In my early years? report cards there was a theme; ?okay student? talks too much?. It was true! I was a social animal?well, at the very least, I seemed to be unable to control my need to interact with people around me. It wasn?t until years later, that I realized I was an Extrovert. I needed to be able to interact in order to be able to learn. Because the environment was like most learning environments of the time, where ?quiet? and ?order? were valued, I tried desperately to BE QUIET. I was able to sustain that for a period of time?then my ?natural? tendencies would rise up (and it continued to get me in trouble with my teachers). I thought there was something wrong with me. Why could other kids perform well in this environment? Was I defective in some way?
I, only later in life, realized the significance of this experience. I was not at my best when I was quiet (unable to interact with others)?my ability to learn suffered, my overall performance was marginal?and my motivation tanked!
I wonder today if my teachers of the time would be at all surprised with my career choice. I am a professional speaker. I get to spend each day (at least those days when I am not creating new material) interacting with others?being energized by (and hopefully energizing) others. I would not trade this career for any other. I am truly in a position to operate from my strengths, most of the time, when I am working.
One other comment made by my early teachers was that I was a ?daydreamer?. Well, guess what? I still am! (Another ?problem? that is actually an ?strength?.) I think it?s that strength that feeds my creativity ? which keeps me personally engaged in what I do and around which I get most of my positive feedback from clients.
What are are your strengths? It?s sometimes not an easy question to answer. I?ll bet that you know that there are times at work in which you are energized and engaged; and there are other times in which you are not. Therein lies a clue about your strengths. Chances are ? when your energy (and performance) is high, your strengths are in use. If you are interested in determining your strengths, there are some online resources available to you. Martin Seligman?s website, Authentic Happiness, features several assessments that are free of charge. You can also keep a simple journal, noting times at work when you are energized and engaged?what are you doing?
How much opportunity do you have to play to your strengths at work? According to Marcus Buckingham, author of ?Go Put Your Strengths to Work (among other very good reads), only about 12% of us play to our strengths at work.
I speak about this topic ? and several related to this topic ? every day when I am keynoting a conference or leading a workshop. I cannot describe how exciting it is to watch people begin to be energized about the possibility of using their strengths more at work. It can be a transforming experience for them?you can actually see them change before your eyes! Their skin colour, posture, and overall way of being changes. Imagine capturing that transformation on a more permanent basis in workplaces everywhere!
Well, you can do more than imagine it! No matter what, you must begin with yourself. Start seeking more opportunity to do the work that energizes and engages you. Talk to your leader and share your ideas to play to your strengths more often. I cannot imagine a leader who is not interested in hearing about how you can positively impact your satisfaction and your results.
I saw this video recently?it brought a tear to my eye. It reminded me about the importance of allowing myself, and then others around me, to be who they are and play to their strengths. The possibilities are endless! And, you never know who you might serve, or SURF, in the process!