Posted by: christopherfeld | April 6, 2011

Create a portrait of you at your best

In our society we tend to get “feedback” on all that we do. Yes, it is important to shore up our weaknesses, but if you are very weak in one area, a great deal of practice may help you to be mediocre at best. On the other hand we each have unique strengths, and how often do we work on our strengths? Many of us aren’t even aware of our strengths.

Thus, this post will offer an exercise for you to learn about your strengths, and to develop a portrait of you at your best. In doing so, you will be better able to focus on what you are good at, and become even better (techniques based on Dr. Brad Agle’s class lectures).

Learning About Your Strengths

Here are some suggestions to learn about your strengths.

Create an email that requests feedback. Compose a message that asks for your friends, loved ones, and those closest to you (co-workers, etc) for feedback. The message should tell the recipients why you are doing this: to help you learn about strengths so you can build upon them. Ask for specifics of when they noticed you performing at your best. Ask for four specific examples. To get it back in a timely way, ask for it by a certain date.

Identify the Recipients. As mentioned above, create a list. You will want around 20 people to have a diverse range of responses. The more the better.

Send a Follow-up Email. If you don’t hear back after a while, send a courteous follow up email. People are busy and would appreciate a kind reminder.

Analyze Trends. Read through your responses. As you read through them, begin to create categories that sum up a theme from the response i.e. Creative — “Joe always makes the most creative cookies.” Next to each category also include the specific corresponding responses.

Put It In Your Own Words. Based on the themes that emerge, describe in your own words what you interpret the responses mean for you. For an example, see my portrait below:

I am passionate about everything I do. I pour my heart and soul into what I believe in. My internal drive stems from my service ethic. I am concerned for my fellow man, and go out of my way to help others. Helping others is important to me as service can be contagious, and I wish for people to spread the love. Also, commonly cited among respondents I am kind, gracious, and thoughtful. I try to put people’s needs above my own. I believe it is important to make others feel valued for their unique skills, contributions, and experiences. To do so, I leverage my skill at communicating through written and oral mediums. I believe that direct, cogent, and meaningful communication is critical to creating understanding and value.

Producing high quality work is important to me. I do what I can to build consensus and meet the needs of individuals. In getting things done, I tend to be thorough in my actions. Otherwise, I tend not to do it at all. I try to take initiative and go above and beyond what is required of me. Also, I am extremely curious and love to learn new things. I am enchanted by the wonders and mysteries of the universe. I believe my curiosity helps me to produce high quality work.

Another of my most commonly cited qualities is that people see me as a bold and critical/independent thinker. I try to see things from different perspectives, and I try to weigh in all evidence before drawing a conclusion. I am patient. I listen and learn how I can best influence situations in the long-term. I am also open to changing my views when equipped with new and convincing information. I don’t settle for mediocre solutions. I do what I can to draw out the best solutions for myself and for the benefit of others. I feel that I fight for the underdog and for those that hold other unpopular viewpoints. I believe it is important that unpopular views be reflected in the majority. Lastly, I am bold and not afraid to speak my mind on an unpopular subject. Being genuine is important to me. What you see is what you get. While I may come across as aggressive or heavy, I try to arrive at truth for the betterment of the team.

Next Steps

This shouldn’t stroke your ego, but it should provide you with some insight into building upon your strengths. Continue to be aware of your strengths. Make specific actionable goals to improve your skills and abilities. Make them SMART goals.

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