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Playing to Strengths: A New Mindset to Managing Your Career

“Hide not your talents, they for use were made.

What’s a sundial in the shade?” ​

– Benjamin Franklin

I still remember my first performance review. While the overall message was positive, my brain zeroed in like a heat-seeking missile on the areas I needed to work at improving. On top of my general habit of pressuring myself to be better, I now felt vulnerable and flawed that my coworker had identified - justifiably - some areas where I could improve my performance.

It’s common for our brains to distill everything we hear in our reviews, both positive and negative, into a singular focus on what we need to be better at, with minimal attention to how we can further exploit our strengths. Throughout our careers and our lives, we should all embrace a growth mindset and enjoy the energy that comes from tapping into our curiosity and continuously evolving. To do so, we need to start with a clear, honest accounting of what we’re good at and what we find more challenging. We all should welcome the gift of candid feedback with humility and openness. Negative feedback, and the feelings of vulnerability that it triggers, can be hard to hear, but actively seeking it only makes us wiser and stronger. Showing an openness to receiving this input also helps forge trust and mutual respect.

And yet, too often we focus disproportionately on fixing our flaws and under-appreciate the value of fully leveraging our individual super-powers. As a marketer, I’ve learned that trying to make a product or service appeal to everyone risks diluting the value proposition to your core audience. Similarly, it’s impractical to try to be great at everything in our careers. Instead, what if we were to double down on our strengths and design our careers to tap fully into those powers?

The Value of Feedback and a Strengths-First Mindset 

Fully leveraging your strengths can yield numerous measurable benefits. To begin with, research shows that people with the opportunity to leverage their core strengths in their work perform at a higher level. According to a Gallup survey of over 1 million people, these employees are significantly more productive and have engagement rates up to 15% above the average. Not surprisingly, they stay in their jobs too, with attrition rates as low as 72% under typical averages. 

Adding this all up, when organizations build diverse teams that unleash each individual’s superpowers, they set themselves up for happy, engaged employees and better outcomes. This approach lends itself quite well to the world of marketing, due to the proliferation of specialties over the past decade. To create a scaleable commercialization engine these days, it’s important to build teams with a mix of data-driven performance marketers, culture-savvy brand experts, analytics gurus, and others.

Three Keys to Getting Started

Unlocking the power of this new mentality requires a new approach toward our careers and lives. Let’s start with three key steps you can take:

1) Look at your skill sets with clear eyes

What are you truly good at? Ask for feedback - not just from co-workers, but also friends and family. Reflect on what feels effortless and what feels challenging. Try to understand the unique value you bring as a foundation for growth and learning. By focusing on your strengths, you do your best work, feel deeply satisfied, and align your time to efforts that will make you more successful.

2) Embrace what brings you energy

It’s important to value your energy level as a precious, finite asset. In addition to assessing your strengths, you also need to hone your understanding of what type of work energizes you and what drains you.  Recognize the tasks and activities that light you up, inspire you, and motivate you to give your best. I intentionally separated this point from #1 above as we sometimes have natural skills that can help us succeed but whose application doesn’t fill us up with joy.

3) Be unapologetically you

When networking or interviewing, go on offense about who you are and what you’re amazing at. While it’s wise to  be candid about your weaknesses, there’s no need to be apologetic about them. Transparency helps hiring managers gauge alignment between your skills, the role's requirements, and company culture. You’d rather land a role that matches your abilities and interests than take one that doesn’t fit the “authentic you.”

Bottom line - In career decisions, prioritize opportunities that enable you to leverage your strengths.  You don’t want to stagnate by simply focusing on the same routine again and again - but, it’s also important to strike a balance between cultivating new skills and showcasing your natural talents. In fact, you can grow even more by fully exploiting your gifts. The more you lean into your strengths, the greater the chance to put those abilities to work in new, challenging ways.

How Fractional Work Lets You Flex Your Superpowers

Anyone can take a strengths-based approach in their careers. This model works especially well in fractional work, where you can maximize the time spent using your strengths. While working as a fractional resource offers flexibility, it also enables you to focus your career and life around what matters most to you. This means picking projects that not only push you but fulfill you too.

At 621 Consulting, we're passionate about empowering each individual to do what they do best and spend their time on what truly energizes them. We put our team in a position to succeed by injecting seasoned marketers into roles where they can apply their superpowers to hit the ground running and drive tangible value. 

Want to learn more about 621? Contact us here.

Source - Gallup: The Relationship Between Strengths-Based Employee Development and Organizational Outcomes.


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