Be An Expert – part 2

In Part 1 I discussed a bit on understanding your strengths and what it takes to reach ‘expert’ or mastery level. Part 2 will cover how to identify your strengths, the importance of knowing them, and traps to watch out for.

Individual Strengths

There are plenty of ways to figure out what your strengths are. I mentioned in an earlier post on StrengthsFinder 2.0 – while this is a great test to take, it’s more to help you reaffirm what you should already know about yourself.

Take a moment to write down things you enjoy to do, how you react to certain situations, and what people say about you. For example – I like to read any new and interesting ideas – whether they are products or how companies do business. I am always curious on what the future is like. I’m impatient and like to get started on things right away. If I buy something I need to assemble I’ll throw everything on the ground and get started and will get to the instructions once I get stuck. It’s easy for people to open up to me, and when they come for advice I get right to the heart of the matter. I’m alway thinking about how to improve things, what can be tweaked to make it better.

From that list we can take away that my strengths are: Ideation, Strategizing, Futuristic, Leading, Listening, Activating (getting started), Big Picture, and Personable.

Now the problem that most people fall into is that they describe themselves by their job description instead of what they really do. In one of my previous jobs I was a Physiologist in Cardiac Rehab. I could easily say that I “Monitored patients vitals, took EKG recordings, and assessed progress.” While that’s all true, it says nothing about my strengths or what I really brought to that position. Think about what you’re good at, and what you enjoyed about that job – what extra pizzazz did you bring to it?

Business Strengths

For businesses, understanding your strengths is critical. If you don’t know what makes you unique, what makes you different from your primary competitors, and especially secondary competitors, then you’re in rough shape and on slow path of dying.

While individual strengths are tough to find because it calls for introspection, business strengths can prove to be an even bigger challenge because of rhetoric. As I said in previous posts, no one wants to hear boring business speak, on how you put customers first or are innovative, especially if its not true. If you have to say it, then it means you most likely dont do it.

Understanding your business strengths is pretty similar the same way you find your personal strengths.

  1. Listen to your customers: If you receive emails or letter, what do they say? What do customers tell you or your staff in the store? Do an internet search – what are they saying on Yelp, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, or whatever website they’re on.
  2. Listen to your employees: Employees usually have more direct contact with customers than anyone in management. Even if its a small business and management deals with customers, odds are your employees still get more information from customers.
  3. Look at your competitors: What do you do significantly different from them? Why would customers choose you? Are your employees more knowledge – Do you carry a better range of products – Do you have more interesting products – Are you the cheapest – Are you the most expensive?

Know Your Traps

Now you have a list of what sets you apart from your competitors, and those are your strengths. Even for individuals you have competitors, and thats everyone else in the work force that is in your field. The trap you need to watch out for are Complacency and Cockiness.

It’s easy to become complacent when things are going well, but if you dont actively nurture your strengths, they begin to degrade. Use it or lose it. Ask me to read an EKG and I can only tell you the basics, a few years ago I was able to pick out a variety of dysrhythmias. It’s common sense, but as we all know – common sense isn’t really common.

The other pitfall is cockiness. Maybe 10 years ago you had amazing customer service, but just because you’re doing things the same way doesn’t mean that you’re still doing great. Technologies change and customers want or expect different things. This is similar to complacency, but with the added arrogance. If you’re in this phase, you better hope you realize it soon and get out of it!

Being an expert is about confidence and learning. It’s a way to showcase what makes you unique, and making what you do more enjoyable. You dont need to start a new company or get a new job to do this – work on it today. Start leveraging your strengths and make a difference.


Book Review: StrengthsFinder 2.0

Whenever we work on enhancing ourselves, we always look at the deficiencies – I’m not a great public speaker so I’ll make sure to do x presentations this year, or I’m not great with design programs so I’ll sign up for an adobe course. Those are uphill battles that require a strong resolve and a lot of commitment. Why do we put ourselves through that?

Maybe it all started when we were younger. We received praise for what we did well, but more attention was placed on what we failed or were mediocre at. Parents look at a report card and say “Good job on the A- in Science, but you really need to work harder on that D in English … lets get you a tutor and you should stay after school for extra sessions.” Why not send that child to science program after school or in the summer?

A lot of emphasis is put on becoming better in things that we are not good at it and/or not interested in, and very little time is spent on nurturing our strengths. Does that really make a lot of sense? Decathletes may be the best all around athletes in the world, but it is extremely rare for them to be at an elite level in anything. I bet you know Usain Bolt, but do you know Decathlon WR holder?

We should strive at becoming remarkable.

StrengthsFinder 2.0 is about understanding what your strengths are, and how to nurture them and use them to your advantage. This is done through an online test that asks 180 comparison questions that will list your 5 unique ‘themes’ or strengths in the order of which you’re strongest at.

The book itself is worthless. Out of the 174 pages, the first 31 give you a background of why you should know your strengths, about the test, and to help get you in the right mindset. The rest of the book is just fluff goes into detail about all 34 themes. This doesn’t matter because:

1) You can download that all off the website as a pdf file

2) We’re only worried about our Top 5 strengths, not everything else.

Unfortunately, you need to buy the book to get the access code listed in the back in order to take the test online. The results are downloadable as a pdf as well, which includes personalized insights based on your answers, some questions to increase your awareness, and then a worksheet for you to create an action plan.

That said – I highly suggest this book. The results I received, in order of preference were:

  • Strategic
  • Ideation
  • Futuristic
  • Activator
  • Command

These results match both my MBTI (ENTP) and Belbin (Plant), which are profiles that are highly innovative and idea generators, thinking of possibilities and the future.

The purpose of knowing your strengths is that you can then feed them more, and also find ways to use them at your job and make your work more enjoyable. The action plan is a nice way to plan how to use and enhance your strengths, and personalized insights lets you reflect on how you use your strength. I’ve taken a lot of psychometric type tests over the past few years so this was nothing new, but I would definitely suggest it to anyone who is unsure of their strengths or is unhappy with their job and looking for ways to become energized.