If you want to thrive in a business leadership role, you must understand which of your unique qualities give you an edge. Taking inventory of the characteristics that help you succeed in a business setting can allow you to consciously use them more often, be more productive, enjoy your work more and inspire your team to do the same.
Here are some key reasons why understanding your strengths is important for successful business leadership, along with a few techniques to help you make the most of those strengths.
Why Knowing Your Strengths Is Important for Leadership
Gallup research indicates that leaders who know and use their strengths are nearly eight times more productive, six times as likely to be engaged at work, six times more likely to produce better work and three times more likely to have a better quality of life than those who do not.1 The benefits of knowing your strengths are cyclical: When you’re producing better work, your engagement increases, which in turn helps you be more productive and maintain a high quality of work.
Conversely, the dangers of not knowing your strengths include:
- Focusing your time and effort on projects to which your contributions don’t reach their fullest potential
- An increased likelihood of making critical mistakes
- Reduced motivation and job satisfaction, which can negatively impact the quality of your work and trickle down into your team members’ engagement
- Missing out on opportunities to contribute meaningfully to your organization
Business leaders who understand and use their strengths have an 89 percent higher incidence of above-average performance compared to those who don’t, Gallup reports.2 Knowing your strengths can help you avoid burnout and keep your engagement level high.
Ways to Discover Your Strengths
There are many ways to learn more about yourself and discover which of your abilities most benefit your work environment. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
Take an assessment. There are many free and paid online self-assessments that can provide a comprehensive profile of your business strengths with insights about how to best use them in a leadership position. One free, basic option is the VIA Institute on Character test.3 A popular paid options is the CliftonStrengths test, which is based on decades of research about companies across the country.1
Talk with a manager or mentor. Speak with someone who has directly observed your work and has seen how you interact in teams and as a supervisor. A former manager can give you great insight, while a conversation with your current supervisor can lead to more opportunities to demonstrate your strengths. A mentor who knows you outside of the work environment can also provide a unique perspective.
Ask your team for feedback. Set up an anonymous survey (try a free tool such as Google Forms) and ask those whom you work with and supervise what they think your strengths are.4 Responders can be more honest with their feedback when the survey is anonymous. Asking for input shows your team you care about continuous improvement—for yourself and your workplace.
Work with a coach. Business coaches work with a variety of professionals and can offer objective, expert advice about how to identify and use your strengths to their fullest extent. If you have specific business goals, a coach can help you create a strategy based on your strengths to help you achieve them.
These are just a few ways you can work toward a better understanding of your strengths. Try using multiple methods to identify patterns so you can hone in on your true top attributes and abilities.
How to Apply Your Strengths in Leadership Roles
Once you’ve pinpointed your strengths, strive to use them as often as possible in your leadership role:
Communicate with your manager. Discuss your strengths with your manager and ask for responsibilities that enable you to use them. If you’ve taken an online assessment or worked with a business coach, bring your results to a meeting so you can create a personalized action plan.
Set goals. Create benchmarks for observing the impact of your focused strengths on the quality of your work by setting measurable goals and monitoring your progress. For example, if you discover that your top three strengths are communication, empathy and focus, check in with yourself on a weekly basis to identify how you used each strength throughout the week. If a particular strength was used on a certain work project, take time to gauge how it impacted that project specifically. Another way to monitor the impact of your strengths is to use team surveys or follow-up meetings with managers and mentors about your progress. Always strive to improve.
Don’t ignore weaknesses. While focusing on your strengths is key to thriving in leadership, you should also acknowledge weaknesses and work to improve on them. When you are aware of potential areas for improvement, you can honestly talk about them with your manager, and you can identify team members who possess strengths in those areas and delegate responsibilities that make your team more well rounded.
Bring Out the Strengths in Your Team Members
Knowing and using strengths is not just important for business leaders; you can also increase the productivity and quality of your direct reports by helping them recognize their own strengths, too. Working on strengths as a team increases engagement—which is ultimately great for business. Here are some ways to get started:
Do a strengths assessment as a team. Make discovering strengths a team-building exercise. When people get their results, share them among the group to improve their understanding of each other and the role that each plays within the organization.
Have one-on-one conversations. Just like you might talk with a manager, mentor or coach about your strengths, having a conversation with each team member about their strengths can be quite beneficial. Ask for their ideas about how they can use their strengths effectively. Do your best to give them tasks or shape their roles based on their strengths.
Check in on progress. Once you’ve worked with your team to identify everyone’s strengths, check in regularly about how this newfound recognition is improving their work experience. Ask them if they feel like they’re using their strengths and if they have any ideas for improving their own areas of weakness.
Knowing the strengths of your team members enables you to better delegate responsibilities and create more effective teams for projects that require diverse strengths.
Introspection Creates Better External Results
The fast-paced world of business can put pressure on leaders to focus only on numbers. But by taking the time to look inside, discover your strengths and put them to use, productivity and results can skyrocket.
The University of Kansas School of Business is helping the next generation of business leaders discover and use their strengths in a variety of settings. Learn about KU’s online MBA program and how it can help take your career to the next level.
1. Retrieved on August 27, 2018, from gallupstrengthscenter.com/
2. Retrieved on August 27, 2018, from media.gallup.com/documents/whitepaper--investinginstrengths.pdf
3. Retrieved on August 27, 2018, from viacharacter.org4 Retrieved on August 27, 2018, from google.com/forms/about/