We’ve all lived through the chore of answering a bunch of questions about ourselves and then waiting in anticipation for what the algorithm churns out as our way of thinking, behaving, or being. There is a sense of affirmation when you read something that supports your vision of whom you want to be. Then we skim over bits that don’t seem to fit our view – it’s not a perfect science after all, is it?
From the side-lines, as I see the anticipation and eventual ghosting of some profiles, there is a sense of an opportunity lost. There are so many gains that could have been made with some simple strategies.
So, let’s start at the beginning, you’ve taken your personality profile, now what?
For starters, you should now have an instinctive understanding of yourself described in words that are easy for others to understand and discuss with you.
For example, that wall that seems to come up when last-minute changes are asked for can be explained better in terms of a strong need for a plan and getting things completed. The challenge that you seem to put across to every new idea is better understood when seen through the lens of your analytical and logical needs. Labels help you structure conversations for development, progression, better teamwork, and higher effectiveness.
We have already advanced, but we arrive at another crossroad, the question arises, do we file it and move on or use your understanding of yourself for your growth? If you choose the growth path, here are three strategies that work to give you some clear actions:
1. Setting the context: The where, what & why of your journey
Where are you in your career journey, and what are you looking for as you go ahead? How does this vision align with the strengths that you see in yourself?
Without a clear vision of where you want to go, the focus automatically goes to the low scores as areas of development. This is also possibly the least productive place to focus your attention. Where you want to go and why it essential to you, seen in the context of your behaviours and strengths, help you identify the right goals to work towards and accomplish.
For example, you got a really low score on an item that measures the desire to be around numbers, work on it if you want to lead a business, but you could just let it be if your only love is to paint murals.
Similarly, at different levels of the organization, you may need different things. Your ability to roll up your sleeves and get something done with your involvement may be desired for at one level but may impede your team’s effectiveness as you lead your team.
Context is king. So once you have the contextual background, you can dive into the report to start setting some goals.
2. Read between the lines
Look at your strengths and acknowledge them to yourself. Take your time to appreciate your strengths and the achievements they bring to you as we don’t do this often enough.
The more you understand your strengths, where they show up and where they don’t, what triggers them and what keeps them at bay, the more you will be able to leverage them and expand their use.
Your strength in logical thinking doesn’t just allow you to analyse information on your project accurately, perhaps it also shows up when you need to help your team think of loopholes in the implementation plan? Your love for being around people makes coming to work enjoyable but could also allow you to socialize ideas and increase your influence.
As you understand your strengths deeper, also think of how that strength impacts others and their perception of you. A strength that reads ‘flexible and open to change’ to you could be seen as ‘unable to commit’ by the team around you. Do the people around you see ‘adaptability’ as strength like you do or do they see you as someone with no clear perspective?
The goals you set around your strengths could be focussed on expanding their use in more situations or managing how that strength interacts with those around you. As strengths are built on foundations of strong preferences, these are the goals that will help you progress towards your ‘context’. For example, can you use your strength in analytical thinking to increase your ability to influence? You could set a goal to create pockets of expertise that people can count on or to share that expertise and build a reputation of trust and credibility.
A group of emerging leaders I worked with recently was shocked that the majority of the goals we jointly set for their development came from strengths and not ‘low scores’ on their profile.
Moreover, yes, we do need to look at things that may include an area of development, but doing it as the last step avoids our energy getting sucked into this black hole.
3. Tackling your weaknesses: Look out for the black hole.
Just because you have a ‘low score’ or a potential area of development doesn’t mean it deserves your attention. Look at your goals, where you want to go and then see if this area is getting in the way. If it is, then make a plan to manage it, and if it isn’t, park it away for now. As a recent client of mine, if your profile shows a low score on your desire to be surrounded by people, and you are a founder of a firm, needing to network and share your ideas with a broader community, this might be something you want to work towards. However, if you look at the workspace around you and think that you’re doing just fine, move on to something that will create impact.
Numerous studies point to leadership, and personal effectiveness is built on the foundation of knowing yourself and your key strengths. A McKinsey led research indicated to the use of signature strengths and having self-awareness as crucial elements of thriving at work and in life (Barsh, Mogelof, & Webb, 2010).
A similar theme can be found in the work of Donald Clifton, the father of strengths-based psychology. His focus on why people excelled versus the traditional approach of looking at what was wrong with them, brought him to the strengths based approach. A quote from him summarises the need to know and use your strengths aptly. “What great leaders have in common is that each truly knows his or her strengths – and can call on the right strength at the right time” — explaining why there is no definitive list of characteristics that describes all leaders.
It is telling that no study points to working on each area of development as the key to personal or professional success. Don’t waste your energies on areas that aren’t coming your way. Unless it’s Mt Everest, ‘because it’s there’ is not reason enough to concentrate your energies on overcoming it.
With those simple strategies, you’re well on your way to use the profile you have generated to validate your strengths and create leverage towards your goals.
As you get started, you could follow the following steps:
1. Write your goals; what do you want to do in the short, medium or long term
2. Read the profile without making any notes or raising any challenges, take in what the profile is saying
3. Start a second read and identify the strengths of your profile that will help you get there.
4. Identify what might get in the way of your goals.
5. If a part of the report did not resonate with you but is bothering you, talk to someone to get their opinion. Be willing to walk away from what does not resonate. You know yourself best and perhaps the time to deal with that part of you isn’t here yet.
6. Reflect on your strengths and potential black holes. What is the impact of these on the people around you? How can you maximize your strengths and minimize your blackholes?
7. Moreover, most importantly, how will you know in 3 months that you are making progress on your goals?
A profile can be a generous gift that keeps giving, and you can relook at the profile in a few months and set some new goals to align with where you want to go and whom you want to be. Your profile could be a personal accelerator towards a recharge again!
If you don’t have a personality profile yet and are interested in exploring more about yourself, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.