Most of the times, we know a lot about the people close to us and those we work with. And mostly, we know the least about ourselves. If I were to ask you what are your top skills, would you be able to tell?
You may have taken the Myers-Briggs test. It is a helpful indicator of who you are and how you approach things. A few years back I took the StrengthsFinder quiz and was quite surprised by what I learned about myself. I then convinced some of my family members to do the same and it was fascinating what we learned about each other. I now recommend this exercise to my students. Recently, my banker told me he was getting married and I recommended that he and his fiancée do this exercise as it would help them understand each other better.
What exactly is this test? The Gallup organization has developed a database of several million successful people and the skills they possess. They have identified 34 key skills. However, here is the real important insight. While all of us have many of these skills, we should focus on our top skills.
Why? Because it has been said, “We achieve exceptional things leveraging our strengths, not working on our weaknesses.” This is a huge insight and contrary to what we have been taught all our lives.
Author Marcus Buckingham explains it this way: “Parents dwell on a child’s ‘F’ in Algebra rather than praise an ‘A’ in English. In a one-hour performance review, supervisors spend two minutes discussing strengths and 58 minutes discussing the ‘areas of opportunity’ or weaknesses with employees….”
This statement hit particularly close to home since this is what we did with our children. We thought that they had to excel in everything. We took the ‘A’s in English for granted while lamenting the lower grades in Math. As I reflect, all the extra time spent on math yielded little fruit. What if all that time had been spent cultivating exceptionalism in English?
This is the premise of StrengthsFinder. By answering about 180 questions in 30 minutes, you will be presented with your Top 5 Strengths. The reality is that while we have many strengths, we are genetically coded for a handful of things. By focusing on these strengths, you will achieve more than trying to cover the entire waterfront. (For example, if you are not very good at learning foreign languages, spending a lifetime trying to learn French will, at most, make you a passably poor speaker. What if you spent the same time working on something you are good at? How did
Michael Jordan do when he tried his hand at baseball?)
So take this test (gallupstrengthscenter.com/Purchase). It may be the best $15 you ever spend.
Shortly after you take the quiz (sounds better than a test), you will receive a 20-page document giving you details about your five top strengths. You will be surprised by how well they understand you. I know I was. This is an important piece of the jigsaw puzzle labeled “You.”
Verinder Syal, Author: Discover The Entrepreneur Within