By: Becca Davis
AAM president Laura Snyder recently wrote about playing to your strengths, and how doing so yields better performance and higher job satisfaction. This inspired me to share my own experiences with this concept.
A few years ago, my team experienced a lot of change – there were four of us at the time, and none of us had been in our current roles for more than a year. We were all getting used to our new roles and figuring out how to work together best, and one of my team members suggested an exercise that ended up being a total game-changer for our team.
Find Your Strengths
It’s all centered around a book, StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. When you buy the book, you’re given a unique code to take a quiz on the StrengthsFinder website.
You then get a personalized report that summarizes each of your top five strengths (out of 34 possible strengths – which are all summarized in the book). The report also gives you a list of discussion questions and ideas for actions to take based on your combination of strengths.
If you do this exercise with others on your team, be sure to take advantage of the parts of the book that tell you how to work together better based on everyone’s individual strengths. This part is really eye-opening and transformative!
StrengthsFinder In Action
The goals for our StrengthsFinder session were to get to know each other better, learn how to work together better, figure out our individual strengths and take advantage of the collective strengths of the team. Here’s how it went down …
Once we all took the quiz and read through our results, we each presented and discussed our top five strengths. We talked about the traits that especially resonated with us, what we want others to see or understand better, and how some of our qualities may be perceived to others.
For example, one of my strengths is called “activator” – meaning I’m good at turning thoughts into action. However, when most people follow a process of, “ready, aim, fire,” activators like to learn by doing. Through reading about this attribute, I learned that my process isn’t always pretty – and that to more methodical, risk-averse people who like to have all of the information before taking action (like a lot of the CPAs we work with!), I may seem impatient or impulsive. Now I know to be aware of that and communicate my plans and expected outcomes beforehand.
We were also able to tweak some of our job functions. Another one of my strengths is “adaptability,” meaning I can take things as they come and respond well to changing circumstances. I’m comfortable living in the moment, so developing project timelines isn’t always a priority to me – I know we can always adjust to changes or bumps in the road as needed. The book suggested leaving those long-term planning tasks up to someone with the strengths of “focus,” “strategic” or “belief” instead. Luckily, those strengths exist on my team so I was able to shift some of those planning responsibilities to someone much better suited for them.
I encourage each of you to do this exercise within your teams. And if you’re a team of one, I think this could be just as beneficial to you, too – you’ll understand where your true talents lie and will get ideas for how to approach your normal responsibilities in a way that allows your natural strengths to shine.