Category: Personal Development

Become stronger by knowing your strengths

Become stronger by knowing your strengths

It’s not exactly new but I am new to it. I’m talking about Strengths Finder.

Imagine a workplace where everyone plays to their strengths every single day. Where people invest in improving their areas of natural talent, instead of spending time where potential is limited. Strengths Finder – an online assessment from Gallup and accompanying book by Tom Rath – can help you understand your strengths and find ways to focus in on them so you can achieve all that is possible. Strengths Finder has helped me in 3 ways:

Understanding myself

My top 5 strengths are:

Communication, Relator, Activator, Significance, Restorative.

As I read the explanations of each theme I found myself nodding in agreement and saying to myself “ah-hah, that’s why I behave like that…” and “that’s exactly how I am”- it was like holding up a mirror.

For example under my Communication theme, Rath says: “And so you take the dry idea and enliven it with images and examples and metaphors” – that’s what I do every day at work and at home.

Seeing a reflection of yourself in the page can provide real clarity, especially through Rath’s ‘Ideas for Action’ which provide bullet point suggestions for improvement.Once you have identified your strengths you’ll gain a deeper understanding of your behaviours, skills and attitudes.

Providing a sense of purpose

For some reason I was initially disappointed that I didn’t identify as having certain other strengths in the list of 34 that are presented in the book.

Once I’d accepted that the overall impact of investing in my areas of natural talent was going to be greater than spending time on other areas, I was able to focus on the singular purpose of being an even better Communicator, Relator and Activator. This is the multiplier effect and if channeled, can be extremely powerful.

Finding a common language

A colleague at The Growth Hub had also identified their strengths. In the book there are tips on how to work with others. My colleague knows I am an Activator and uses this to her advantage. Specifically, she tells me she knows I can make things happen for her and this works to energise me. Our strengths are complimentary and by identifying them and talking openly about them, we have found a common language that delivers results.

Take the Strengths Finder assessment and see if it makes you stronger.



Have you Googled yourself lately?

Me and My Web Shadow- a must-read for anyone wanting to manage their online reputation, by Antony Mayfield
Me and My Web Shadow- a must-read for anyone wanting to manage their online reputation, by Antony Mayfield

I was recently at a presentation about digital communications and when the speaker asked if anyone had Googled themselves lately there were sniggers in the room. Maybe my fellow delegates were thinking that Googling oneself is a sign of being ‘big-headed’ and egotistical? I didn’t snigger- putting my name into search engines has been something I’ve done for years. It’s a really important part of managing your personal online reputation.

The presentation reminded me of a book I read in 2010: Me and My Web Shadow by Antony Mayfield. You can buy it here on Amazon– I recommend that you do.

When you browse the contents page you’d be forgiven for thinking that any chapter called ‘Privacy and Facebook’ would be out of date before it was even published, and you’d be right. In fact, Mayfield acknowledges this in the introduction- it’s a fact of life that content about technology and the web will be outdated shortly after it’s written.

That said, there are some fundamental principles that Mayfield writes about that if followed, will help you manage what is written about you on the internet, and we all know that most employers check job candidates out online, before they even read their CV.

Mayfield cites his Top Ten Rules for Managing Your Web Shadow. I’ve summarised these into my Top 5:

1. Search yourself regularly

Put your name into Google and other search engines on a regular basis to see what comes up about you. If something comes up that has been written about you that is not particularly positive, you need to take steps to address this…

2. Be in control – be the best source of information about yourself

When a new social network enters the market, even if you don’t understand it or see the relevance to you yet, sign up and take your preferred username before anyone else can.

If you’re present on multiple networks, Google is likely to bring all your profiles or content up first (and let’s face it, no-one looks past the first page of Google- it’s the best place to be). Mayfield says: “If you are first in Google then you always have the first say about yourself”. If you are the source then you can be sure the information about you is accurate, current and always positive.

3. Know your networks and be useful in them

So if you’re a PR professional, it’s important for you to be present in all the networks, media, forums, groups, pages, circles etc that all your PR colleagues (and competitors) are in. How will you hear what’s going on if you’re not present? And the next step up from simply being there is to be useful. Provide content, whether you’ve created it or curated it, that your network will find engaging and relevant.

4. Behave differently on your professional and personal networks

Unless your professional and personal lives are one and the same, it’s important to distinguish your behaviour in the online spaces you inhabit. For example, I don’t say anything about work on Facebook and I don’t particularly want photos of me out in a bar popping up on LinkedIn. The key to getting this right is understanding privacy settings and making sure you regularly check that your privacy hasn’t slipped.

5. Remember that your web shadow is a permanent record

What goes online stays online! If you don’t want a permanent record of what you’re thinking about saying, don’t say it. Don’t tweet when you’ve been drinking or when you’re angry. Although content can be deleted after it’s published, the chances are that if it’s something you wanted to delete, it’s already been retweeted or shared many times over, so it’s too late to be un-done.

Managing your online reputation is as important as how you present yourself in the real world. They are in fact, one and the same. Google yourself now and if you’re surprised by what you find, take action to put it right.

Are you an engaged employee?

I was at an internal communications conference recently and we were discussing the 8 factors that drive employee engagement. If you get these 8 things right, then employees feel engaged which leads to increased profitability (see another blog post on this here).

I thought I’d share my take on what these factors mean to me personally. So if I was to describe a ‘great’ place to work where staff were highly engaged, it would look like this:

1. Leadership

To me leadership is about: demonstrating mutual trust and respect, being visionary, articulating your vision to your teams and empowering them to achieve it, being personally enigmatic and an excellent communicator.

Leadership should be encouraged at all levels of an organisation. You don’t have to be the Chief Executive to be a leader. Being visionary is important and relevant even on small campaigns or projects.

2. Manager

A good manager in my mind: nurtures talent, provides direction, empowers their team, is flexible and understanding, fosters the right environment for teams to be effective and draws out the best in people.

3. Company vision

Having a clear, long term company vision can be so engaging because it gives staff an end-goal. It provides a common sense of purpose that allows you to focus on the things that are important and add value. It is the ‘glue’ that holds the business together.

4. Personal growth

Personal growth means different things to different people. To me it’s about understanding an individual’s ambitions, whether this is simply to be better at their current role or to climb the ladder and become the next CEO.

Development comes in many forms- courses, workshops, job shadowing, secondments, being allowed more responsibility…. It is interesting how personal growth is seen as more important to staff than pay and benefits.

5. Team

A good team is: supportive, productive, positive, pulling in the same direction, friendly and hard-working. A good team-mate backs you up and sticks to ‘the party line’.

6. Giving something back

I’m told this could be about having a chosen charity to support or a company volunteering scheme but to me it’s about making a difference to my customers. It’s going ‘above and beyond’ what is expected for my salary and providing a better-than-expected service.

7. Fair deal

Being paid fairly for the job you’re doing and receiving fair benefits is only the 7th most important factor rated by employees on the scale of engagement. Getting a pay rise might motivate you but this will only last a short while, until you’ve become accustomed to the increase and it’s considered the norm.

I guess people want to be paid what their job seeking competitors are being paid, but more importantly what is fair WITHIN the company compared to their colleagues.

8. Wellbeing

Having a good work-life balance, working in a pleasant environment and being able to participate in out of work activities all contribute to wellbeing. I know of businesses that provide massages for staff or have snooker tables in the canteen. To be honest this isn’t something I am particularly interested in. For me it’s about being able to do my job to my best ability, and being able to forget about it when I go home.

Wellbeing is a very personal measure which perhaps surprisingly is the least important factor in whether staff feel engaged or not.

Are you an engaged employee? Are these factors important to you, are they in the right order or is there anything missing? Leave a comment.