What is one thing that you do better than anyone else? For some people, that may be easier to answer than others. If I asked Usain Bolt that question, I’m pretty sure he’d say that he can run faster than anyone on the planet. For most of us though, the question would prove to be quite a stumper. Try answering it for yourself. It’s not so easy, is it?
Granted, out of 7 billion people in the world, the odds of you being the absolute best at a particular something or other is pretty remote. But the point of the question is more general. What is it that you do really well? Probably better than most people you know? Knowing the answer to that question can help unlock levels of job satisfaction and engagement that you didn’t know existed.
Here are three steps you can take to understand the unique value you bring to your work and how you can stand out from the crowd.
1. Identify your strengths. Sounds pretty basic, huh? Well, it is pretty basic, but believe it or not, many people don’t have a good understanding of their strengths, weaknesses, or personality traits that help or hinder their success. Assessments such as the DISC, MBTI, Strengths Finder, or Marcus Buckingham’s newest StandOut survey can give you insight into what motivates you or how your personality preferences shape the way you perceive work experiences and “show up” to other people.
2. Understand the type of work or circumstances that best leverage your strengths and personality traits. One of my first “real” jobs was working for a popular Southern California fast food chain. I lasted one shift. The reason? My supervisor drilled into me the importance of following all the rules to the letter and corrected me whenever I deviated from them, yet he would go into the back of the kitchen and smoke a cigarette whenever he wanted (clearly in violation of the rules). I knew that I would never be happy working for a boss who didn’t display integrity in his actions. For me to be at my best, I need to be surrounded by people who have honorable values and strive to live up to those values.
One way to identify situations where you’ll thrive is to make a list of all the times where you’ve felt “in the flow” – those instances where you’ve been so absorbed in your work that you’ve lost track of time. What are the commonalities among those experiences? It might take a little digging and analysis, but you can probably find some themes running through those experiences. Perhaps it’s the type of people you worked with. Or maybe there was an element of problem-solving involved. Maybe it was the opportunity for you to use certain skills, like writing, teaching, or public speaking. Whatever the theme may be, it’s a clue to what really engages you and prepares you to take step #3 below.
3. Intentionally seek your “sweet spot.” Your “sweet spot” is that place where you find fulfillment in your work. You have two basic choices when it comes to identifying your sweet spot. The first is to leave it up to chance. You can hope that you stumble upon the type of job that is a good match for your personality and skills. Not a good option. The second choice is to actively look for situations that are a good match for what you bring to the table. Take what you’ve learned in steps 1 and 2 and apply it to your current situation. If you’re in a job that’s a complete mismatch for your personality and strengths, begin to put a plan together for how you can transition to something more in alignment with your natural gifts. If you’re in a job you like, but need a little more pizzazz in your work, map out new projects, tasks, or areas of responsibility that could benefit from the application of your strengths.
Discovering your strengths and learning how to use them in combination with your personality traits is an evolutionary journey. It doesn’t happen overnight and sometimes there is a lot of trial and error involved. However, taking a purposeful and introspective look into yourself and following these three steps can put you on the path toward finding a higher level of fulfillment and success in your work.
Randy Conley is the Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies and his LeaderChat posts appear the last Thursday of every month. For more insights on trust and leadership, visit Randy at his Leading with Trust blog or follow him on Twitter @RandyConley.