This week has been “Back to School” week for my family, which means we will all be exhausted by about 4 p.m. Friday. As part of this, my daughter’s teacher asked to learn more about her, including her strengths and weaknesses.  We listed out a few things that my wife and I have noticed, things like:

  • being kind
  • helping others
  • listening to her teachers (mostly)

But then I had the idea to actually ask my daughter, “what do you think you’re good at?”

Surprisingly, she didn’t list out any of the things we came up with, but instead said, “I’m fast” and “I find cool rocks.” While both are important and true, it’s funny to think about how we see ourselves compared to how others see us. 

So, what do you think others would say you are good at? Or great at? Next time you have a moment, try asking them.

Strength Advantages Framework

When it comes to “strengths” and using them to our advantage, there are three frameworks we could look at how to utilize and understand them further:

Focusing on Your Unique Gifts

You might feel that working on weaknesses would be a waste of time, when you could be providing greater value elsewhere. Think of a football player, and specifically a quarterback. He probably doesn’t worry too much about his weakness in tackling, because that’s not his job.  It would be a poor use of time trying to shore up a weakness in that case.

Build Complementary Skills

You might feel like you’ve reached the full capacity of your strength, and now it’s time to build in other complementary skills. A nurse might have great technical skills in the operating room, but she has a weakness in communication or talking to the patient’s family. Working on this weakness, in this case, could provide tremendous value advancing in their career. It would be a great use of time. 

Find a Team Who Needs You

A high functioning team is one that understands each other’s strengths and weaknesses. For you as an individual, partnering with someone that is great at things you aren’t could provide tremendous value to your own strengths. A chef that is great at cooking but terrible at keeping a tidy station might lose their restaurant, because the health department shuts them down. It takes quite a bit of self-awareness to value things we aren’t good at, but it could be the difference between getting to showcase your strength and being handcuffed by external factors.

Strengthening Your Strengths

All 3 frameworks are totally viable, and none is better than the other. Try starting with those two simple questions: ‘What am I good at?’ and ‘What do others think I’m good at’. You might be surprised!

For some people, there are lots of things you could be good at. If that’s you, it might be helpful to prioritize the things that you enjoy or that bring value to your life and others around you. Don’t feel shamed into only doing things that help others – be sure that you receive value from your own gifts too.

Did you enjoy this exercise? Learn something new about yourself or your team? You can find similar exercises and more in our mental health solutions!  

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