How to Play to Your Strengths

Our personal strengths are expressed through the activities that we look forward to doing. They are the activities that leave us feeling fulfilled and empowered. They tend to energize us even as we get exhausted doing them.

Wouldn’t it be great if we got to play to our strengths all of the time? Or how about even some of the time? What percent of the day do you get to use your strengths at work?

Our strengths create the platform from which we can all excel. What I see so often with my clients is their tiring efforts at trying to overcome their weaknesses rather that creating roles that play to people’s strengths. I have to continually remind them that this is an ineffective way for driving sustainable personal growth and sustaining organizational health.

Marcus Buckinghamsuggests that in order to foster excellence in a person one must identify and harness an individual’s unique strengths.

Unfortunately, most of us have never learned to recognize our own strengths. Sometimes we discount them as unimportant because they are second-nature and come easily to us. Other times, our strengths are the sea in which we swim, and we don’t even know they are something of great worth. How often do we really stop and assess and acknowledge our strengths? How often do we celebrate them?

Gallup  polled 1.7 million employees in 101 companies and amazingly enough found this:

Only 20% of employees working in organizations feel that their strengths are in play every day.

Most bizarre of all is the higher an individual climbs the career ladder the less likely he or she is to believe they are playing to their strengths.

Following are five steps to help you tap into the unrecognized and unexplored areas of your strength potential. Armed with a systematic process for gathering and analyzing data about your best self, you can improve your leadership. After you have mastered these steps and are playing to your own strengths, you will be able to engage your team to do the same for themselves.

Step One: Ask for Feedback
Step Two: Identify Your Own Strengths
Step Three: Use Performance Assessments
Step Four: Recognize Patterns
Step Five: Put Your Strengths to Work

How do you feel about your ability to play to your strengths in your current role? Do you feel pigeon-holed in a job that zaps your energy? Or are you one who gets energized in your role at work? Please comment and let me know how you are doing in this area!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Kristi Royse

Kristi Royse is CEO of KLR Consulting
She inspires success in leaders and teams with coaching and staff development

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2 responses to “How to Play to Your Strengths

  1. When advising clients on career matters, I have them complete an exercise called “motivated skills”. These are exactly the ones you are referring to in your blog. The underlying principle is that we do get energized by using those skills and can be demotivated by being in jobs where those skills don’t play out.

    However, I would advise not taking Buckingham’s approach too literally. If any of us have the opportunity to seek and find that perfect job that plays to our strengths, so much the better. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case most of the time. Most people have jobs that require using a mix of what we do best and things we need to be better at – it’s the norm. Admittedly, we have, in the past, concentrated too much on fixing weaknesses. But swinging the pendulum totally in the opposite direction can create a situation where a performance issue becomes a fatal flaw if it is ignored.

    My advice? Attend to both strengths and gaps. Leverage your strengths. Look for new and different ways to apply those strengths to keep you motivated and everyone reaps the benefits. The “strengths only” advocates talk about “work arounds” as a way to deal with weaknesses and is a good strategy. But when you can’t “work around” a weakness, put it in a development plan and work on making improvements that will benefit you and the organization. Realizing an improvement in skills can be just as energizing as playing out a strength.

    Dan DeLapp
    The AEGIS Consulting Group
    “Enabling Leaders to Develop and Grow”


  2. Thanks for your comments Dan. Thanks for your comments Dan. My approach with coaching is to use the DiSC assessment in order to allow individuals to first better understand our strengths and challenges. Once we do they can then learn to best maximize their strengths; certainly not discounting weaknesses though. I believe as a society we get so caught up in “what’s wrong with us, “rather than “what’s right with us.” Assessments and coaches can help individuals determine this and as you shared put it in a development plan and work on making improvements that will benefit themselves along with the organization.


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