What Are You Best At?

If this question has you stumped, you’re not alone.  Most of us don’t take the time to figure out what we’re good at, never mind best.

Someone asked this of me recently and it made me realize I had not seriously thought about it for a long time.  Unfortunately I only came to that realization after babbling on for a couple of minutes.  Not long after that conversation I read a great book on recruitment that led me to add two questions* to my interviews:

1) What are you really good at professionally?

2) What are you not good at or not interested in doing professionally?

Having just had the experience of not truly knowing the answer yet feeling obligated to come up with a response helped me to recognize this state in some of my candidates.  Test your own self-awareness.  Approach someone you trust and try to tell them in a dozen words or less what you excel at. Then ask them if you appear to be working in alignment with your strengths.

The Payoff

In my last post I talked about using goals to add backbone to time management decisions. The real payoff comes when your goals are in alignment with what you do best.

Completing this exercise clarified my career path and – as hokey as it might sound – it’s reduced the power of some of the pressures I’ve been putting on myself.  Check back with me in six months.  I’m betting my deliverables will show the difference.

Resources for Strengths Based Living

Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham – The author advocates for organizations to start building teams based on strengths and stop throwing training and resources at weaknesses

How Great Leaders Inspire Action – Simon Sinek, the author of “Start with Why” (a TED video)

Organic Team Building – My take on accessing and building on the strengths of the collective

*Interview questions courtesy of “Who – The A Method for Hiring” by Smart and Street

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13 comments

  1. I’m really enjoying the theme/design of your website. Do you ever run into
    any web browser compatibility problems? A handful of my blog audience
    have complained about my blog not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Opera.
    Do you have any ideas to help fix this issue?

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    1. Hi campervans, the sad truth is your website will render differently and sometimes in unexpected ways depending on which browser and device type your readers use. My suggestion is to choose a theme that is responsive so you have a fighting chance to keep your readers happy. It won’t solve every compatibility issue, but it will help.

      Like

  2. Thank you Susan, this is my first time reading your blog and I found it both insightful and informative. I am challenging myself with this exercise after my department head of almost nine years resigned. I find myself having to redefine my skill set for others and oddly enough even for myself.

    I think I was better at this before I became a seasoned professional, now I am just “stuck”. Any thoughts? Many thanks
    AW

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    1. Hi AW,

      What you’re describing makes perfect sense. The more experienced we get, the more we tend to focus on repeating what has made us successful in the past (what we’ve become good at doing) rather than stepping back to assess whether we’re leveraging strengths (what we could be great at doing).

      Here are a few questions you can use to reacquaint yourself with your strengths:
      – What am I ridiculously good at?
      – The last time you were so engrossed in your work that you lost all track of time, what were you doing?
      – What part of your job would you willingly do for free?

      If you’re responsible for a department, this can be an excellent exercise to do together as a way of creating opportunity and redistributing workload.

      I hope this is helpful. Feel free to write again and share how you’re making out.

      Susan

      Like

  3. Lorrie Syms · · Reply

    Thanks Susan! Your article really made me think, and provided some good insight. Here’s what I came up with:

    1) What are you really good at professionally? I am really good at organizing things, especially events. I’ve only done it a few times, but each event has been more successful than the last, and I love every minute of it.

    2) What are you not good at or not interested in doing professionally? I’m not good at mechanics or physical labor and I’m not interested in filing, or other consistently repetitive tasks.

    Like

    1. Hi Lorrie –

      Good that you’re able to offer answers to those two important questions. They’re quite powerful. If you keep working with them, you may find your responses actually contain answers within answers. In coaching parlance we would say ‘keep asking why or what else until you start to peel back the layers of the onion’. There’s no substitute for deep self awareness when we’re at a crossroads or seeking to add a new element to life.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Susan

      Like

  4. What are you not good at or not interested in doing professionally?

    Can you please tell me what were the responces for the proposed question. I think it’s a great question that requires some thought.

    Like

    1. Hello Bob,
      Some candidates are unable to answer this question. That turns out to be useful as it reveals where they are in their development of self awareness or their ability to be completely candid. Those who do answer, reveal very valuable information about what will make them happy in their next role. For instance, if I’m interviewing someone for an account management role and they say they prefer not to work at an extreme detail level, that will help me assess their candidature against the portfolio that’s currently open. Another thing I’ve heard is a desire to never work alone in an office again. After having tried it, some people use that as an example of something they don’t want to repeat.

      How would you answer that question, Bob?

      Like

  5. Thanks for the article. – it can be difficult to figure out what you’re best at, especially when one decends from a long line of overachievers..ahem. For the better part of my career, my perspective was, “I can do that”, shifting to fill any gap leadership identified- no matter how temporary or ultimately trivial (says the girl who learned to play the oboe in six weeks so her band teacher would be able to include his favorite piece in the winter concert). Ive learned that I naturally speak techy (convinced I’m really an immigrant from techlandia with collective consciousness memories of my native tongue), and that I’m a fabulous teacher with long-suffering patience. I also have this crazy House-like near-eidetic memory for medical information. And, Ta-Da! I landed a job as an RN business analyst and training/ deployment specialist building and installing electronic medical records. In the words of Mr. T, “I love it when a plan comes together.” well, time to put my ego to bed. …. Thanks again. Delaney

    Like

    1. Delaney,
      Fabulous career path! Congratulations on developing such astute self awareness. And don’t put your ego to bed. Confidence powers us over hurdles so we can forge new roadways.
      Susan

      ps – 10 points for eclectic thinking. Medical terminology and Mr. T all in the same thought. My hat’s off to you. :)

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  6. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Susan Wright-Boucher, torontotalent. torontotalent said: What Are You Best At?: http://t.co/4yawcYr [...]

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  7. erica enstrom · · Reply

    Hi Susan,
    I’ve been enjoying your blog posts immensely. Having just finished “Now, Discover Your Strengths” myself I have spent much time in introspection, considering my strengths. I also have realized that we do spend far too much time trying to bridge skill gaps, when maybe we (as managers, leaders, employers) would be better off trying to ensure best fit bewteen candidates’/employees’ strengths and the jobs they fill. It would mean increased job satisfaction for many, I’m sure.

    I would say Buckingham’s advice is best illustrated with the ven diagram that shows the intersection of what you’re good at, what you love, and what brings value (to society, the organization, etc.) I am fortunate enough to say I’m sitting in that “sweet spot” right now.

    Keep up the great writing!

    Like

    1. Erica,
      Thanks so much for kind words — and for sharing your experience with discovering your strengths. I would love to connect with you to compare notes on recruiting with strengths in mind. We should be able to create stronger organizations using this principle.

      Like

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