Posted in Life Gyan

Demystifying “Play to Your Strengths”

When an individual sets a sight on any goal, his thoughts eventually reach a point where the question staring him in the face is “How do I reach there?”.  If the goal is really challenging and ambitious, the person tries to check if there is a roadmap to get there. He may seek advise from his manager(s), mentors or even trainers. In such scenarios it is usually beneficial to carry out a SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) analysis.

SWOT Analysis is a good starting point to understand where you are. It is like a the homing dot on GPS which can indicate your current position on the capability landscape. This you can use to chart a path to achieve your coveted goals. Using both your Goals as destination and SWOT analysts as your starting point, you can figure out the gap between where you are where you want to go. Knowing this gap is the first part to figuring our the roadmap to your goals.

People often underestimate the benefit of the SWOT analysis. Most often people glance at the strengths section, feel good about themselves momentarily and then move on to the other sections. After a quick glance through the Weakness, Opportunities and Threat sections, most often people conclude that the “weakness” section seems to be the only place where you can do something because both Opportunities and Threats are usually external and you may not be able to influence them.

So most people try and device strategies to improve on their  Weakness. Also for a very long time we have been told to focus on improving our weak areas to be successful in life. Often in a corporate setup, when we request for or receive feedback the emphasis is more on the “areas of improvement” rather than what you are good at. However each of the 4 sections of SWOT analysis are important. Sometimes you may need help of a coach or mentor to help you understand how to apply these for your specific situation.

Playing to your Strengths
Especially for the experienced folks, I want to draw your attention to your strengths. While you continue to put effort towards improving on your weak areas, you need to pay a greater attention to the strengths you already possess. By correctly recognizing your strengths and honing them you can improve your chances of success many fold.  That is why you often hear the phrase, “play to your strengths”. However this phrase has become so cliched that no one ever takes time to understand what it really means and why is it so important.

“To play to your strengths” means –
# Identify your top strengths (competencies that you are really good at)
# Find out ways to leverage them for maximum growth
# Also you may be able to uncover ways to use your strengths to over come your weakness

How do you find out what your strengths are ?
Though you may know some of your strengths but a majority of the people only have a vague understanding of their overall strengths. Some people know they are very organized, while others may be good with getting things done. Some ace at relationships and others may be creative or problem solvers. Even though you may know one or two of your strengths you are still missing the 360 degree view of all your strengths, some of which may not be very obvious.

So how do we find out all our strengths?
There are many tools available to help you carry out this evaluation in a more scientific manner such as MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), DiSC, Gallup Strength Assessment etc. I have tried multiple such tests and while all have some merits but in my humble opinion the type of insights provided by Gallup Strength Finder Report are really unique and usable. This is a paid assessment. However it is not very expensive. You can consider this as an investment into you self-improvement journey. On the Gallup Site there are 2 versions –
(1) Top 5 Clifton Strengths and
(2) CliftonStrengths 34.
My recommendation would be to take the CliftonStrengths 34 to get a detailed report of your 34 personality attributes in the order of dominance.

What do we do once we have the identified the strengths?
First, spend some time to read and understand the report.
# Underline the lines which resonate with you.
# Identify habits or traits of your personality which correspond to these strengths.
# Write down the opportunities where you can best utilize your strengths
# Ask yourself – How can I use these strengths to achieve my goals?

With some serious brain storming, you will start getting the answers. And once you know what you are good at, your self confidence will get an immediate boost. And the icing on the cake is that unlike working on your weaknesses you don’t have to go through a painful process of change. Your strengths are already inherent within you. All you need to do is to identify them and start using them consciously. And find ways to leverage them for achieving your goals.


I am a software consultant by profession and reside in Hyderabad, India. I love to travel, listen to music, cook and make friends.

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