What are you good at?


Are you one of the many people who don't know what their strengths are, asks Hilary Jeanes of PurpleLine Consulting? If so, read on...

"I ask people in workshops to list their top five talents. Many actually struggle, as if I had asked for the square root of 13,786.99. You probably can tell me immediately what you're not good at. But do you know what you're really good at? How else can you use your talents frequently?" ~ Alan Weiss, Business Consultant

“Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.”~ Marilyn vos Savant, author

“Play to your strengths."
"I haven’t got any," said Harry, before he could stop himself.
"Excuse me," growled Moody, "you’ve got strengths if I say you’ve got them. Think now. What are you best at?” 
~ J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Recently I’ve come across quite a lot of bad feeling about psychometrics – particularly personality profiles.  Often used as part of a recruitment exercise, candidates frequently get little or no feedback whatsoever about the results of the psychometric profile they have completed. 

I vividly remember my interview in 1990 for an HR leadership role with a pharmaceutical company.  It was the final stage.  I arrived at 9am.  Another candidate and I were trailed round one after the other to meet each of the four or five directors, who asked more or less the same questions.  I was offered no refreshments either in the meetings or in the sometimes long waits in between. 

At about 1:30 I was informed that the final part of the process was to complete a psychometric profile.  It was my first experience of doing one of these things.  I was pretty tired at that point.  So, low energy coupled with the desire to show myself in the best light, I doubt that I did myself any justice. 

I was not offered the job, nor any feedback about the results of the profile.  I remember wondering whether I had not got the job because of some fatal personality flaw... 

In fact they did not employ either of us and re-advertised the job a few weeks later.  And good luck to them – their recruitment process sucked. 

When I later got the chance to train as an accredited test user with the British Psychological Society, I jumped at it so that I could understand more about them and how to use them effectively.  I’ve done a variety of them over the years – as part of recruitment or assessment processes as well as for me personally and teams I’ve led and I’ve also inflicted them on other people!  I believe they do have their value. 

But like anything, it’s what you do with the findings that counts.  And that’s where doing them for development - to understand your own strengths and preferences – can reap great benefits.

In my work as a leadership coach, I encourage my clients to enhance their self awareness as a first step. 

Knowing what you are good at, what energises you and what your preferences are helps you to understand what you need from your work, to perform well and build on that good performance.  It also gives you choices and puts you in the driving seat. 

You can use the information to draw up a list of criteria and questions that you can use to assess whether a job is right for you.  Going for a job that does not match your strengths will not work out well.  For example, if you like a lot of autonomy, doing something highly structured and process driven will cause you a lot of stress.  And slogging away to address your weaknesses is a lot less appealing than doing something which energises you and doesn’t feel like work.

There are some really good low cost resources available to find out what your strengths are.  Marcus Buckingham’s book ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’ is a great read and contains a code to do the Strengthsfinder assessment.  Harvard Business Review’s How to Play to Your Strengths article contains a tool to help you understand and leverage your strengths.  One I use a lot is Realise2

In his book, The Element, Sir Ken Robinson says you’re in your element when your natural talent meets your personal passion.  Surely that’s what we all want.

Hilary Jeanes is a leadership coach and mentor.  Her business, PurpleLine Consulting, helps organisations realise the potential of their people.


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Working with you to realise your potential at work by

- getting clear about your strengths and aspirations
- increased confidence and self belief
- identifying and securing your ideal job
- supporting you to thrive and enjoy your life.

Leadership and career coaching for individuals.
Coaching & mentoring for HR leaders and practitioners.
Coaching senior leaders in isolated roles.
Coaching individuals to design the life you'd love on retirement.
Meeting and workshop facilitation.

Hilary Jeanes (trading as PurpleLine Consulting Limited)