Some people have an “envision strength,” Bergstrand says. “These folks are visionaries who get energy and solve problems by asking and answering the question, ‘where do we intend to go and why?’ It is common to find these strengths with strategists, marketers, and CEOs.”
Second is the “design strength,” he adds. “Where the ‘envision strength’ is more subjective, the ‘design strength’ is more objective. These folks like to get to the facts, and are well-suited as planners and very good at answering the question, ‘what do we need to do when?’ We often find these strengths in newly minted MBA’s, analysts, planners, and CFOs.”
Third is the “build” workplace strength. “Where the ‘design’ strength is more focused on facts and figures, the ‘build’ strength is more process-oriented – energized by how to best get jobs done. These individuals are energized by systematizing and systematized work. Where the ‘envision’ person typically hates repetitive work, the ‘build’ person thrives on it. You will typically find build people in functions such as manufacturing, logistics, and IT systems management.”
And finally, the fourth type of workplace strength is the “operatecharacteristic,” Bergstrand says. “With knowledge work, this term has a slightly different connotation than it did in the industrial age. With knowledge work, operators make things happen with and through other people, and get a lot of energy from human interaction. They focus on the who. Sales people and good mentors are often very strong in the ‘operate’ area.”
Independent human resources consultant Jay Canchola says: “From an HR perspective, workplace strengths are usually defined in terms of competencies such as leadership, problem solving or teamwork.”
David Parnell, a legal recruiter, communication coach and author of In-House: A Lawyer’s Guide to Getting a Corporate Legal Position, offered another definition. “A workplace strength is any ability that is enjoyable, applicable, and that you are better at than most of your colleagues.”
Bergstrand says it is critically important for people to know their own workplace strengths and how they fit into the big picture. “By knowing your workplace strengths, the strengths of others, and the big picture of how these strengths fit together, people can much more easily work in their sweet spot and not be dragged into areas where they can’t add a lot of value.”
Parnell agrees. He says if you are looking to advance your career, finding and leveraging your workplace strengths is perhaps the most important thing you can do. “Strengths, motivation and task interest often go hand in hand, and when these three are in force, your performance will definitely show it and help your progression. But if you are stuck in a position that doesn’t leverage your strengths, your drive and performance will suffer along with your career advancement.”
One simple way to identify your workplace strengths is to “listen to your emotions when you are working,” Canchola says. “What activity, such as leadership or problem solving, provides satisfaction and happiness? A more complex way consists of validation from others. When others ask for your competency or praise you, that’s usually a good sign that you have identified a workplace strength.”
Parnell says when trying to identify your workplace strengths, it is most important to first find the things that are of interest and fulfilling to you, and then seek the strengths (abilities) that derive from them. “This can be done by exploring the nature of your most desirable activities – in or outside of the workplace. For instance, do you often volunteer at a shelter in your spare time? If so, you are probably driven toward altruistic and compassionate activities; a human resources position might be your future target. Do you mentor, or organize and execute events as much as you can? If so, management might be your future target.”
Once you’ve found your intrinsic interests (and therefore, activities), determine whether you are good at them. “Asking your cohorts may prove inaccurate as implicit social contracts can shield us from criticism,” Parnell adds. “Actions, however, do not lie.” For instance, if you enjoy organizing and executing events, do people show up to them? Do they seem to have fun? Do you have repeat attendees? “Seek to objectively observe the outcome of your actions. When you are good at something and intrinsically enjoy it, it is a true strength that is to be leveraged in the workplace.”
Think you possess one or more of the four core strengths Bergstrand
laid out above? Here are the characteristics associated with each.
Characteristics of the “envision” workplace strength:
- Thinking strategically: The ability to see past today’s issues and focus on a longer term destination.
- Setting a visionary destination: The ability to establish a positive future in the minds of others that doesn’t exist today.
- Thinking inventively: The ability to conceptualize a working solution that can ultimately convert into a tangible product-service offering.
- Generating imaginative ideas: The ability to see and articulate possibilities that are not purely grounded in experience.
- Thinking creatively: The ability to offer new thoughts on subject areas that others have not considered.
- Pioneering new ideas: The ability to create a new line of thought that has not yet been proven in practice.
- Brainstorming new ideas: The ability to work with others to co-create new ideas and new solutions.
Characteristics of the “design” workplace strength:
- Analyzing situations: The ability to conceptually break down a situation into parts and understand those parts.
- Defining clear policies: The ability to establish well-understood guidelines to help groups of individuals work in a unified way.
- Defining detailed objectives: The ability to create explicit goals to direct the work of individuals and the organization overall.
- Planning budgets: The ability to establish and control the allocation of resources to achieve organizational goals.
- Establishing clear performance measures: The ability to create a standard mechanism to evaluate whether or not goals are achieved.
- Judging performance objectively: The ability to independently weigh evidence and form an opinion on personal and organizational results.
- Making decisions by the numbers: The ability to make a final choice based upon quantitative reasoning and measures.
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