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6. Leading Your Evolution

Milo Sindell Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

If there’s only one thing you take from this book, we hope it is this: You are so much more than what comes naturally to you. Within you lies a gold mine of Hidden Strengths just waiting to be unleashed. Don’t discount this treasure trove of opportunity lying just beneath the surface. With awareness and dedication, you can leverage these Hidden Strengths to continually reach new levels of performance and success.

Did you know that self-awareness is a key factor in high-performance and long-term career success?12 According to a study by the Korn/Ferry Institute, one way we frequently undermine our potential is by being ignorant of our skills. By taking a narrow view of our capabilities and relying too much on skills we’ve had for many years, we can become “obsolete.”13 Don’t keep your Hidden Strengths hidden. Assessments, feedback, and practice can help you realize your potential to improve. This ongoing evolution is the cornerstone of the Hidden Strengths methodology.

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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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1. What Are Hidden Strengths?

Milo Sindell Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

When we are faced with a new challenge—playing a new game, building a new relationship, or getting a promotion—we usually rely on what we consider our strengths. And why not? Shouldn’t what has worked for us in the past work in the future?

On the other end of the skill spectrum, however, we tend to get mired in futile attempts to fix things and improve the skills that are our true weaknesses. Our glaring shortcomings become the most obvious targets for improvement. Why is it so easy to focus on the extremes—our strengths and weaknesses—and overlook the gold that lies in the middle? This book is about what lies between what you are already great at and what you are inherently just not good at doing: your Hidden Strengths. These underdeveloped skills are your richest resources for growth.

In our experience working with hundreds of leaders, we have identified twenty-eight skills that are necessary to achieve professional success (see Chapter 3). What we have also found is that for each person, these twenty-eight skills fall into three buckets: Natural Strengths, Weaknesses, and Hidden Strengths (Figure 1).

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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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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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