Who are you?
Let’s back away from this for a moment. We’ll be back, but I’d like to take a more circuitous route. To climb the old corporate ladder you had to first understand that ladder, you had to know where the next rung lay and how to reach it. If the ladder – and understanding it – is no longer the defining career paradigm, what is replacing it?
In today’s corporate structure, knowing yourself rather than knowing the corporate career paths is of greater value to both you and the company. What do you want? What can you offer? What in your skill set is valuable to an employer? But before you can answer these questions, you must first…know thyself.
Let’s back even further away. Let’s back right up to the point where there is only you. This is where it starts and ends. You might find this odd, but most people don’t know their strengths and weaknesses. That’s not to say they’re clueless, but most people have simply never taken the time to ask themselves the right questions. What are those tasks that you lose yourself in? The last time you totally lost track of time at work, what were you doing? Your answers are the things you are naturally good at – your strengths.
What are the tasks you hate? Which tasks leave you looking at the clock, trying to figure out when you can finish or go home? These are your weaknesses.
As an interesting exercise, for a week, write down what you are doing at work. Make note of the circumstances when you lose track of time (strength) and when you are keeping track of time (weakness).
Yesterday we were told to ‘work on our weaknesses.’ It was one of the top ten things bosses told their staff. Well-meaning advice, but it tends to leave people pursuing tasks and career goals they’re not naturally good at. We had a client recently who, upon being told by management to work on his weaknesses, dedicated himself to a career path that demanded extremely logical thought processes. Unfortunately he was an amazingly intuitive type thinker, inventive and imaginative. As you might well guess, he was miserable and no longer considered a star performer. He over-corrected, working on his weaknesses did little to maximize his value to himself or the company.
So what has replaced the ‘work on your weaknesses’ paradigm?
Maximize your strengths, minimize your weaknesses. I’m not suggesting you totally ignore your weaknesses, just that they shouldn’t be your priority. They aren’t what makes you valuable.
Let’s bring it all together now. You’ve asked yourself the questions. You’re discovering who you are and, by extension, you’ve learned what you’re naturally good at.
- Make sure your strengths match your job requirements – you will be more happy and more naturally successful when you make this match.
- Tell people. Tell them what you are good at. Indulge in a little shameless self-promotion. You see, what you may overlook is the fact that other people don’t really know what you are good at. They have their own ideas, but if you don’t tell them, they’re just guessing. And they might well be wrong. Take the time. Think of yourself as a product, and go sell that product. When you are doing what you are good at, when you are maximizing your strengths, you will be your most valuable, happy, and fulfilled.
Know thyself. That ‘simple’ two-word statement was at the core of ancient civilizations such as Egyptian, Hindu, and Greek that were the foundation for western civilization and philosophy today. So there’s lots of precedent for treating it as a profound thought. And besides being a fun exercise, learning to recognize your strengths – and you usually find they’ve been there all along – and how they can be developed in all areas of your life, takes you from being a square peg in a round hole to you know what. It makes you fit. Fit for success, however you define it. And that’s pretty profound for all of us.