Our Strengths challenge this month is to share your Top Five talents with one or two people who know you really well—we’ll call these people your Close Contacts—and ask them to reflect back to you how they see those talents operating in your life. You should provide each Close Contact with a list of your Strengths along with a general description of each. One good document to use for this is the “Signature Themes” report you can access through your Gallup dashboard, where you took the assessment. This is one of our favorite Strengths exercises because it’s fascinating and often incredibly enlightening to see how your Strengths show up in your life through someone else’s eyes—especially someone who knows you very well!
Our talents are so inherent to us that most of us don’t really notice them or feel they’re special. Like breathing, our talents are simply automatic. Many times, we take them for granted and fail to recognize how they’ve helped us throughout our lives. We think, “That’s no big deal. Doesn’t everyone do things that way?” and it can be astonishing to learn how differently we all are wired. That’s one of the things that makes Strengths psychology so exciting, thought-provoking, and invaluable.
I did this exercise when I first went through the Strengths program 7 years ago. My top 5 talents are Maximizer, Empathy, Harmony, Developer and Achiever and I asked my brother and husband for their thoughts on them. A lot of their comments weren’t surprising such as, ”…tends to be a perfectionist…avoids flying by the seat of her pants…always been skilled at listening and helping people with their problems…genuinely happy when others do well and when her advice has helped someone…wants to keep everyone happy…sees the potential in our kids and constantly tries to steer/guide them to maximize their talents even though they see it as nagging…Empathy is always evident especially in relationships with troubled friends…has piles of lists that never go away…constantly trying to improve, contribute and make an impact…”
Food for thought
Meanwhile, some of their other notes gave me food for thought. For instance, they saw my Harmony as having a lack of opinion and caving in just to make someone else happy. I saw it as compromising, but it made me wonder if that was a blind spot and it was just my Harmony traits that made me see it that way. Another interesting comment was that I tended to have more Empathy for my friends than my family. That I expected more from my family. That really took me by surprise and was something I never noticed before. Ironically, doing this exercise for me gave my brother his own aha moment. Even though we are both workaholic Achievers (just like our parents), he felt that I was able to take small breaks from busyness, whereas he turned even his hobbies into work.
As I write this, I wonder if their observations of my Harmony would be different today. As I get older, I find myself being less of a people pleaser, speaking my mind more and becoming better at saying no. Perhaps my Harmony is still in the process of maturing. As for the other 4 talents, I’m afraid they are too deeply embedded in my DNA to ever budge an inch.
I completed this exercise in 2009 when I took a class on Strengths. It was eye-opening! My Top Five are: Maximizer, Strategic, Positivity, Ideation and WOO. At the time I was having trouble connecting with my “Maximizer” top Strength, because it sounded like perfectionism which I do not feel I have! What I discovered through the eyes of my husband and best friend was that they saw me as someone who works on continual improvement. When I write, do work, look over a resume, help my children with schoolwork, etc., I can spot ways to improve things and suggest what can be done to make it the best it can be. These observations truly helped me to see how Maximizer was indeed alive in my life.
My Strategic shows up in the way my mind thinks up alternatives to get to a targeted goal. This is particularly evident when I get behind the wheel of a car! I won’t suggest that it’s always pretty, but when we are late, and have somewhere to drive to get to quickly, others regularly turn over the driving to me, then say their prayers…!
Others need your strengths too
Both my husband and best friend commented that the Positivity is why they come to me when they’re feeling blue. There is often a silver lining that can be found in the darkest of times, and I help them to clear the cloud cover to see the brightness. My BFF had funny comments about my Ideation…I frequently called her to relay my harebrained schemes for products that just HAD to be invented! She found this hilarious (especially the “Sand-Ski Beach Caddy”) and would laugh at me until we noticed that these things would end up being invented eventually—always by someone else! (Drat—if only I had better executional Strengths!)
Finally, my Close Contacts commented that my WOO, which stands for Winning Others Over, would emerge whenever we attend parties or events. I just love meeting people and getting to throw the net wide socially.
It was great fun and very enlightening to ask my Close Contacts to reflect my Strengths back to me. It helped me to connect with them, own them, embrace and love them, and think of ways to make them show up even stronger in my life! I hope you all take the time to complete this exercise. The results are wide-ranging and are typically fun, laughter-filled, eye-opening, sweet and poignant. It’s certainly worth the time investment! We can’t wait to discuss yours next month at our next Strengths Saturday!