Nov 13, 2012
You don’t know what you don’t know
Peter Drucker, small business guru said,
“Most Americans do not know what their strengths are.”
“When you ask them, they look at you with a blank stare, or they respond in terms of subject knowledge, which is the wrong answer.”
How to discover your strengths
Most people don’t know what they are good at because it comes easy to them. What comes easy to you, you assume comes easy to most people. Not usually the case.
One of the best ways to discover your strengths is to talk with other people that you work with, go to church with, socialize with and associate with in business. Many times they will articulate your strengths in a way that sheds additional light or in a way you never have considered.
I have asked my staff in public and in more of a private setting what my strengths are. One of the many times I did this came the quickest response I have ever received, “branding”, he said. I never thought of myself as good at “branding”. I knew that I was a good marketer and business man but never had this word come to mind when thinking of my own skill set. Just a couple of weeks later, I was reworking some elements of my brand with one of my team members and I revealed all of the phrases, ideas, taglines, and slogans that I had been dreaming up and hoarding for months. As we worked through the ideas and how they would tie into my brand, the message came from this team member, “you are really good at the messaging”. I hadn’t thought of myself as great at “messaging”. I guess I knew that I had passion for it and ideas but I felt like the ideas that I had were typically sub-par and that for the most part, most of them wouldn’t be used. What I discovered was that most people don’t actually have many ideas at all, let alone good ones and that my ideas, however scattered they may be, had much potential to be great ideas.
List your passions
If you are struggling with coming up with your strengths or if you feel like you are missing some, try thinking of and listing your passions. Many times, your passions are such because they are also a strength. Sometimes, those passions are not a strength but reveal strengths and weaknesses that you otherwise did not recognize.
One of my passions is canyoneering. This passion could be considered a strength. However, I don’t think I am the best hiker, down climber, rope worker, rappeler, backpacker or minimalist. All of the things that make up a good canyoneer, I am quite average at actually. In this passion however, I discover hidden strengths. Canyoneering is more about heart than hiking, more about courage than carabiners, more about safety than stamina, more about attitude than anchors, more about faith than footsteps, more about intuition than insight, and much much more about teamwork than titles. Yes, in the beauty of the backcountry, I have found the deep character traits that make me reach deep when it appears that my strengths won’t be good enough.
In business, those same characteristics will be the ones that propel others to greatness but they won’t be the traits that show up on evaluations and interviews. You have to find those by attempting to be smarter than yourself.