I am a total perfectionist. I love to work. I love precision. I love to make people happy. I can't help myself!
This combination pushes me towards constant improvement and challenges me to create work I can be truly proud of. But it can also be a somewhat toxic mixture. Because sometimes, instead of focusing on what I’m able to do well or allowing myself to relish in a recent success, I pore over the details of what went wrong. This tendency to re-review and overanalyze in excruciating detail can turn sour when it leads me to dwell on my weaknesses, instead of appreciating and further building up my strengths.
I imagine this is probably a pretty common tendency. So often, we produce work that anyone but ourselves can acknowledge as exemplary.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting the best from ourselves. And of course, this means we have to review ourselves and even receive constructive criticism. But too often, when we analyze our work and the work of others, our attention is drawn immediately to weak spots instead of strong suits. Why do we do this?
I had never heard of StrengthsFinder before coming to Kapstone. But Trevor Lottes – Kapstone’s founder – is obsessed with it. During one of our first meetings after I was hired as an intern, he suddenly exclaimed, “StrengthsFinder! Ah, have I told you about StrengthsFinder yet? I love it!” He proceeded to tell me about the book and its personality test that identifies five of your core strengths and helps you pinpoint how to use them in your professional development and personal life.
The idea behind StrengthsFinder is this: our capacity to grow in our areas of strength far exceeds that of our weaknesses. Exponentially so. Yet our culture loves to focus on weakness despite the fact that improving our weaknesses can only take us so far –that is to say, in all likelihood, we will never be 100% strong in them. By focusing mainly on improving our weak spots, we are diverting energy away from fully developing our strengths – effectively keeping ourselves from reaching our fullest potential. What would the world be like if we instead focused the lion’s share of our energy on developing things we naturally excel in? If we developed these strengths to truly expert degrees, without wasting their potential?
This is not to say we should never seek to improve our weaknesses – on the contrary, we should be investing significant time in enhancing our strengths and also improving our weaknesses. It is to say, however, that we need to be more intentional in directing our precious time and resources to fostering the growth of the best things in us. Our natural gifts and talents are waiting to be unleashed!
When I took the StrengthsFinder test, I found that I am really good at things that involve other people. I may not be a master mathematician, but I can recognize the needs and talents of others and help them achieve more of their true potential. I love meeting new people, finding out what they’re good at and what they like and what motivates them, encouraging them, helping them take their creative projects to new heights…I love connecting with and learning more about others. Turns out these are the top qualities of a good community manager, and that's exactly what I do now!
My StrengthsFinder assessment showed me that my love for others is actually a skill. It's not just a frivolous distraction or emotion, but something I have potential to excel in, in a way that brings value to others both at work and in daily life.
No matter what work we do, it's important to see that our strengths are valued and refined - by ourselves as well as by those we work for and work with. The result will be a happier, healthier, more fulfilled team at work. And more than that, it will provide the opportunity to build a strong culture of supportive community.