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How to answer ‘what are your strengths?’ so that you can lead a happier more fulfilled work life.

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Articulating our weaknesses is easy. But when I ask clients to tell me about their strengths my question is often followed by an extended period of uncomfortable silence.

Knowing our strengths is important. Not only to land your next job role, promotion or to return from a career break with confidence but also to lead a happy and fulfilled work life.

When you use your strengths every day you are three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life, six times more likely to be engaged at work, 8 percent more productive and 15 percent less likely to quit your job – according to Gallup analysis.

When someone says "focus on your strengths," it's easy to read that as "just do what you're good at and you won't need to improve." Which would conform to Carol Dweck's description of someone with a fixed mindset: believing that your talents are innate gifts. Rather than adopting a growth mindset and believing that they can be developed.

Dweck explains that those with a growth mindset "tend to achieve more than those with a fixed mindset because they put more energy into learning." In other words, people who believe they can improve put more effort into improving, which, in turn, helps them improve.

So to grow professionally and personally, it's not enough to identify your strengths and use them. You also need to believe that those strengths can be developed.

But before you can set to work and develop your strengths you first need to know what they are.

Marcus Buckingham says we often identify our strengths and weaknesses in the wrong way - believing that strengths are things that you are good at and weaknesses are things that we are bad at.

A better way to think of strengths and weaknesses is to figure out what energizes us. Strengths make us feel strong; weaknesses make us feel weak.

Something is a strength if:

· It makes you feel successful.

· You're drawn to it, even if you don't know why.

· It fully engages you; when doing it, you often find yourself in a flow state.

· After doing the activity, you feel energized, fulfilled, and powerful.

When getting aware of your strengths here are 4 ways you can find them:

1. Invite feedback

Ask others to describe you when they see you at your best. Understanding more about how people perceive you may uncover some blind spots and reveal where you may have been modest about yourself.

2. Watch the clock

Pay attention to what you are doing when you lose track of time. You can be good at something you don’t enjoy. But when finding a strength you want to look for something you were doing when you were in ‘flow state’

3. Write a love it and loathe it list

Your strengths make you feel good and give you energy. When you have a list of tasks to do which ones do you pick first? Over the course of a week make a love it/loathe it list of everything that you did on a daily basis – what trends are you spotting

4. Complete an online assessment

There are a number of free assessments currently available my top three are:

Marcus Buckingham (free online strengths assessment)

VIA Character Survey (free online)

16 Personalities Test (free online)

What did you spot about your strengths? I’d love to hear what your strengths are and what helps you to identify them. Leave a comment below

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