Define and Invest in your Strengths

By Doreen Watt posted 08-08-2017 16:04


It’s your strengths that brought you this far, and engaging in deliberate practice to enhance those strengths or overcome weaknesses will lead you solidly into the future.  What do law firms looking for in technology employees?  I asked Esther Schwabauer, Director of Administration at Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP and she shared the strengths Vorys looks for in a new technology employee.  “The employee must have the ability to speak, listen and write effectively.  They need to be flexible and adaptable and a quick learner.  They must possess a high stress tolerance level and good decision making skills.  They need to have the ability to teach and coach others.”   These strengths apply to the employee regardless of technical certifications and proficiencies the employee possesses and/or the position the employee is seeking.

Charles Sinnett, in his book, The Extraordinary Law Firm, devotes 13 pages to the topic of what makes law firms different in the context of creating an exceptional place to work.  The creation of an exceptional employee starts with the employee.   It starts with how well the employee knows their strengths and weaknesses and how willing they are to build upon and invest in their strengths.  How willing they are to work to overcome or learn ways to compensate for a weakness.

There are many methods someone might take to conduct a personal inventory to either discover new areas of strength or enhance existing knowledge of their strengths. I think it is beneficial to have several lenses from which to conduct a personal inventory of your strengths.  Each assessment provides a different lens.  Many assessments that help a person discover and understand strengths will also provide awareness to weaknesses.  I’ve listed several methods below a person might use to conduct a personal inventory.

  • Use a tool.   (There is a list of free tools at the end of this post)

Some tools will help you understand your personality and/or character traits.  You may need to dig deeper into what those tools tell you to translate these into actionable items that will help you build upon or enhance each strength.  You may have already taken some of the assessments listed.  As a result, you may already be aware of some strength.  Use that information as a starting point to dig deeper.  For example, you may already know what  myers-briggs type you are.  Start with that information and use the opportunity to take that information and determine how that manifests or creates a strength.   If you know you are an introvert, how has that manifested in a strength?  Perhaps by being an introvert, you don’t like to speak up in meetings but you do provide detailed feedback after a meeting. How can you enhance that strength?  Maybe you can review the agenda beforehand and provide feedback before a meeting.  We also tend to think of our strengths in relation to our current position.  I’d encourage you think of your strengths in terms of portable skills.  Then apply them back to your current position.  It will give you a fresh look at actions you can take to enhance that strength in your current position. 

  • Conduct a personal SWOT

In a SWOT analysis, inventory is taken of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  This is frequently undertaken by organizations to assess the company’s overall strengths and weaknesses as well as their external opportunities and threats to better position them for the future.  A personal SWOT analysis can guide you in creating an action plan for investing in strengths and/or engaging in deliberate practice to overcome a weakness.

Think about strengths as assets.  What is it you do well? These things we tend to do more of because we are good at doing them so we do them more.

Weaknesses are areas for improvement, or areas we understand are weaknesses and want develop strengths that will minimize their effect.  Strengths and weaknesses can sometimes be flip sides of the same coin.  Strength of ‘looking at the big picture’ could also manifest as a weakness in ‘inability to see the details’.  Understanding how strengths and weaknesses interplay will help you recognize the weakness, or help you see the strength. 

Opportunities are ways to amplify strengths and improve weaknesses. 

Threats will keep you from focusing on continued development of a strength.     

  • Perform a ‘gap’ analysis.

You can do this between the position you are in and a position you would like to be in.  Some Firms have succession plans and these can be a good tool in working through a GAP analysis and looking at specific ways you can enhance your strengths to position yourself to be ready for the next step.  It can also be an analysis of a weakness that you would like to overcome.  Once you’ve identified what you want, you can then break that down into actionable steps to get you there. 

  • Work with an external source.

Find a trusted co-worker or mentor to discuss your strengths and help you brainstorm ways to develop them even more.  In a comfortable, safe environment, ask tough questions. If they have been in position to observe your strengths, ask them how you can amplify that strength.   If they’ve observed a weakness, ask them to help you think about how to overcome or mitigate that weakness.  Maybe they can help you identify blind spots.  If working within your organization isn’t comfortable, think about engaging a peer at another organization.  (ILTA is a good place to identify and engage a peer).

This can also be a beneficial exercise after you’ve identified strengths and weaknesses you would like to work with. Engage that person in brainstorming actionable steps you can take. 

Honesty with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses is powerful not only in accepting where you are today but identifying what needs work for where you want to be tomorrow.  It requires more effort to work on a weakness rather than strength because we’re already good at our strengths, and it require less effort to do something you are already proficient or good at than it does to work on a weakness.   What actionable steps can you take to turn the good strength into a great strength?

The same goes for working on a weakness.  It’s not enough to say, I’d like to get better at dealing with conflict. Dig deeper to identify specifically what you want to improve upon and then the actionable steps to take to get you to where you would like to be. 

The exercise attached is provides an opportunity to focus on what specific steps you can take when working to overcome a weakness.  Start by identifying three weaknesses you want to work on.  Then think about how the weaknesses hold you back.  With that information identified, you can spend some time brainstorming the actions you could take to overcome each weakness.  Although the exercise has you identify three, choose one at a time to work on.

I have used the exercise to help me overcome a weakness and still use it to keep myself focused on actionable steps. As I stated earlier, I think investing in a strength, at the same time you work on a weakness is a good practice to engage in to keep in balance.

Strengths Assessments

Strengths Finder 2.0

The Enneagram

DISC Personality test

Carl Jung’s and Isabel Briggs Myers’ personality type theory

VIA Institute on Character

Truity Site

Here is an exercise you can use to enhance your strengths and overcome your weaknesses: