At some point in your career, you’ll likely be asked: What are some of your greatest workplace strengths? Maybe your boss will pose the question in your next performance evaluation; perhaps a hiring manager will ask in a future job interview. Whenever it happens, you’ll want to be able to identify them.
“In our Peter Drucker based work on what he originally termed ‘knowledge work productivity’–we think of it more as getting more done with less aggravation–we have found four primary workplace strengths,” says Jack Bergstrand, chief executive of Brand Velocity, an Atlanta-based consulting firm. “These are essential strengths to getting work done in today’s knowledge age, where work is interdependent, somewhat invisible, and ever-changing.”
Some people have an “envision strength,” Bergstrand says. “These folks are visionaries who get energy and solve problems by asking and answering the question, ‘where do we intend to go and why?’ It is common to find these strengths with strategists, marketers, and CEOs.”
Second is the “design strength,” he adds. “Where the ‘envision strength’ is more subjective, the ‘design strength’ is more objective. These folks like to get to the facts, and are well-suited as planners and very good at answering the question, ‘what do we need to do when?’ We often find these strengths in newly minted MBA’s, analysts, planners, and CFOs.”
Third is the “build” workplace strength. “Where the ‘design’ strength is more focused on facts and figures, the ‘build’ strength is more process-oriented – energized by how to best get jobs done. These individuals are energized by systematizing and systematized work. Where the ‘envision’ person typically hates repetitive work, the ‘build’ person thrives on it. You will typically find build people in functions such as manufacturing, logistics, and IT systems management.”
And finally, the fourth type of workplace strength is the “operate characteristic,” Bergstrand says. “With knowledge work, this term has a slightly different connotation than it did in the industrial age. With knowledge work, operators make things happen with and through other people, and get a lot of energy from human interaction. They focus on the who. Sales people and good mentors are often very strong in the ‘operate’ area.”
Independent human resources consultant Jay Canchola says: “From an HR perspective, workplace strengths are usually defined in terms of competencies such as leadership, problem solving or teamwork.”
David Parnell, a legal recruiter, communication coach and author of In-House: A Lawyer’s Guide to Getting a Corporate Legal Position, offered another definition. “A workplace strength is any ability that is enjoyable, applicable, and that you are better at than most of your colleagues.”
Bergstrand says it is critically important for people to know their own workplace strengths and how they fit into the big picture. “By knowing your workplace strengths, the strengths of others, and the big picture of how these strengths fit together, people can much more easily work in their sweet spot and not be dragged into areas where they can’t add a lot of value.”
Parnell agrees. He says if you are looking to advance your career, finding and leveraging your workplace strengths is perhaps the most important thing you can do. “Strengths, motivation and task interest often go hand in hand, and when these three are in force, your performance will definitely show it and help your progression. But if you are stuck in a position that doesn’t leverage your strengths, your drive and performance will suffer along with your career advancement.”
One simple way to identify your workplace strengths is to “listen to your emotions when you are working,” Canchola says. “What activity, such as leadership or problem solving, provides satisfaction and happiness? A more complex way consists of validation from others. When others ask for your competency or praise you, that’s usually a good sign that you have identified a workplace strength.”
Parnell says when trying to identify your workplace strengths, it is most important to first find the things that are of interest and fulfilling to you, and then seek the strengths (abilities) that derive from them. “This can be done by exploring the nature of your most desirable activities – in or outside of the workplace. For instance, do you often volunteer at a shelter in your spare time? If so, you are probably driven toward altruistic and compassionate activities; a human resources position might be your future target. Do you mentor, or organize and execute events as much as you can? If so, management might be your future target.”
Once you’ve found your intrinsic interests (and therefore, activities), determine whether you are good at them. “Asking your cohorts may prove inaccurate as implicit social contracts can shield us from criticism,” Parnell adds. “Actions, however, do not lie.” For instance, if you enjoy organizing and executing events, do people show up to them? Do they seem to have fun? Do you have repeat attendees? “Seek to objectively observe the outcome of your actions. When you are good at something and intrinsically enjoy it, it is a true strength that is to be leveraged in the workplace.”
Think you possess one or more of the four core strengths Bergstrand laid out above? Here are the characteristics associated with each.
Characteristics of the “envision” workplace strength:
- Thinking strategically: The ability to see past today’s issues and focus on a longer term destination.
- Setting a visionary destination: The ability to establish a positive future in the minds of others that doesn’t exist today.
- Thinking inventively: The ability to conceptualize a working solution that can ultimately convert into a tangible product-service offering.
- Generating imaginative ideas: The ability to see and articulate possibilities that are not purely grounded in experience.
- Thinking creatively: The ability to offer new thoughts on subject areas that others have not considered.
- Pioneering new ideas: The ability to create a new line of thought that has not yet been proven in practice.
- Brainstorming new ideas: The ability to work with others to co-create new ideas and new solutions.
Characteristics of the “design” workplace strength:
- Analyzing situations: The ability to conceptually break down a situation into parts and understand those parts.
- Defining clear policies: The ability to establish well-understood guidelines to help groups of individuals work in a unified way.
- Defining detailed objectives: The ability to create explicit goals to direct the work of individuals and the organization overall.
- Planning budgets: The ability to establish and control the allocation of resources to achieve organizational goals.
- Establishing clear performance measures: The ability to create a standard mechanism to evaluate whether or not goals are achieved.
- Judging performance objectively: The ability to independently weigh evidence and form an opinion on personal and organizational results.
- Making decisions by the numbers: The ability to make a final choice based upon quantitative reasoning and measures.
Characteristics of the “build” workplace strength:
- Implement standard processes: The ability to get work done effectively, efficiently, and consistently, using a repeatable series of actions.
- Implement step-by-step procedures: The ability to get work done using an established set of instructions or checklists.
- Implement important projects: The ability to execute a planned set of activities to achieve a significant organizational or physical change.
- Implement integrated programs: The ability to unify—and manage as a group—a series of projects to holistically achieve enterprise results.
- Implement proven methods: The ability to use well-established procedures to improve enterprise performance.
- Implement practical solutions: The ability to solve problems by applying tools and techniques that are proven to be sufficient, rather than state of the art.
- Implement roles and responsibilities: The ability to systematically execute activities through the enterprise’s organizational structure.
Characteristics of the “operate” workplace strength:
- Building personal relationships: The ability to productively and progressively bond with key people as individuals and groups on an emotional level.
- Working in teams: The ability to work with others in a way where you subordinate yourself as an individual to better achieve the goals of the group.
- Coaching others: The ability to help people contribute more by facilitating their personal growth breakthroughs to achieve specific personal and organizational goals.
- Supporting others: The ability to help people achieve their goals and recover when they encounter problems.
- Relating to people: The ability to establish a kinship with others, building upon commonalities and deemphasizing or diffusing differences.
- Communicating: The ability to transfer information verbally and non-verbally to achieve sufficient interpersonal understanding and produce actions.
- Changing spontaneously: The ability to consistently achieve better results by rapidly and successfully adapting to a dynamic environment.
Knowing your workplace strength(s), and having a framework and process to maximize their impact, is an excellent way to enjoy work more, work with others more productively, and get better results, Bergstrand says. “Done in this way it’s a win for the individual, the project team, and the organization.”
Another nice feature of identifying and activating your workplace strengths: “When you work more productively, you waste less time. When you waste less time on the job, you can enjoy more time with your family,” he adds.
“In a day and age where jack-of-all-trades are increasingly less attractive, it is far better to identify and foster your strengths, and within reason, avoid your weaknesses,” Parnell concludes. “So, the power of understanding your strengths comes in the form of being able to focus on them, drive toward them and ultimately advance as a result of them. With time and effort being quintessentially zero-sum, strengths help to focus your time, dictate your efforts and ultimately pave your career’s trajectory.”
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:
Ready When You Are
At American Public University, students are priority one. We are committed to providing quality education, superior student resources, and affordable tuition. In fact, while post-secondary tuition has risen sharply nationwide, the university continues to offer affordable tuition without sacrificing academic quality.