Start Defining Your Marketable Value

by Karl Rohde — Get free updates of new posts here.  Photo Credit: Karl Rohde.

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When considering a coaching session I think one of the great outcomes is to develop awareness around personal effectiveness and then map out a plan to put that awareness into action.

For some time I have been looking at ways to better understand that little area of “magic” that exists in each of us that if developed could ensure greater levels of workplace fulfillment and personal success. In some areas of our working life we seem to excel at without realizing why. There are areas of achievement that we seem to pull off with very little effort. Onlookers, peers and managers alike comment how we seem to have a knack, a gift or some talent, however, we never find the correct articulation for what that is. We in turn soak up the adulation and never quite get a grip on what it is.

It is with this fascination that I was drawn to dig through two books, “Now, Discover your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O’Clifton and the updated "StrengthsFinder 2.0" by Tom Rath. The books claim to have catalogued a list of 34 verifiable strengths that can be identified in every person; an impressive assertion. This was developed through an exhaustive survey across some 2 million participants. I reason, if I could develop a personal awareness of my own innate abilities, talents, strengths I could well position myself to help others in workplace coaching sessions.

As much of the success in coaching hinges on the development of insights into ourselves I believe these books, if applied, could give me another tool to deliver authentic value to future clients through personal experience.

Upon reading these books I was presented with a thought provoking question: Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?

The authors go onto relate that unfortunately most of us do not have a good sense of our talents, let alone our ability to effectively use our strengths to our advantage. Rather most of us spend our lives becoming all too aware of our weaknesses and spend our time trying to deal with our flaws, while neglecting our talents. As the authors say it, “All too often our natural talents go untapped. From the cradle to the office cubicle we devote more time to fixing our shortcomings than the development of our strengths.”

This is not surprising when we think how management today has placed excessive value in people being well rounded over having an edge. Learning and development plans are great incentives provided by companies, however, too often they are geared to bridge the gaps in our skills instead of developing our innate talents to enable us to deliver peaks of value over a median of good value.

Sadly what dies in the process is personal identityfulfillment, and inner pride around our valuable uniqueness.

What is a Strength?

The authors address the idea that when you observe a great strength in someone (like a great public speaker), you’re actually witnessing a mix of that person’s skills and talents, and a strength is just a confluence of these two elements.

What is a Skill?

A skill is something that can be learned. For example, a person can take a course in Java programming and gain the basic skill of programming in Java. That does not imply that they will be a great Java programmer, just that they have the basic skill of programming in Java.

What is a Talent

A talent is something that can’t be learned. For example, an individual may have the gift of being able to quickly break complex tasks down into bite-sized pieces. On its own, it’s not all that useful – where it becomes useful is in combination with skills. Think of the Java programming skill – if you also have the talent of quickly breaking down complex tasks, you have the beginnings of a very strong programmer.

How to bring your strengths into the light of day

To address this problem of “ignorance” around our strengths, the book provides access to a web based interactive questionnaire, developed by the Gallup organization, that quickly identifies your top 5 (out of a total of 34) positive “personality themes” that you might naturally possess. The book goes on to elaborate how each of the 34 unique themes can be identified, complete with individual profiles describing how each might act and what each might "sound like." The individual descriptions of each strength are detailed enough, that, with some honest self-evaluation, you can quite quickly figure out which strengths you have and which ones you do not have. Interestingly I did this before completing the test and delivered a short list of 10 strengths that partly reflected the results of the online test that I took.

Taking the online test is optional but for me personally it provided an interesting insight as to what others more than likely see in me over what I ideally like to see in myself. This served to reduce a potential blind spot in my self-awareness.

Maximising Your Gifts

It is important to note that the top 5 strengths identified in the test are not the only strengths you have, rather they are the most prominent that if developed could see the greatest impact in you working life.

Another interesting point is that of over-focusing. Once you’ve figured out what your strengths are, is it dangerous to focus too intensely on those strengths? Buckingham argues that it isn’t. By focusing on your strengths, you’re maximizing the gifts that you have, using your true gifts to benefit the world, instead of miring yourself down in things that force you to grind with your weaknesses.

Application of strengths in an organisation

Finally, the book closes with a far-reaching discussion of how to actually organize a workplace based on the individual strengths of workers in the organization.

The biggest key is to identify the strengths that will make each role in the organization as strong as can be, then put people who have those strengths in those positions. This takes significant work and advance planning, but once implemented, you can put people in the right job for their individual personality, the job that gives that person the biggest opportunity as possible to succeed. As a manager, this plan makes a lot of intuitive sense to me.

The risk of doing nothing is costly, not only in lost productivity, but in job satisfaction, employee retention and absenteeism and so on.

As a coach I see this as an invaluable tool within the workplace to define and map actions for people to develop win-win teams, which in turn presents an opportunity to shape a true culture of growth and trust.

Application of our strengths as individuals

With an estimated 8 out of 10 people not really in a position to capitalize on their strengths and talents, chances are most of us could benefit from knowing our strengths. As most of us fail to capitalize on our strengths, it is not surprising that most us end up doing work that neither inspires nor fulfils.

The risk of doing nothing for yourself is to resign yourself to an aggravating working world at odds with who you are. Your value begins with your self-awareness on what you do best and how you hone that. If you can't articulate your strengths, how can you even begin to sell your value to anyone else? At best, your strengths offer a starting point to develop the stuff with which you can make an impact at a meaningful level.

Finally, let’s wrap this up

Personally, I was pleased to discover my top 5 strengths. It has reaffirmed my role as a people developer focused on uniqueness (Individualization); a progressive learning leader who empowers and drives action oriented thinking (Activator); a shaper of workplace culture (Harmony). It also helped me realize I have much more to contribute in terms of being a change agent (Maximizer). Lastly, I have well and truly affirmed that the base of my strengths lie in working with people and the development of the human spirit (Developer). Considering this is where my known passions lie, I will do well to continue developing this.

This was a long post. I trust it’s been useful. Thanks for reading this far! Please comment/share/email me! Until next week!