Strengths Finder 2.0 is hands down the book that I have most gifted to others. I give a copy to every leader I am mentoring, new supervisor, person who seeks career advice or even random people who ask me why I keep a stack of 15 copies of Strengths finder on hand.
What is Strengthsfinder - Why Give it Away?
Strengthsfinder is not a book that you read cover to cover, it's more of a reference guide. And there is no question in my mind that it is the best investment in terms of development value that you can get for your time and money. For roughly $20 and 20 minutes of your time you can gain insight into on your top five strengths. This opens up an entirely new way to look at career development. By knowing this, you can strategically select roles, select companies, select projects and assignments that align to your strengths. You should always find things that complement your strengths.
What Do You Do With Your Top Five Strengths?
I like to think of a persons top five strengths in the context of the artist or the athlete... choose the metaphor you like best.
Here's the big idea... Team leaders, like artists and/or athletes, are not all created from the same mold - far from it. In the same way we see genetic diversity in an ecosystem, leaders are composed of an infinite number of strengths, skills, experiences and ideas that make each one unique.
At the base level, we can look at the top five strengths as foundation attributes that a leader comes equipped with. In the "athlete" metaphor, these strengths would be those natural talents that an athlete is born with (size, strength, speed, etc.)
Knowing your strengths helps you choose your sport. If you are built like an NFL offensive lineman, you will physically differ from an ultra marathon runner. In the same way that the light and lean distance runner is going to get crushed on the line, the lineman is likely not going to win (or even enjoy) the 50K.
Leaders differ in style and approach...
Strengths vs. Skills
This is where the metaphor gets really cool. You can take it one step further when you consider how an athlete trains to build on their natural strengths. Once you choose the sport you want to play (your job, industry, business cycle) you can further develop your strengths at the "gym". When you go to the gym do you hit every machine, or just randomly jump on the first one that is open? Nope. What you want to do is strategically select an exercise or drill that will help you develop your natural strengths for an upcoming event, competition, etc. In this way, you complement your natural strengths with skills that help you thrive in your "sport".
By the way, the "Athlete" metaphor can be switched up with an "Artist" metaphor. It applies to music, painting, writing... Everybody has natural strengths and you can supplement them by practicing (developing skills). Thats the big idea.
Why does it matter? Because I have been on the receiving end of development malpractice. At the beginning of my career I was developmentally lost. In one of my first jobs, each year we would write development plans and spend a lot of energy trying to develop things that didn't complement my strengths or my sport. Figuring out what my natural strengths were and then building skills that complement them was a game changer for me and something that I try to teach every new leader that comes to me for advice.