Leaders have been trying to crack the code on talent development for years. Recent studies have shown, however, that strength-focused leadership [read: intentionally elevating the qualities that already come naturally to us] is the clear winner for developing talent in both organizations and individuals.
The question is, how can we as individuals take a strength-focused approach to developing our internal assets? Well, I dedicated some time to answering this question for myself and this is what I came up with.
Our brains are naturally wired with unique competitive advantages. New synaptic connections tend to grow the most where established connections already exist. Synaptic connections play an essential role in learning and memory formation. Human performance researcher, Marcus Buckingham states, “In order to grow and improve, you need [to] build on what you naturally do well.”
So, what does this mean for us? If we can recognize and identify the areas where we have an existing foundation of connections, we can build upon that foundation more quickly and easily than when we are starting from scratch.
CliftonStrengths, a company founded by psychologist, educator, and entrepreneur Don Clifton, developed a formula that captures this science and organizes it into a practical framework.
“Talent x Investment = Strength”
By investing time and energy in the areas where we have a natural talent, we can transform a biological aptitude into a unique strength that can be leveraged in and out of the conference room.
A recent study conducted by Gallup, a global analytics firm, found that people who focus on developing their strengths become more confident, productive, and self-aware. These factors ultimately lead to an increase in engagement, performance, and higher retention for organizations.
And in a Psychology Today article, Dr. Michelle McQuaid identified 10 positive outcomes of a strength-focused mindset, including feeling happier, healthier, less stressed, and more satisfied (2014).
As you can see, the outcomes speak for themselves.
So, What Now?
If any of this sounds intriguing to you, and you are interested in taking the next step to develop your natural strengths into professional assets (as well as possibly becoming happier, healthier, and less stressed), here are five simple tips to integrate into your day.
1.) Invest time in identifying and understanding your natural talents.
Carve out 15 minutes a day, or 30 minutes a week, to read articles, take personality tests, and further explore what makes you tick.
2.) Rearchitect your day-to-day schedule
Increase the activities that play to your strengths while minimizing activities that do not. For example, if your strengths include extraversion and communication, you may want to schedule more in-person meetings. If you are achievement-oriented, you may benefit from making and crossing items off a to-do list.
3.) Document your daily accomplishments
Set up a list where you can capture and track your accomplishments and daily successes. Over time, this practice will increase your confidence, and sense of productivity, and generate a readily available library of your skills and outcomes to pull out when you need a reminder of how talented you are!
4.) Reflect and practice gratitude
Take time at the end of each day to reflect on the things that went well and articulate the factors that contributed to that success. Consider whether any of these factors can be repeated or integrated into your day-to-day routines.
5.) Stop comparing yourself to others
Comparison is deeply embedded in our culture, but you can push back. When you find yourself consciously, or unconsciously, comparing your abilities or performance to others around you, gently remind yourself to stop. We all have different strengths. Comparisons are pointless, as well as potentially destructive and distracting.
Whether you find these steps helpful or not, I encourage everyone to spend a little more time focusing on the areas they are naturally gifted in, as opposed to fixating on the areas we all inevitably lack.