Guest Blogger – Alex Normandale

Do you remember the last time you played to your strengths? Do you remember how it made you feel? I do! Whenever I played to my strengths I felt more: empowered, engaged, productive, valued, solution focussed and, importantly, had more positive, creative and innovative moments. Our modern, volatile, highly competitive, and increasingly global fiscal environment is placing enormous pressure on all of us. We are all expected, more than ever, to do more with less, in less time and to an equal or, in most cases, a higher standard. So, it has never been more important than now to play to our strengths, feel those positive feelings, and reap the rewards of the increased innovation and creativity each and every day. Luckily, thanks to the Gallup StrengthsFinder tool, this has never been easier to achieve!

I first experienced StrengthsFinder at a recent BRS Breakfast when Mandy Smith, BRS Associate and the only StrengthsFinder Accredited Coach in South Australia, presented this concept and tool. It was a simple idea, which resonated with everyone. Initially, I was very sceptical. How can a quick survey truly map out my strengths? Even if it can, what do I do with this information both professionally and personally? How to do I improve and move forward?

Despite my initial reservations, the potential benefits were too good to ignore. Keeping an open mind, I completed the survey. To my surprise, the results were completely accurate—in particular, my top five strengths, but also my complete list of 34 strengths. My strengths were even in the order in which I would rank them myself. Yet, incredibly, there were even more striking features of this tool. One of the most impressive and useful components was its “personalised descriptions” of each strength, which outlined in detail the exact traits I have exhibited, and the intentions I have pursued, for each strength. Even more remarkable and powerful is that these personalised descriptions are tailored for each user based on their unique survey responses. On our last BRS Team Day we saw first-hand how easy and valuable it was to apply this knowledge.

Mandy ran a session with the team focusing on how we can best align our roles so that everyone is playing to their strengths  to achieve our strategic objectives and maintain a high performance culture. Ironically, yet unsurprisingly, our roles where already predominantly aligned with our strengths. However, there were areas where we could improve. The descriptions gave us a much better understanding of each team member and also enabled us to improve our methods of communication and collaboration.

After seeing the positive results from the team day, I began regular coaching with Mandy. In this setting, I was able to use StrengthsFinder’s Action Plan, which outlines activities/tasks you can do to refine your strengths. I have since seen immediate improvements in both my personal and professional life, such as greatly increased self-awareness and communication skills. The value of competency in these areas cannot be understated! Being able to identify and undertake an in-depth assessment of my strengths  has allowed me to refine them, concentrate on their positive attributes (“balcony behaviours”), confront potential adverse impacts of my strengths (“basement behaviours”) and determine how my strengths can address these impacts. We have only been working together for a month or so and I have already received positive feedback from the team about improvements I have made.

I always understood the idea and benefits of playing to my strengths—initially in childhood, then throughout university and, ultimately, in professional roles. However, only now am I able to accurately measure and harness my strengths and ensure that I am using them each day to the benefit of others around me. As they say “what gets measured, gets improved” and I am grateful for being given the opportunity to continue to learn from Mandy and play to my strengths!

If you would like further information on how you can develop your strengths, or are thinking about undertaking coaching, please contact Mandy Smith at Mandy Smith and Kym Williams will also be presenting a free afternoon seminar on Leveraging Strengths to Bid and Deliver Winning Projects on 27 August, click here to register.