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5. Making Your Hidden Strengths Work for You

Milo Sindell Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

So you’ve completed your Hidden Strengths assessment and learned about the twenty or so skills that fall into your middle range (if you haven’t gone online to do the assessment yet, what are you waiting for?). Don’t worry—you don’t have to work on all twenty skills at the same time. In fact, we don’t recommend it. Rather, we have provided a five-step action plan for identifying and developing the Hidden Strengths that are aligned with your current professional objectives.

At the end of your Hidden Strengths report, you will find a guide to help you think through and create your personal Hidden Strengths Development Plan. You can also find an easy-to-use worksheet that summarizes the five steps in the Appendix.

1. Find your motivation.

2. Identify your goals.

3. Choose your Hidden Strengths to develop.

4. Turn your Hidden Strengths into Learned Strengths.

5. Evaluate your progress.

Before you embark upon this Hidden Strengths journey, there is one final question you need to ask yourself: Why am I doing this? Knowing your source of motivation is what will help you to commit to the behavioral changes necessary to develop your Hidden Strengths.

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3. Identifying Your Natural Strengths, Hidden Strengths, and Weaknesses

Milo Sindell Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The most valuable information you can have is an understanding of your current abilities. With a clear view of your Natural Strengths, Weaknesses, and, especially, Hidden Strengths, you can identify where to focus your attention to help you move to the next level of your profession.

As we discussed in Chapters 1 and 2, pushing your growth and moving outside of your comfort zone are the keys to your personal and professional evolution. More often than not, it takes an event—in this case, getting critical data about where you stand—to jump-start the growth process. Gathering this information is easy to do and should be done annually to keep you on top of your game.

Several methods are available for assessing your skills, including self-assessments and 360-degree assessments. The latter tend to be more robust because they incorporate feedback from all of your stakeholders, including your managers, peers, direct reports, cross-functional partners, and customers (internal or external). In a 360-degree assessment, you might find that comments from various groups differ. For example, your peers and your manager may be harder on you than your team is. You might also find there are gaps between how you see yourself and how others perceive you. (In our experience, this is usually the case.) All of this information is valuable to your professional development.

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4. Reviewing Your Results

Milo Sindell Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

You might have a sense of what you naturally do really well, and you probably have an idea of the things you don’t do well at all, but are you aware of the range of things that you do just okay? Imagine for a moment how many of those things you could be really good at with some focus and practice.

The Hidden Strengths Assessment does the hard work of identifying your skills in the middle so you can then take the steps to developing the ones most critical to your growth. Take a look at the skill rankings for George, the head of advertising sales at a publishing company, in Figure 3. The top-scoring items (i.e., the top 20 percent) were his Natural Strengths, whereas the bottom 10 percent were his Weaknesses. The items in between represented the gold mine of opportunity that lay in the middle 70 percent: his Hidden Strengths.

Year after year, George exceeded his numbers and received the company award for recognition of outstanding work. However, he felt his lack of attention to detail was holding him back from even better performance. His Hidden Strength report revealed that Thoroughness was in fact one of his lowest-ranking skills. In his middle range of skills were Strategic Thinking and Inspirational Vision, among others. He had some really great ideas for how to move the company from medium- to top-tier territory, but he had neither the time nor the discipline to create a compelling message and road map to convince others. His lack of Thoroughness was a real deterrent to his sitting down, creating a plan, and doing the pitch, and he wasn’t delegating anyone to pick up his slack.

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2. The Four Principles of Hidden Strengths

Milo Sindell Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The rocket fuel for your development resides in your middle. With awareness, effort, and the appropriate resources, you can quickly turn Hidden Strengths into Learned Strengths. They may never come as easily to you as your Natural Strengths, but they will be equally as valuable to you and your organization.

The Hidden Strengths methodology, composed of four principles, provides an important framework for unleashing your Hidden Strengths and ensuring your ongoing professional development:

1. Leverage your traits, and develop your skills.

2. The middle is the source for your development.

3. Practice, practice, practice.

4. Always be working on your Hidden Strengths.

Being effective in the workplace requires a combination of underlying traits and skills. You are born with certain traits or talents, and they are not particularly malleable. On the other hand, skills are an adaptation to your environment. For example, if you are naturally opinionated and outspoken and grow up in an Asian culture, you learn to be quiet even though you feel the compulsion to speak. Learning to keep your mouth shut when you are naturally outspoken is a skill. The workplace often poses challenges where traits may need to be tempered or leveraged and new skills developed as a response to your organization’s needs.

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Appendix B: Hidden Strengths Development Worksheet

Milo Sindell Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Why are you doing this? By keeping what motivates you up front, you will be more dedicated and disciplined in your efforts to grow and change. The three key sources of professional motivation are security (compensation and benefits, and job security), identity (organizational and self), and stimulation (new and different experiences and gaining mastery in new skill areas). Make sure that the reasons for change are meaningful and sustainable for you.

What do you need to accomplish over the next year in order to move up? Make sure these goals are aligned with the larger company vision and strategy. Which categories of skills—Leading Self, Leading Other, Leading the Organization, or Leading Implementation—will you need to use to achieve these goals?

Look for patterns in your middle range of skills. Find a cluster of complementary skills that supports your goals over the next year. These are the Hidden Strengths that you should develop next.

Figure out the behaviors you have to change and the new behaviors you need to adopt to turn your Hidden Strengths into Learned Strengths. Talk to your manager and HR department, and do your own research. Make every interaction—meetings, calls, presentations, emails, hallway conversations, and so on—an opportunity to practice these new skills.

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