Saturday, April 19, 2008

Working from Your Strengths = More Profit & More Fun

I hate hard work. I am not talking about things that are hard in effort, like working on a farm, bringing in the hay (which I did growing up), but rather those things that you can learn to do but no matter how hard you try they never really get easier. You know what I mean. Those tasks at work where your boss says you are doing OK but could do better (after years of already trying to master them). My system for coping in that environment was to find the most efficient way to do the hard stuff.

These days I love work. No longer is it hard. The reason why is that I quit doing things I wasn't very good at and stressing myself out trying to do them well. I discovered this technique when I found the book, "Now Discover Your Strengths" by Marcus Buckingham on a bookshelf one restless night. This book came into my life during a period in my career when I knew that what I was doing wasn't the right fit for me but I didn't really know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I took the online assessment using the code in the back cover, received the report and had a WOW! moment. The descriptions of my Signature Strength Themes jumped off the page. They described what I’m good at perfectly! I thought, “Finally someone ‘gets’ me!”

Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton, the father of Strengths Psychology, captured what many of us have longed for but couldn't quite articulate. We want to feel that our talents have value and we want to know that our contributions are appreciated. Instead, we find ourselves in jobs that don't quite fit. We work hard to be better at things we don't do well, working for those who focus on what we don't do well in an effort to help us improve. Buckingham and Clifton take a different approach by suggesting that working in your strengths is the key to growth, productivity, and fulfillment in your work and life.

The idea of building on your strengths was transformational in my life and business. As a matter of fact, I designed my consulting practice around my strengths and recommend the most recent version of the StrengthsFinder Assessment to "StrengthsFinder 2.0" by Tom Rath to all my clients. Knowing my clients’ strengths helps me help them create a business they love and can be excited about.

There are added benefits to working from your strengths. Not only does it help you understand how you’re wired and increase work fulfillment and productivity, for service professionals and business owners, your signature strengths are great input for personal branding. By knowing what you’re good at, you can easily identify language that helps you differentiate yourself from your competition when speaking to prospects and clients. I also find that when your company description includes your strengths, you speak more enthusiastically about your business.

Knowing your strengths can also help inform your decisions around what services you offer and how you deliver them. For example, I have a client who was offering “off the shelf” services. She did websites, search engine optimization and newsletters. After taking the StrengthsFinder and realizing that strategy was one of her most powerful strengths, she was able to repackage her services to include consulting on overall web strategy. Now she’s able to offer more comprehensive services to her clients, bill more per client and she reports feeling more invigorated by what she’s doing.

So. My question for you is, do you feel like people don't really "get" you? Are you working hard, not smart? Do you feel like a square peg in a round hole? If so, it’s time to get a perspective that helps you be more of who you are. The secret is that doing so will increase your profitability as a service provider and in the process increase your fun factor!

Here are some books that will help you learn what your strengths are and how to put them to work for you:
Now, Discover Your Strengths, Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton, PhD
Go Put Your Strengths to Work, Marcus Buckingham
StrengthsFinder 2.0, Tom Rath
If you've taken the strengths assessment and know your top 5, let me know!

My top 7 are Individualization, Strategic, Maximizer, Activator, Relator, Connectedness, Belief.

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