Meier says:

    Hey Vered

    Good question.

    If it’s important, I would improve it. What I would not do is, spend all my time working on it or neglect some strengths where I could be the world best. This is the mistake people make.

    If it makes you weak when you work on your public speaking, then I would limit how much time I spend working on it.

    You don’t get great by just working on your weaknesses. It’s easy to take your strengths for granted and then spend all your energy honing your weaknesses.

    Most importantly, I would find a great mentor.

    BTW – if you are working on your public speaking, I actually suggest voice lessons. You’ll learn how to breathe differently. This will give you a new cadence, a new confidence, and better projection. What good are your best words if they fail on the way out?

    I also recommend reading Thank You for Arguing. You can learn the secrets of the world’s best orators – the Greeks.

  7. Nick Siewert says:

    Hi JD,

    Great post. I like the conciseness of your takeaways. Easier to keep in your head moment to moment.

    Since you are interested in Marcus Buckingham’s work, I thought you might also be interested in the work of Jenifer Fox. While it may not touch your professional practice, it may have personal resonance.

    Jenifer wrote Your Child’s Strengths, (Viking 2008) with an introduction by Marcus Buckingham. She traveled with Marcus on his Go Put Your Strengths to Work Tour in 2007 to show the results a strengths approach can yield in a high school setting. Then she wrote her own book. I think the book is worth mentioning to others because it helps parent and teachers help kids discover their strengths before they get into the workplace and find themselves in jobs they hate.

    Since publication, Jenifer has been traveling the country and spreading her message to schools businesses and various organizations interested in strengths. I am reaching out to you because most adults interested in developing their own strengths know children who are also interested.

    I hope you will look at this book and maybe talk about it on your website. Maybe you would like a copy. Let me know. Thanks and good luck with your work.

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