When we listen, we hear things that are usually missed. And if we allow what we hear to interrupt our plan, our hearing can lead us to some surprising discoveries. Recently, I discovered a loon family while I was paddle boarding.
A passion of mine is paddle boarding. I enjoy being on the water, the exercise, and the variety of things I hear and see. No two adventures on the water are the same. On one such adventure, I didn’t even know the loon was near, but I heard it; That unmistakable laughter of a loon calling out across the water.
I stopped paddling and scanned the lake to see where the loon was, but I could not see it. When I heard the call of the loon, I changed my plan and made my way to another location. When I came close enough I saw not just a loon, but two loons and their baby.
What Can We Learn By Listening?
What might we discover if we are listening closely to those near to us? Some of our greatest lessons in life come when we allow others to speak, listen to what they are really trying to communicate, and then respond.
By going through this process – listening, hearing, responding – we place a greater importance on others’ needs and desires. As Strengths Professionals, much of our practice involves conversations, active listening, collective instruction, and feedback. So what does this mean for you, as a Strengths Professional yourself?
Listen, You’ll Be Surprised By What You See
The single most important factor in determining your success as a Strengths Professional is your ability to hear and identify the talents and behaviors of Strengths. Without the ability to discern the nuances and uniqueness of Strengths, we miss the transformational potential Strengths may have. The next time we are helping someone understand their Strengths, strive to identify the Talents first and name the Strength second.
Part 1 – Knowing & Naming
The Names of the 34 Strengths are representations of a collection of talents and behaviors. We start our learning by recognizing the Names of Strengths. Then, we grow as Strengths Professionals by knowing the talents of Strengths. People are excited to learn the Names of their Strengths, but people are transformed by understanding the uniqueness of their Talents. As Strengths Professionals, our challenge is to know the Talents before we name the Strength.
Strengths are a collection of unique, identifiable elements called Talents. Talents represent thought, behavior, emotion, motivation, and inspiration. Talents are individual and unique, at times seemingly dissimilar and disparate; but when together form a collective image that could not be achieved alone. The power of the Names of Strengths lie within knowing the Talents behind them. Learn how to identify the talents first, then name the Strengths later. Your knowledge of Talents will continue to grow the more you work with people and their understanding of Strength.
There are three “go to” resources to find the descriptions of the Talents of Strengths:
First, simply read (or re-read) the definitions of Strengths in the book StrengthsFinder 2.0. Interpret each sentence as a Talent.
Second, begin recognizing Talents in other people. Listen to what they are saying and watch what they are doing, you will begin to hear and see Talents.
Third, recall examples of Talents from your relationships and past experiences.
Part 2 – Hearing & Seeing
Our experience has shown us that when people simply Name a Strength it often leads to misunderstanding, stereotype, misinterpretation, or over-generalization. My challenge for Strengths Professionals is to practice “Hearing and Seeing” before “Knowing and Naming“,
Without identifying the Talents of Strength, try to decipher what people are observing and perceiving.Remember, Strengths have the potential to be more harmful than good. The great news is that when people Name Strengths, they are actually observing Talents!
As Strengths Professionals, this practice of “Hearing and Seeing” may sound daunting because it requires that we pay attention to the unique nuances and language of each person we work with. This may sound difficult, but rest assured it is easier than you think.
Show Your Work
My request is this: as Strengths Professionals let’s constantly “show our work.” Meaning, pay attention first to hearing and seeing the Talents of Strength. Second, Know & Name the Strength, in that order. For example, instead of saying, “Oh, that’s the Strength of Achiever.” My recommendation is that we begin by sharing what observations you made leading you to affirm someone has the Strength Achiever.
For example, one might say, “I hear you speaking of the several projects you are working on this week.” Or, “I see you have a list of things you need to do today.” Each of these statements are a Talent of the Strength of Achiever, what you have heard and seen. After sharing the Talents you have observed, you now have supporting evidence of what you Know about the Strength of Achiever. Now, you can Name it, “I am observing your Strength of Achiever by these Talents.”