In part 1 of this blog series we discussed how when you focus your efforts on your personal strengths you are much more likely to increase your contribution, excel in your career and find lasting satisfaction.
So focusing on your strengths sounds like an interesting idea but how do you get started and how does it work in practice?
Firstly, it’s important to get crystal clear on your own strengths. While you might think you already know what you’re good at, it’s easy to miss or de-value particular talents either because they are so ingrained that you simply don’t recognise them, or because you find them so easy that you assume everyone has the same ability.
The best system I’ve come across for identifying your natural talents, having used many strengths-based tests over the years, is Strengths Finder.
Developed by Gallup, the people behind the global employee engagement studies that get reported in the press every year, Strengths Finder’s methodology is based on a significant body of research into natural human talents.
Gallup interviewed two million highly successful people, including the world’s best teachers, doctors, salespeople, basketball players, system engineers and so on, to understand what made them good at their jobs. They subsequently distilled their research down into 34 strengths that any one person might have and devised an online test to tell you what your top five strengths are. It costs $15 and takes 20 minutes and is well worth the investment.
Once you have a clear picture of your strengths, you can start to look at your role through that lens. It enables you to determine where you’re likely to get the best return for time spent, explain to your agency employer how to get the best out of you so you can start to set new expectations, understand what to seek support on, and where to focus your development so that you become a master at particular skills and activities – which will increase your success rate again.
Of course, the ideal scenario is to garner the support of HR and agency leaders for a systematic strengths-based approach so that everyone across the agency team undertakes the test to understand and share what their strengths mean for their role and contribution to the business – whether that’s in the area of biz dev or any other.
When you understand the strengths of others, you know who to go to for what, can explain the need for their particular help to elicit employer support, and give those with the right skills the opportunity to shine as part of a wider new business team effort.
Working with business development leaders and broader agency executives and teams, I’ve been involved in deploying this strengths-based approach and have witnessed the results in action.
I’ve seen biz dev professionals reshape their roles, agency employers adapt their understanding and expectations of new business positions, and in one case, an agency restructure its team and new business approach – all for significantly improved results.
For inspiration, take a look at Golin. A forward-thinking company in the integrated agency world, it has completely restructured the traditional agency model, moving from a hierarchy of generalists to communities of specialists who work together as one integrated team.
Ditching an outdated business model, Golin has created strengths-based roles that enable people to focus on and further develop the natural talents they have, rather than trying to deliver on a long list of tick box criteria across a gulf of skills and abilities.
So take the test, spend some time reviewing your role in relation to your talents and start making incremental changes that have the potential to make a wealth of difference to you, the value you offer and your agency’s revenue target.
Alison O’Leary is a certified life coach, specialised in career coaching through her practice, Live True. In a 19-year career she has held a number of senior management positions within the digital marcoms industry, most recently as Deputy Managing Director, Europe for Racepoint Global. Alison specialises in people development and combines insights, tools and methodologies from corporate and personal coaching work to help marcoms professionals realise their true career potential for personal and organisational benefit.
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