The Atlas

Your strengths as a tool, not just a groovy data point

Every once in a while, in my discussions about a strengths-based focused on everything from organizational to personal development, I realize that I've lost my audience. Plenty of people can see where this information shows up in their lives naturally, but the idea of using it as a planning vehicle is sometimes a bigger stretch. So today I figured I'd back up a bit and try to frame this up a bit more clearly.

When Gallup began doing research in this field, one of their original areas of focus was around the following ideas:

  • Yearning - To what kinds of activities are you naturally drawn?
  • Rapid Learning - What kinds of activities do you seem to pick up quickly?
  • Flow - In what activities did you seem to get so 'in the zone' that you lose track of time?
  • Glimpses of Excellence - During what activities have you had moments of subconscious excellence when you thought, "How did I do that?"
  • Satisfaction - What activities give you a kick, either while doing them or immediately after finishing them, and you think, "When can I do that again?"

Asking these questions is what ultimately helped lead to the development of the strengths-based model. And for people who are struggling with the application of the model, I offer up these questions in their original form.

So many of the people I work with -- starting with my globetrotting, hyper-action-oriented, notoriously impatient and frequently excessively-energetic self -- are in an ongoing process to figure out what they want from their future. That's often way too big, and open-ended of a question to get your head around without breaking it down (hence my video last week about using Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to help define what you need from a job). So, start with the above questions. And if that is still too theoretical, then apply a rear view mirror: In past roles, when did you experience any or all of those things?

No one ever gets a job that only includes things they love to do and nothing they dislike (expense reports!). But once you are clear on the things that get you really fired up and bring out the best in you -- something that almost always helps you bring out the best in others -- it becomes really easy to start defining what kind of role, in what kind of team, you are really most eager to land in any upcoming move that you make.

If your main goal in a new move is pure survival, then this may not be your highest priority (again, Maslow!), but if your goal is rooted a bit higher up the Hierarchy than that, then these are great questions to help you get clear on what you need.

As you go through your week, see what moments jump out to you as fitting the bill on the questions above. I'd love to hear what you find. I bet there are probably a few more that surface than you may expect.

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