Leveraging Your Strengths for Career Success

By: Carol Vernon

Realize your strengths at work and create a better career.

Think back to your last performance review. What do you remember most? The feedback you got on what you did really well or the feedback on what you didn't do as well? If you're like 81 percent of the workforce, you focus more on your weaknesses and don't give much thought to how you can use more of your strengths in the workplace. According to research from the

Marcus Buckingham Company, 59 percent of the workforce believes they will be most successful if they focus on fixing weaknesses rather than leveraging strengths.

It seems lots of us are more interested in what we don't do well, and we take our strengths for granted. Marcus Buckingham, a leader in the strengths-based movement, has done a lot of research that proves this approach doesn't offer any long-term success.

Buckingham describes a strength as not just something you're good at, but something you consistently do to near perfection and that gives you strength. A weakness is a task that drains you and makes you weak.

Buckingham believes, and I agree, that leveraging and amplifying your strengths is the only way a person or an organization will excel; it's never by fixing weaknesses.
In 2007, 198,000 workers were asked whether they had the chance to play to their strengths every day. The findings showed that those who strongly agreed that they did were

  • 50 percent more likely to work in teams with lower employee turnover;
  • 33 percent more likely to work in more productive teams;
  • 44 percent more likely to work in teams with a higher customer-satisfaction score.

Despite this kind of research and the fact that smart companies like Yahoo, Intel, and Best Buy are publicly committed to a strengths-based culture, there's lots of evidence to suggest that many people don't know how to do it.

It's simple: If you're currently employed, identify the specific work activities where you feel strongest and intentionally and strategically focus your job around these activities. When you do this consistently, you'll gradually tilt the playing field so that the best part of your job becomes the biggest part of your job. If you're job hunting, now is the time to clarify your greatest strengths, ensure that you can articulate them, and know what to look and listen for when you meet with potential employers.

For more information about how you can better identify your strengths and weaknesses, check out Buckingham's online and printed resources at www. marcusbuckingham.com. For a free template about how you can consistently leverage your strengths in your current work, email me at [email protected] for a tool you can use weekly to gradually shift your work toward your strengths and away from your weaknesses and ultimately better serve your association.

Carol Vernon is a certified executive coach who specializes in leadership and communications coaching and training. She works with association leaders and their teams to help them work more effectively. She can be reached through her website at www.commmatters.com.

ASAE Career Headquarters

If you're looking for the next step in your association management career or looking for high-quality candidates to fill open positions at your organization, check out CareerHQ.org—the best source of association jobs and resumes. In addition to helping you find your next job—whether it's as CEO, director of technology, or membership coordinator—ASAE's career services department offers such services as executive coaching, resume writing, and more. For more information, contact Catherine Lux at [email protected].

Are there certain career-related topics you would like addressed on this page? If so, please email your questions or topic ideas to [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you!