Finding Your Strengths

At Microsoft, I learned to keep my energy strong while making things happen.  The best ways I’ve found to do that are follow my growth and follow my passion.  Another way, that’s very important, is to play to my strengths.  Spending time in my strengths is the key to hitting the high notes and getting exponential results.  It keeps me strong, my energy high, and produces more impactful results in less amount of time.

Whenever I find myself drained, all I need to do is take a look at where I’ve been spending my time.  Sure enough, it’s always from spending too much time in my weaknesses and not enough time in my strengths.   That’s the interesting lesson too … I can spend more time in my weaknesses, as long as I’m spending enough time in my strengths.

By strengths, I’m not talking about the skills I’ve learned.  I’m talking about my natural strengths – the ones that I can count on no matter what.  I didn’t find my strengths over night and it’s a continuous process of gaining clarity and precision.  The key here is knowing the language.  When you know what to look for, it’s easier to find your own strengths, label them, and use them to your advantage.

34 Key Strengths
Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D. identified 34 key signature themes of strength.  I have a brief description of each strength in my post, Finding Your Strengths.  Here are the 34 signature themes:

  • Achiever
  • Activator
  • Adaptability
  • Analytical
  • Arranger
  • Belief
  • Command
  • Communication
  • Competition
  • Connectedness
  • Context
  • Deliberative
  • Developer
  • Discipline
  • Empathy
  • Fairness
  • Focus
  • Futuristic
  • Harmony
  • Ideation
  • Inclusiveness
  • Individualization
  • Input
  • Intellection
  • Learner
  • Maximizer
  • Positivity
  • Relater
  • Responsibility
  • Restorative
  • Self-assurance
  • Significance
  • Strategic
  • Woo

24 Signature Strengths
Martin Seligman named a set of 24 Signature Strengths.  You can find out more about Martin Seligman’s work at the Authentic Happiness Center.  Here are Seligman’s 24 Signature Strengths:

  • Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence
  • Bravery and Valor
  • Capacity to Love and Be Loved
  • Caution, Prudence, and Discretion
  • Citizenship, Teamwork, and Loyalty
  • Creativity, Ingenuity, and Originality
  • Curiosity and Interest in the World
  • Fairness, Equity, and Justice
  • Forgiveness and Mercy
  • Gratitude
  • Honesty, Authenticity, and Genuineness
  • Hope, Optimism, and Future-mindedness
  • Humor and playfulness
  • Industry, Diligence, and Perseverance
  • Judgment, Critical Thinking, and Open-Mindedness
  • Kindness and Generosity
  • Leadership
  • Love of Learning
  • Modesty and Humility
  • Perspective  and Wisdom
  • Self-Control and Self-Regulation
  • Social Intelligence
  • Spirituality, Sense of Purpose, and Faith
  • Zest, Enthusiasm, and Energy

How To Use These Strength Vocabularies
One way to use these is to take their tests and find out what they say about you.  I do like the fact that they have framed and named the strengths which makes it easy to explore, test, and evaluate.  Personally, I’ve found more value by simply exploring the labels and using them as lenses.  I’ve been rationalizing them against the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) as well as my own frames for strengths, looking for underlying patterns and practices. 

At the end of the day, the most important thing for me has been finding where I get energy from, and finding what takes it away.   This leads me to a personalized strengths frame that I can use as a lens for investing in my portfolio of strengths … and this is the key to exponential results.

Comments (7)

  1. "The ones that I *can’t* count on.." ?


  2. tobint says:

    Thanks for the post. I think when we talked about this the other day, I quoted Malcolm Gladwell for "Now, Discover your strengths". Glad you knew the correct source 🙂

  3. J.D. Meier says:

    @ David — Good catch — thanks.  Fixed.

    @ Tobin — I’m a fan of the strengths path.  Gladwell has some gems, but Buckingham is the man when it comes to strengths.  My favorite is Go Put Your Strengths to Work.

  4. When I first heard your advice, I frankly didn’t get it.  If I’m already good at my strengths, shouldn’t working on my weaknesses lift me up?

    Well, in practice it’s not clear it doesn’t work this way.  Thanks for the guidance!

  5. J.D. Meier says:

    @ Jimmy — That’s the subtle surprise … weaknesses drain you … strengths can be your most significant growth.  In today’s world, from a Darwin standpoint, I find it’s best to focus on what you can be the best in the world at.

  6. B. Phelps says:

    @ J.D.  In a team setting, your weaknesses can hold back team cohesion significantly.  Focusing on your strengths may work in a "team of one" scenario, but if you don’t even out the rough edges, your team has to compensate for your focus on your strengths.

  7. J.D. Meier says:

    @ B. Phelps — I’m a fan of play to your strengths, but *limit liabilities* 😉 … Even in a team, if you’re spending more time in your weaknesses than in your strengths, you’re not helping the team much, and you’re not giving your best where you have your best to give.  This is probably the #1 reason I see teams fail.

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