In his book, Go Put Your Strengths to Work, Marcus Buckingham suggests exploring one’s strengths using what he calls the SIGN method—success, instinct, growth, and need.
Success—Ask yourself these questions: Have I had a level of success in this activity? Do people tell me that I’m skilled at this activity? Have I won any awards for this strength?
Instinct—How often do I practice this activity? Every day? Do I volunteer for this activity? Volunteering indicates that a strength is instinctual, a natural flow of your life.
Growth—Remember, it’s a myth to believe that we can be anything we want. But we can be more of who we already are. Growth is the ability to learn something quickly and easily without struggling.
Needs—We all have needs. A top strength in your life will meet a need. You can look at this in a number of ways, asking yourself: Am I excited or eager to do this particular activity? Do I have fun thinking about/doing this activity? Does this activity give me a sense of purpose? The needs component of this exercise is helpful when working with kids. It’s important to find out what excites each young person. If it jazzes them, you’ve likely identified a strength and with only a nudge in the right direction, you can expand on these strengths.
However, most of us are experts in noticing our weaknesses more so than our strengths, which is why it’s crucial to highlight the difference between the two.
Donald Clifton taught that managing our weaknesses allows our strengths to overpower them, ultimately making them irrelevant. Clifton stated, “Quickly admitting weak areas is an act of courage and growth.” He also taught that for every area of strength we are likely to have one thousand non strengths.
Weaknesses are like leaks in a sail boat. I use LEAK as an acronym to identify our major and minor weaknesses, which if not managed well will sink our boat.
L – Loathe
E – Escape
A – Average
K – Kink
Analytical is not among my top strengths. Analytical people are good with technology and numbers. Not me. In grade school, I loathed math class. In fact, I wanted to escape math. By the time I got to trigonometry, I needed all kinds of tutoring to increase my knowledge. Despite all my hard work, math was never a strength, I was barely average. Even to this day, if I need to quickly figure out a math problem, I automatically get a kink in my stomach.
Because talent and instinct are synonymous, avoiding a particular activity often points to an area of weakness. I learned some math and technology in school. However, I find these topics quite boring. The point is, if there’s a lack of growth and learning it indicates a weakness.
Fear not, there’s a way to deal with your weaknesses.
I’ve developed a system to PLUG our leaks.
P – Plan
L – Leave
U – Unite
Coaching clients often tell me, “I have so many weaknesses that I can’t see my strengths.” But we all have weaknesses. We’re not perfect. Nobody should expect themselves to have every tool in the toolbox. So, how do we deal with our weaknesses? How do we stop wasting our time on our weak areas?
First consciously PLAN to use a strength to boost performance in your weakness. In other words, volunteer and steer your life towards your strengths. Ask yourself: Which of my strengths could I use to get activities done more easily? How can I use my strengths to create a new role for myself at work or my volunteer organization? How can I offer up a strength at home or in my personal relationships? Plan a way to use your strengths to steer you away from your weaknesses.
Second, LEAVE your weakness behind 80 percent of the time. Stop doing activities associated with your weakness. At work, you can ask your supervisor about taking an area in which you are weak out of your job description. Of course, it’s a bit easier when you work for yourself. But, even big business is turning towards strengths psychology. If you feel locked into certain activities that are holding you back, remember—it doesn’t hurt to ask. The point is to stop spending time on your weaknesses.
Third, UNITE with others who have strengths you don’t. Ask yourself: Who could I partner with who has this strength? Who on my work team would be willing to utilize their strength to help stop my weakness? Who could teach me how to deal with my particular weakness? Sure, there are some activities we must do. In my case, I had to balance my checkbook. That said, my wife is great at balancing the checkbook, so I simply turned this task over to her.
Fourth, shift into your GROW perspective to tackle a weakness. I have one particular client who doesn’t have great relationship skills, and he finds it difficult to communicate with his wife. However, he is a Learner—he loves to educate himself. So, I challenged him by asking, “How could you use your Learner strength to acquire more social skills like empathy to learn how to relate to your spouse?”
The light bulb went off. “It’s about turning on a strength in an area where I’m weak, so I can learn,” he said.
For example, those with the strength of Harmony love to keep the peace and diffuse conflict. I encourage those with Harmony to look for other strengths that can help them cope with conflict like Communication. The key is to re-frame your old strengths in new ways.
This week I challenge you using LEAK as a strategy to identify your major and minor weaknesses. Once you have identified them design an action plan to PLUG your leaks. Post below your weakness and how you will face your weakness.
Not sure how to move forward on this challenge? Then schedule an Ask Brent Anything call and let’s talk strengths.