3 Ways to Refine and Grow your Strengths
Practice and repetition lead to changes in how energy is allocated to different parts of the brain. The more we work in areas of strength, the better we become at it. Similar to how strengths are formed in our brains from an early age, the attention and focus we give them as adults, will determine how “on” they are in situations where we really need them.
I have a 2.5 year old son. We go for a lot of walks, and rarely will he sit for long periods in a stroller. To help him practice good “safety skills,” my wife and I always make him hold our hands when not walking on a sidewalk or in the grass. This includes crossing a street, in parking lots, etc. We were in a deserted parking lot recently, with no cars around, and we still held hands all the way to the door.
Not long ago, I was kneeling down down to fix something on his shoe. I lost my balance and sort of fell over on the sidewalk. He immediately took off running down the sidewalk, but when he got to the crosswalk, stopped, held up his hand and said, “hand, hand, hand!”
To be clear, he was not in danger, but when it mattered, he was able to use his strength of “holding hands” before going across the street.
Knowing our strengths is fantastic. Finding ways to continue to practice using them so they show up in their best form when it really matters, is far more helpful. Here are a few things you can do to help refine yours.
1. Daily Reflection
Every day, I attempt to spend just a few minutes reflecting on what happened that day. Be that something awesome, something I am grateful for, or something I wish I would have done differently. This makes it top of mind, and increases your awareness of it for the next day.
At the end of your day, ask yourself this question:
How did I see one of my strengths at work today?
Jot it down, however simple, and include a few examples.
Yesterday, I was editing some new photos for our website. I kept tweaking and tweaking, always finding a better way to display them. That was my Maximizer not being satisfied with “good” photos, but wanted them to be the best.
2. Set Weekly/Monthly Actions, Challenges and Goals
Pick one thing every week to intentionally focus on getting better at, in regards to your strengths. You can use the action steps at the back of StrengthsFinder 2.0 or StrengthsQuest as a place to start. Here are a two of mine, refined from years of working with this material.
Futuristic – Create Action Steps Before Communicating the Future. Sometimes my idea of what the future could be, is so vivid, it’s hard to share it with others. So, I write down a few action steps first. I am leading a big project at Leadership Vision right now, and needed to write down the objective and steps for getting participants there before our team could “get” what I was talking about.
Maximizer – Study Success. I crave excellence, but if I don’t know what that looks like, I get frustrated, and assume I am not achieving the mark. Right now, I am working on creating a strengths course for Leadership Vision. Before I started designing the course, I looked at several of the best examples I could find online, to see what worked and what didn’t. Seeing these examples of excellence, helps inform what I do, and know if I am in the ballpark of our high standards.
3. Ask for Feedback
If you ask for feedback before someone voluntarily gives it, I have found it’s easier to receive their input. Once you have identified a few of the actions, challenges and goals above, ask people close to you for specific feedback. It should focus you in a way that makes that goal more attainable.
Another action to refine my Communication theme is to write everyday. I do this on the Leadership Vision blog, and two other blogs about topics I am passionate about. I always rely on Carrie to give feedback on whether or not my message is clear before publishing. By posting my words in public, others in the “blogosphere” will often offer positive or negative feedback, adding another level of feedback.
I also have a standing open feedback loop with our team that if my Maximizer starts to nit pick, to help me focus on the positive and not the 2% that may not have gone perfectly.
The way you practice your strengths will look very different from the way I do. Unlike practicing another skill, it isn’t intuitive with strengths. Time, patience and a disciplined pursuit of excellence is required to really understand the intricacies of your strengths, and how they best contribute to your context.
What is one thing you can do right now to practice the talents in one of your themes? Share it in the comments below, and we’d be happy to offer some feedback.