Monthly Archives: Jun 2015

Strengths

My way to strength-based development

Two years ago, the company I work for organized a strength-based development training for its managers. A company based in Stockholm came to our office and ran a number of workshops. This was my first encounter with the idea of focusing on what I’m good at, not on my weaknesses. What a shock! Someone told us that we should develop the areas where we are strongest. During those workshops we learned what our top strengths were. We talked with our colleagues about how these strengths are visible in our day-to-day behavior. This is how the fascination with strengths-based development started for me.

Unfortunately, after two or three workshops we discontinued the program. But the knowledge and curiosity stayed with me. A few months later, one of my colleagues reintroduced the idea of strengths development in our office. He and his team had taken an assessment test called Gallup StrengthsFinder and they discovered their top five strengths. But they took an additional step,too – they visualized the collective strengths of their team. This time I was really hooked. I started to read about the Gallup StrengthsFinder program and about Donald O. Clifton (the creator of the StrengthsFinder). I took the assessment myself, discovered my strengths, and started to analyze them. The next step was obvious for me – go to the Gallup Certified Coaching Accelerated Course. There I met two awesome coaches from Gallup and more than 20 people from all over the world who were into strengths development as much as I was. That week was transformative for me. I learned so much, experienced a lot, and came back even more motivated and encouraged to work with strengths. I want to use them in my personal life, at work, and to help others.

You may ask what is so exceptional about this approach. You see, during most of my life, I experienced a very different approach. For example, back in primary school, I was good at math and physics. At the same time, I sucked big time in music, art, and practical subjects. Still, I was forced to spend the same amount of time on all of them. I know that the time spent on music lessons, being forced to sing and so on, was a waste of my energy and time. I could have spent the same time learning math, which I use much more in my adult life. If I had had spent more time on math, I probably would have become a better programmer. That’s why I’m so fascinated with this different approach. I should focus on what I’m good at, work on it, and excel at it, because that’s where my biggest potential lies. I love that thought!

I’m still in the process of learning about and understanding my strengths according to the StrengthsFinder. This will be a long process, for sure. Understanding my strengths is the first step. The second will be finding examples of these strengths in my life, in my behavior, and in the way I think. And the third will be consciously applying them in my life. These three steps in Gallup’s approach are called “Name it, Claim it, Aim it.” This is what strengths-based development is all about.

  • Understand your strengths (Name it)
  • Recognize how you use these strengths (Claim it)
  • Use your strengths to grow and to solve your challenges (Aim it)

I’m aiming to become a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach and I’m currently in the middle of the certification process. This process includes coaching a number of people. When I talk with these people during coaching sessions, many of them also find focusing on strengths to be very encouraging. When we start to talk about their strengths more, we find a lot of examples of how they play an important role in our lives. It is amazing to observe how liberating it is to focus on strengths and to realize that we do not have to battle our weaknesses. We all have strengths that, when consciously applied, allow us to achieve what we want in the way that is best for us.
I will leave you with one very personal thought: I really believe that by focusing on my strengths I can become the best possible version of myself. This is what I try to do, and this is the message I want to spread!

Are you interested in knowing more about your strengths? Contact me! I’m passionate about this subject and I would love to talk with you about it!
Photo by  Phil RoederCC BY

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Productivity

Your goals can be SMARTER

I’ve read about S.M.A.R.T. goals hundreds of times, and I’ve set my goals in this way for many years. I used to think that everyone did the same. But recently I found out that that’s not true! I learned this firsthand when I ran a workshop about productivity a couple of weeks ago. I planned to spend only a couple of minutes on the subject of goals, but we ended up working on this topic for much longer. Goals are often mistaken with ambitions, vague ideas, or visions. These are a great base for a goal, but they are not goals in themselves!

What is a goal? A goal is something that you want to achieve in a given time. When do you reach a goal? Have you already reached it? If you set a goal and want to know the answers to these questions, you may consider using the S.M.A.R.T. method for defining a goal.
S.M.A.R.T. stands for:

  • Specific – your goal has to be defined in a way that describes exactly what you want to achieve. Einstein used to say that if you can’t explain something to a six-year-old kid, then you don’t understand it. I think that the same approach can be applied in this case – can you explain it to a kid so that he/she would know what you want to do?
  • Measurable – a well-defined goal includes metrics that you can use in future to measure if you’ve done what you intended to do. Do you want to read a book every day? Put in the description of your goal how many pages a day you want to read. That way, you will know if you did what you wanted to do.
  • Ambitious – it can’t be too easy to reach. You have to exert some effort to complete it. If you love to walk to work, it doesn’t make sense to set a goal for walking to work every day. You’ll do it anyway!
  • Realistic – a goal has to be ambitious, but at the same time, you have to feel that you are able to do it. You have to know whether or not you have everything that is needed to reach that goal (time, resources, materials, knowledge, friends, etc.). It would be difficult, to say the least, to attain the goal of flying to Mars. This would be (very) ambitious, but not realistic. But a goal such as “Visit NASA and see firsthand how they work with missions to Mars” is both realistic and ambitious!
  • Time-bound – there has to be a defined deadline for a goal. You have to know when you are supposed to finish what you’ve committed to doing. This deadline has to be a very specific point in time. The best deadline is a date or something like “by the end of this month.” A goal with a deadline like “sometime during the summer” isn’t time-bound.

Some people add two more letters to the S.M.A.R.T. acronym and make it S.M.A.R.T.E.R.

  • Exciting – to make your goal easier to work towards, try to make it exciting. We all love to work on exciting projects, don’t we?
  • Recorded – your goal has to be written down. There is no other option. You’ll want to review it from time to time. And you’ll want to have a complete list of all your goals in written form. This is a very important part of the definition of a goal.

When you define a goal using the S.M.A.R.T. method, you make sure that you actually accomplish it. That’s because you know exactly what you’re aiming for, how to know when you’ve reached it, the deadline for when it must be reached, and that it can be reached at all!
Below you can find a few examples of how the definition of a goal can be phrased.

  1. A sentence “I will save money” can become a goal when you phrase it as ”Every month, until the end of 2015, I will transfer 100PLN to a dedicated account.”
  2. An ambition “I will exercise more” can become a goal when it is phrased as: ”For the next 6 months, I will exercise 4 times a week. Each workout will be 1 hour long and will be done according to the plan described at www.xyz.com”

Can you see the difference between the vague sentences and these more concrete ones? Which one is easier to follow up with? Which one is easier to evaluate?
I strongly recommend that you state your goals in this way. Every time you think ”I will do something…,” try to rephrase it according to the S.M.A.R.T. definition. You will be surprised at how many more goals you will reach!

Photo by  Frits Ahlefeldt-LaurvigCC BY

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