“Okay, okay, I believe strengths are important…but what are MY strengths?”
Friend, if you’ve said or thought these words, I applaud you.
But if you’re just here because you want to pinpoint your strengths before an upcoming interview…well, that’s a great first step too!
Either way, you’ve already overcome at least 1 of 2 big hurdles on the way to a more effective, strengths-based approach to your career and life:
- You believe leveraging strengths is key to success. (And hopefully, you’ve ditched the notion of “overcoming” so-called weaknesses.)
- You’re ready to get down to business & answer the essential question: what are my strengths?
Either way, you’ve come to the right place. Because I literally wrote the book on the subject of strengths-based leadership, life, and career, and I’ve got an arsenal of tools to help you determine your natural strengths – what I call power-alley attributes.
As a bonus, I’m offering one of those tools right here, free of charge. But before you dig into that, read on so you’re sure to have the process down pat.
Consider this your what-are-my-strengths starting line. Ready set.
What are my strengths? = the 1st of many questions
The process of pinpointing your natural strengths is exciting and challenging. And it’s driven, in large part, by questions:
- Questions you ask yourself as your reflect back on your life and think about your attitudes and behaviors today
- Questions you ask others
- Questions others ask you
So as you define your own highest and lowest attributes, you become a bit of an investigator into the patterns that reveal them.
In fact, of the 7 tools that I employ in helping clients identify their own attribute profiles, 6 are based largely on asking and/or answering questions. 1 is based on instinct.
That instinct tool is where we’re going to focus today, because it’s step 1 in answering the question what are my strengths?
Your Always & Forever Strengths
Here’s a convenient truth: your greatest strengths – the 1 – 2 power-alley attributes that sit at the top of your attribute profile – have been with you for as long as you can remember. Probably even before.
Don’t believe it? Then let’s start by getting on the same page about strengths – about what an attribute really is: it’s a natural, inherent trait that affects your perception of the world as well as your behavior.
Tune into 2 key words in this definition: “natural” and “inherent.”In other words, you didn’t become naturally high in attribute X or attribute Y. You are naturally high in it. It’s the way you’re wired. You can’t not exhibit that power-alley trait – which is precisely what makes it so powerful.
Sure, you can improve on your natural attributes or strengths. But you can’t change what’s inherent within you any more than you can make an apple seed bear oranges.
“Would you plant an apple seed and try to nurture it into an orange tree? No matter what type of fertilizer you used, no matter how carefully you monitored the water and sun, you would never succeed in making that apple seed bear oranges. (Although you may interfere with its ability to produce great apples.)
Human beings are like this. We each have seeds for different types of fruit in us, but too often, we spend our lives trying to become something we’re not – in part because we take our natural gifts for granted, and in part because we spend so much time focusing on what we’re NOT good at that we lose sight of the ways we’re great.”
– Why Make Eagles Swim? Embracing Natural Strengths in Leadership & Life
When you started life, the seeds of your physical attributes were already planted within you. The genetic makeup for a specific eye color, hair color, height, etc. – all of it was already there.
Your personality attributes – your own unique strengths and challenge areas – have always been within you as well.
Now, why does this matter when asking the question what are my strengths?
Because it means that the answer to your incredibly important question is right inside of you. And it always has been.
Now all we need to do is get that answer out into the open.
Prep Tip: Relax into Strengths Discovery
When I get into an early conversation with someone asking what are my strengths?, I’m often impressed by how earnest they are.
Sidenote: I recently recorded my response to an early-stage strengths question. Have a listen:
It’s great to be earnest! This is an exciting, important process, and it deserves your most sincere attention.
But the line between earnestness and edginess can be all-too fine.
When you’re walking into the unknown of your strengths-discovery journey, and you don’t know what you’ll find, what you might find is an unwelcome bunch of stress.
“Under [stress], the brain sends ongoing alarm signals in the form of high levels of the stress hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol. Their presence raises a background level of anxiety that blocks the processing of information.”
– Charmaine Liebertz, Scientific American
So before you get started, relax with these 2 great reminders:
- All attributes are good! So there’s no such thing as a “good” or “bad” attribute profile.
- Your attributes are with you all the time, and they’re not going anywhere. So if you miss something, you’ll have loads of other chances to re-discover it.
As you begin with this first strengths-instinct tool – and then apply some of the other 6 tools – keep these 2 reminders near at hand, and have fun with the process!
Your Attributes Instinct
Okay, enough prep. Let’s get down to the business of answering the question about your unique attributes.
In identifying your strengths (or the strengths of someone else), we begin with the attributes instinct process because it’s our only chance for a gut check.
Despite its simplicity, this tool can be surprisingly accurate. In fact, once a client works through all 7 of the tools in my attribute analysis toolkit, we often find that many of these initial instincts were right-on.
It starts with a list of common attributes.
Sidenote: I’ve been using and teaching attributes for over 30 years, and in that time, I’ve identified a lot of human traits. But my clients don’t need an exhaustive list; they need a list that’s manageable at the speed of life. So I’ve identified the 14 core human attributes – the most essential and/or frequently seen characteristics. This is a great place to start, so it’s what we focus on at this stage.
Once you’re familiar with the 14 core attributes, you will inevitability develop positive or negative biases toward some. This is a completely normal and expected aspect of any strengths-discovery program (although one that’s often overlooked or avoided).
All of the 7 attribute identification tools are designed to help overcome this bias. But the instinct tool is unique in that it’s specifically designed to get to you before bias kicks in.
It’s all about the power of first impressions. Of instinctive, gut-check responses. And it’s very simple for you to leverage.
Attributes Instinct Download Instructions:
- Download & print the My Attributes Instinct worksheet
- Review the instructions before turning the page
- Flip to the list of 14 core attributes
- Read the brief description of the 1st attribute on the list
- Immediately do 1 of the following:
Circle “+” if you think this is a very high attribute for you
Circle “-“ if you think this is a very low attribute for you
Circle nothing if you don’t have a strong feeling either way
- Move to the next attribute right away
- Repeat until you’ve read through every attribute on the list
You should only end up with a handful of pluses and minuses on your worksheet, and those pluses are key indicators of your power-alley attributes – your 1st and fastest answer to the question what are my strengths?
And don’t miss the bonus tip I mention in the worksheet instructions. It will not only make your results more accurate, but it’s likely to yield unexpected outcomes!
Additional Tips & Resources on Strengths & Power-Alley Attributes
The attribute instinct tool is a great first step in answering the question what are my strengths?
For most, the next step is the attribute questionnaire and some combination of the 5 additional tools that you can learn about in various ways:
- In the Amazon bestseller Why Make Eagles Swim: Embracing Natural Strengths in Leadership and Life
- As a student of the Attributes Academy
- By contacting me for more information on coaching
But there are plenty of free tips & resources too! For starters:
- Download and complete the Instinct Worksheet.
- Familiarize yourself with the list of core attributes.
- Relax and listen to yourself for revelation.
- Be honest & embrace accountability.
- Take note of the things that light you up, make you sparkle, and impassion you. You’re revealing your attributes to yourself all the time…just as other people are revealing their attributes to you.
- Explore all the free attribute resources available on this website.
I’ll let you in on a final secret:
The power of your strengths doesn’t lie in knowing them.
It lies in leveraging them to achieve your own personal best – and leveraging those of the people around you as well! I specialize in helping individuals and teams leverage that very power.
So this is the beginning of a very exciting and important journey. You’re in the right place, and I’m thrilled that you’re here, getting started.
I hope you’ll share your experiences, whether in the comments below or directly with me.
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