Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mindfulness of your Strengths, Strength Finder 2.0 - Part I

In the past few years I've been including the Strength Finder 2.0 test in my training and consulting sessions. I have found knowing clients’ talents and Strengths to be quite valuable in helping them create solutions to enhance their outcomes. As the Strength Finder 2.0 promises, living through strength rather than weakness enhances handling day to day interactions and tasks as well as creating a more fulfilling work-context. Knowing my own natural talents and Strengths has certainly worked wonders for me. I no longer obsess about what I'm not good at, rather I employ my Strengths to work with every situation effectively and with ease. I've also learned that these identified Strengths work the same way as any tool might and that we cannot rely on them as an all purpose tool.
For example, when it's time for me to get home I would use my car as the tool to get me there, and when I arrive at home I need a different tool, a key, to open the house door. Obviously, if I were to use the same tool that helped me arrive there, the vehicle, to open the door it could cause a lot of damage to the door and the walls and prove to be the worst “tool” to use. It works in the same way if we are not aware when we are being in a specific Strength, such as let’s say the “Includer” Strength, which is my own top second Strength. The Includer does not like to exclude. Everyone has to be included, and she can easily sense gaps between the haves and the have-nots and has a lot of tolerance for diversity, etc. This Strength is very useful to me when I am teaching a class or running a meeting. I am quickly able to sense who may not be included and make sure everyone's voice has been heard. However, I have found myself needing to include people without considering the appropriateness of it. The more I have worked to notice and be aware that I am naturally and automatically doing that, the more I've been able to exclude those that need to be excluded without feeling uncomfortable about it. This has helped me cultivate healthy boundaries without judging myself for having the Strength of “Includer”.
Other Strengths need more explicit skills such as the “Strategic” Theme To be effective as a Strategic Theme, one needs to learn the "how-to" of developing strategies, i.e. learn how to do a SWOT analysis. We cultivate these natural talents by accumulating skills needed so that we could utilize them effectively and in a timely manor.
Working with various clients regarding their Strengths has been an interesting journey. Some turn out to be quite skeptical about their Strength Finder test results and others quite excited. Some relate to them right away by identifying their past experiences through the lens of their Strengths and others struggle quite a bit. Some managers think that simply because they know their employees' Strengths, all they need to do is to place them in the right position and the person will perform magically well. They go through the process with certain expectations and often face the fact that it doesn't quite work the way they thought it should. The fact of the matter is that even though our Strengths have great influence on the quality of our performance and experience, there are several other factors that influence the purity, sharpness or power of our Strengths. These factors include faulty perceptions, lack of skill to use the talent, which means it has not become a Strength yet and lack of awareness that the person is actually in one or more of their Strength modes. Here are three ways we can enhance the quality and outcome of our Strengths:

Three Ways To Enhance Your Top Five Strengths:
  1. Mindfulness: The first factor is mindful awareness. It is important to be aware of ourselves when we are actually exhibiting our strengths. Lack of awareness of our own mental processes and what drives our behavior negatively impacts the success of our top five Strengths. For this, you have to practice awareness of thoughts, perceptions, bodily sensations and our reactions to circumstances as they arise. The ways you can cultivate mindfulness include: Mindfulness meditation and applying a mindfulness training in your daily activities... See Thich Nhat Hanh's daily mindfulness Gathas. If you can't find it through Google, let us know and we will send it to you.
  2. Practice: The second factor is to evaluate your Strengths and note if they are really strong or still in the stages of developing as merely core-talents. In the book, "Outliers", the author indicates that one of the most important factors that contributed to the people of extraordinary talents (the outliers) and made them successful is an enormous amount of time in practice. 10,000 hours of practice is what their studies have shown to distinguish a genius from an ordinary talent. Their studies include geniuses such as Mozart, Steve Jobs and the Beatles. For all these characters a crucial element to their success was the opportunities they found and/or created to put their talents into practice. Then suddenly the tipping point happened and they became noticed for their skill and talent. Of course, this is not to suggest that we all have to become geniuses and extraordinary off the chart people. However, by knowing our core-talents we can become the best at the one thing we can do that no one can do better than us. “Practice makes perfect.” The opposite is also true. When we do things unskillfully, we can create harm and conflict instead of success and well-being. An example would be, a person who possesses the Strength of “Individuation” (who is able to see the potential in human diversity and identify best placement for employees). If the person is not skilled at this Strength, she may make comments to others about their uniqueness in a way that may seem critical and judgmental rather than encouraging and acknowledging. Knowing your top five Strength types is one thing, having consciously practiced them is another.
  3. Using the Right-Tool at the Right-Time, Right-Context: Assuming that our Strengths are all-purpose tools, and that when we are in them we are happy, productive, and successful and can resolve any issue can be a pitfall. The reality is that there are many other tools, both soft and hard-skill tools that one needs to develop for these top five Strengths to manifest properly. One of these soft-skill tools is having healthy boundaries, as I explained in an example above. Another aspect of this would be right-time, right-context. An example of this would be if a person with the “Woo” Strength (who's aspect is the talent to inspire others) keeps wooing people without the tool of healthy boundaries or at the wrong time with wrong people. They can run into a lot of problems when wooing the wrong people or the right people at the wrong time. It takes awareness and skillfulness in order to utilize your top five strengths properly.
For consultation and Mindful Strength Finder training contact us at: info@mindfulbusinessinstitute.com or visit: http://mindfulbusinessinstitute.com
For Mindfulness training and classes visit: http://mindfulvalley.org

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