How do we clarify our strengths?

This can be tricky, I remember when I first started exploring my strengths I found it really tough.  I’d not been brought up to recognise what I was good at, the emphasis was always on how I could do better.  I remember scoring 98% in a maths exam and being asked ‘What was the 2% you got wrong?’  That coupled with a career in learning and development where I was trained to focus on ‘development areas’ resulted in me losing sight of my natural strengths and becoming more and more exhausted with hearing the same old ‘areas for development’ during performance reviews.  Sound familiar? Discovering that playing to our strengths was far more beneficial to both performance and wellbeing was a definitive moment for celebration!  

I now know my strengths to include; empathetic, collaborative, organised, analytical, responsible

When I first learned most of these during a team strengths discovery session, I was disappointed.  They sounded really normal and dull.  I wanted others in my team to say things like; adventurous, creative, inspiring. The value in that session though was hearing from my colleagues what they really valued about my strengths, the difference that I bring to the team and the positive impact that could have.  I also now recognise that those I desired are often strengths I value in others and which compliment my own.  

How can you begin to clarify your strengths?

  • Notice when you’ve been doing something and you’ve totally lost track of time. What were you doing? What elements did you enjoy? What specifically energised you? 
  • What role do you tend to play in your circle of friends? What do you volunteer for? Why?
  • Ask your friends and work colleagues what they value in you. Gather their thoughts, look for common themes, sense check; do you enjoy it? Are you energised by it? 
  • Use a strengths card sort to identify key strengths that resonate with you and sense check with friends and colleagues (

Here’s an example of a ‘strengths dictionary’ too Source: THE STRENGTHS FOCUSED GUIDE TO LEADERSHIP By Mike Roarty & Kathy Toogood

Thinking Strengths 

Analytical Thinking  – Using logic, objectivity and critical thinking. 

Common sense – Taking a practical down to earth approach to thinking through challenges. 

Creativity – Coming up with new and innovative ideas. 

Curiosity –  Interested to seek out new ideas, ways of thinking and facts. 

Detail Focus – Focusing on the specific facts and details in a situation. 

Reflection – Thinking things through in depth on one’s own. 

Strategic Thinking – Focusing on the longer term, bigger picture view; seeing patterns and themes across current and future challenges. 

Emotional Strengths 

Courage – Taking on difficult and challenging situations. 

Drive – The motivation to push forward with challenges and goals. 

Emotional awareness –  Being aware in the now of one’s own and other’s emotions. 

Emotional balance –  Remaining calm in varied circumstances. 

Enthusiasm – Having energy and passion. 

Optimism – Seeing the best possibilities in any situation. 

Persistence – Sticking at it regardless of the challenges. 

Resilience – Handling continuous pressure in one’s stride and bouncing back positively. 

Self-confidence – A strong belief in oneself and one’s ability. 

Communicating & Influencing Strengths 

Collaboration – Working well with others in joint endeavours. 

Communicator – Communicating ideas effectively to others face to face. 

Developer – Developing others well. 

Empathy – Recognising and appreciating the emotions of others. 

Fairness – Treating every individual fairly. 

Harmony – Creating harmony and positive feelings in others. 

Humour – Generating humour and fun in a way that enables effective interactions. 

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