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Using Reviews to Highlight Your Talents

It’s that time of year when employers have their managers do mid-year performance reviews.  The discussion usually centers around what work has been accomplished so far this year, what are the plans for the second half of the year, and have any of the priorities changed.

One question asked on our mid-year review form is, “Name one to three strengths and how we can use them better.”

I hated this question, because what I think are my strengths, I have others tell I need improve on.  For example, I usually don’t have an issue speaking my mind and giving my point of view.  I think that is a good thing.  Others have an issue with it.

Everything I came up with sounded so generic.  It didn’t feel like it was actionable or added any value.

After reading Now, Discover Your Strengths I realized I could use this as an opportunity to help my manager understand my talents more fully.  I used some examples from the Talent Assessment to show how my natural talents could be utilized in the context of my work.

I felt like the pressure of coming up with something generic and non-action driven was off of me.  It was an opportunity to give my manager a better insight into what makes me, me and fulfill the requirements for my mid-year review at the same time.

Review time always seems to be a dreaded time.  Use the time to give your manager more insights to your talents and help them see ways to utilize you in an expanded capacity.

Focusing on Strengths is Greatest Development Potential

Last week, I started reading the book Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton.  You would want to look for StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath which is the newest edition but doesn’t give all the surrounding material the way the original does.  These are best used together.

I have read the first part that explains the the thinking and premise of the book.  I have also taken my StrengthsFinder questionnaire, but that will be posts for another time.  This post is about the premise of the book.

The authors make a case that the biggest opportunity for growth is not with your weaknesses but with your strengths.  The authors talk about three components to developing a strength: knowledge, skills, and talent.

Knowledge and skills are something that you can learn.  You can go to a class and pick up a list of questions to ask to understand how people are feeling or techniques to giving a good presentation.  The authors explain that in order to really develop a strength you should have a natural talent for that strength.  When a natural talent is present the individual will have a larger interest.  A larger interest in something tends to lead a person to want to learn more and use the strength more.

The talent is “hardwired” into our brains at a very early age.  The book explains how the neuro-network in our brains are developed.  The network has billions of connections as a child but as we get older some connections become disconnected.  If this didn’t happen we would have sensory overload.  The connections that are left are path networks that allow us to make millisecond decisions and filtering.  These networks unveil our talents.

A talent only becomes a strength if you combine it with knowledge and skills.

There are 34 themes for strengths based on their studies.  For example, Relator is a theme.  The Relator theme means you are pulled toward people you already know.  You do not shy away from meeting new people but you derive a great deal of pleasure from being around your close friends.  The book continues to describe ways to use this talent and ways to work with people who have this talent.

The authors do not say that we shouldn’t develop any weaknesses.  They do say that developing weaknesses is really damage control.  For instance, if you don’t have the talent of empathy you may not pick up on signs of how people are feeling.  This may give people the impression you are a jerk with no feelings like a robot.  You can learn questions to ask someone to understand how they are feeling but it may come over as forced or uneasy.  This is better than not doing it all.  Damage control is better than leaving a wake of destruction.

The more I read this book, the more I tend to believe in what the authors are saying.  I think of myself and what I has my interest is where I tend to go to learn and develop.  So, how do we focus on our strengths and develop those?  How do we put others in a position to take advantage of their strengths so they are successful?

What are your talents that you can develop into strengths?