By Amanda Sollman (Originally posted on Mark Jewell Training’s blog)
Imagine for a second that you’re planning a trip to your parents’ house. A few things you may consider include:
- Take the freeway or side streets?
- Your car or your spouse’s?
- Plane, train or automobile?
No one route is better than the other. It all depends on the specifics of the destination and what works best for you.
In the same way, we all have lots of things to consider when it comes to achieving our desired results at work:
- Pay attention to the details or brainstorm a big, new, fancy idea?
- Focus on the results I need or listen to what my coworker is struggling with?
- Be enthusiastic about a success or keep my emotions in check?
Which one you choose depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and what comes most naturally to you. Just like the trip to your parents’, the path to results is different for everyone. We all have unique skills, strengths and talents – the trick is just figuring out how to use them in a way that gives us energy AND churns out the outcomes we’re looking for.
When your strengths don’t seem “right”
Recently, I was debriefing a client on her Strengthscope report and she noticed that Relationship Building wasn’t one of her main strengths. As someone whose job it is to work with lots of different people across the organization to get things done, she was understandably concerned by this!
It didn’t take long for her to start asking questions.
“If this report says Relationship Building isn’t one of my strengths, am I failing at my job?”
“If this skill is a necessary part of my responsibilities, how can I fix it ASAP?!”
Even though I knew she was worried, I smiled as she asked each of these questions in turn. After all, I’ve faced the same ones.
Different paths. Same results.
I’m not X, so I could never be a salesperson.
I’m not good at Y, so I’ll never get the promotion.
My boss only needs me to do Z, so I guess I’ll just never be excited about my work.
And you panic.
For me, it has to do with my strengths around detail orientation (which I’m off the charts in for my Strengthscope report). I’m your typical Type A, buttoned-up perfectionist. So when it comes to strategic planning, I’ve struggled at times.
“Get out of the trees and look at the forest, Amanda!”
“It doesn’t have to be perfect – sometimes good is better than great!”
“Stop worrying about what’s realistic and just have fun coming up with new ideas!”
Yep…I’ve heard all of these before.
But here’s the lesson I’ve learned as we’ve spent more and more time learning about strengths, and it’s the same lesson I shared with my client when she was worried about her relationship-building abilities:
The path is not the same as the outcome.
Just like the trip to your parents’ house, there are many ways to get to the result you want. In this example, my client didn’t have Relationship Building as a specific strength on her assessment. But you know what she did have? Developing Others. Empathy. Compassion.
I was able to (accurately) guess that she doesn’t enjoy building relationships just for the sake of it. You know what does give her energy? Helping others get better. Looking at a situation through the eyes of someone else. Genuinely caring about the well-being of others.
The result? She is able to use those strengths to build great relationships.
In the same vein, I don’t like strategic planning just for the sake of creating strategy. But another strength I have? Results Focus. I can go through a planning session and focus on what the ultimate goal and results I want to achieve are. The outcome? I develop a strategy.
Strengths = the path.
Outcome = the destination.
Mapping out your route
So what do you do when there seems to be a disconnect between your natural strengths and your job description or the expectations of others? Ask yourself two questions:
- What is the outcome you want to achieve? (Here’s some tips for setting better goals if you’re not sure what outcomes you’re going for.)
- What strengths do I have that can help me get there?
If you’re a salesperson trying to get a customer to buy your product, consider the strengths you have to make that sale: Persuasiveness? Relationship building? Critical thinking?
If you’re an administrative assistant trying to help your boss, what energizes you to get the work done? Detail orientation? Common sense? Developing others?
All of these strengths are different (and you might even have a combination of several of them!), but each and every single one of them can help you get to your desired outcome.
You just have to find the way that’s most effective (and fulfilling) for you.