This week I was asked to send a message to some people in Hong Kong who are taking part in a career development programme that uses The Strengths Book. The person running it asked me if I would share a personal story about my own strengths.
Two situations came to mind.
When I was about 25 years old, my boss called me into his office and told me he wanted me to go to Washington DC to be part of a team that was setting up a company there. My immediate reaction was, ‘I won’t know what to do.’
‘I’ve every faith in you Sally,’ he said. It was nice of him, but it did nothing to reassure me that I would be able to take on the challenge!
Then, some ten years later, after I’d joined The Economist, my boss there announced that my first assignment would be in Hong Kong for a couple of months. I had a bit more confidence in myself by then, so I did feel excited. The truth was though, I still harboured secret doubts about my own ability.
As it turned out, I did okay on both assignments. Being a connector, loving responsibility, having a strong work ethic and being energised by solving problems stood me in good stead. But back then I had no idea that these things were my strengths – I would have been more confident and enjoyed myself a lot more if I had known, because I’d have realised the experiences would allow me opportunities to do some of things I love to do and thrive in doing.
My work since those days has shown me that most people have no knowledge of the fact that they have strengths or how they can apply them to feel more capable and confident at work or in their lives.
It’s why I love running strengths workshops. It’s such a positive experience when people discover their strengths. It doesn’t matter who the person is… in the last year I’ve worked with senior partners in a professional service firm, engineers, florists, marketeers, teachers, nurses, women in prison and air traffic controllers! We’re all human and we all have strengths, and when we discover them we feel excited and energised. People always leave the strengths workshops fired up and buzzing.
The great feedback I get hits two of my other strengths too: making a difference and helping. Here’s just one example,
“Sally has a grounded and humorous approach, instantly allowing the audience to relax and feel motivated to take part in the session. Working through The Strengths Book, the group discovered ways to explore their strengths and how tapping into those can lend itself to their overall happiness. Our first session was over-subscribed, and we look forward to Sally returning to give others the opportunity to learn how to be more of themselves.”
Denise Percy, Air Traffic Control Service Lead, NATS (National Air Traffic Control Service)
If you haven’t yet thought about your own strengths, carve out some time and do it. You won’t look back.