5 Surprising Insights to Unlock Your Strengths

I am a firm believer that leadership development hinges on knowing, using and building credibility around your strengths. I help each of my executive coaching clients strategically leverage their strengths to create a ripple effect, to improve their own performance and that of their teams. As I work with my clients to take their leadership up a notch, these five insights about strengths come up again and again.  

1. You have more strengths than you realize.

As a high performer, you probably set the bar so high for yourself that you don't recognize all the strengths you bring to the table. Your idea of "average" performance may be what others would call exceptional. By noticing the value you bring andhow you bring it, you can build that same capability in others.

Start by making a list of your top three strengths. To validate this, think about the type of work that others typically ask you to do and what they consistently say about your performance. In particular, what skills and perspectives do you have that would be hard to replace?

2. You have to connect your strengths to the “So what?”

Next, identify what each strength allows you to do that your colleagues cannot easily do. Perhaps you can understand and quickly work through complex issues and communicate them to others in a simple way. But the real value to the business is that you efficiently solve problems and make quick decisions that save the company money. Challenge yourself to come up with at least two impacts for each one of your strengths.

3. Your strengths point to where to invest your time.

One of the first things I ask every client to do is to identify the three areas where they can make the biggest impact on the business. It’s a powerful way to take a critical look at what drives results. When you do it, this exercise will force you to think about what’s most important in your current role and powerful ways to make the highest and best use of your strengths. When you are clear about this, you start to invest in the “right work” and ditch or delegate activities that don’t fit.

4. Using your strengths only gets you half the way there.

You may think that your great work will "speak for itself." But in this era of virtual teams and divided attention, you have to tastefully toot your own horn and give others strategic snapshots of how your strengths have created success for the company. Even when your boss has the best intentions, your results may go unnoticed in the daily hubbub unless you share them.

5. Self-care is a strength, not a weakness

Your strengths won’t go very far unless you have the energy to use them. So take care of yourself: Get 7-8 hours of sleep, take short breaks every 90 minutes, and get up from your desk for lunch. "Powering through" isn't a sustainable long-term strategy, will eventually lead to burnout and certainly won’t convince others that you are ready for a bigger role.

As you consider these five insights, identify one action step you will take this week to clarify or leverage your strengths, or boost your energy if you’re running low.

You can learn much more about identifying and developing your strengths in my book "Show Up. Step Up. Step Out.” Check out the extended free sample on my website.