Summer 2017
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CTDO Magazine

Know Your Strengths

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Take inventory of your natural strengths, then use them to be a better leader.

According to Gallup research, employees who use their strengths on the job are six times more likely to be engaged on the job. As a result, employees who understand and use their strengths achieve greater levels of productivity, longer organizational tenure, and a higher impact to an organization's bottom line. As a C-suite executive, do you know your strengths and how you can use them to lead and influence your team?


Knowing your strengths is vital to being a great leader. If you know what you are truly gifted in, you will be able to experience these benefits:

  • the ability to understand your own strengths so that you can effectively delegate tasks that don't align with your skill set
  • better productivity levels by focusing your time and energy on your natural strengths
  • higher levels of influence; leaders who understand their strengths will appear more confident, which is a quality followers look for.

However, sometimes finding out what we are good at is not always the easiest task. The reason for this is that our natural strengths often are second nature to us and we don't pay attention when we use them in certain situations. For example, it wasn't until a few years ago that I discovered that I had a natural strength for writing. For most of my adult life, writing always came easy to me, but I never actively recognized it as a natural strength until I started producing books and creating a writing business. The positive feeling that I have gotten from being able to teach others through writing has shown me that it is a natural strength of mine and something that I can use to affect the lives of others.
Here are three methods to find out what your natural strengths are.

List what you love

Take a moment and think about all the things you love in life. What are the activities you most look forward to doing, both in your career and in your everyday life? Although we know what we love, sometimes we don't take the time to focus on the things that make us happy and create meaningful strategies to spend more time doing them. If you can recognize what you love, you will have taken the first step to finding a job that you are passionate about and enjoy doing every day.

The best way to understand what you truly love is to self-reflect on your feelings after participating in certain activities. For example, when I was in college and became a business tutor, I fell in love with teaching and coaching others because of the amazing feeling I got when one of my students would achieve a high grade on an assignment, test, or class based on my instruction. The fact that my natural strength of teaching influenced their life in a positive way was a feeling that became powerful and even addictive to a certain extent.

Assess your accomplishments

In a chapter I wrote for Find Your Fit: A Practical Guide to Landing a Job You'll Love, I describe a strategy for uncovering skills through analyzing the accomplishments you have achieved. An accomplishment, no matter how big or small, often is a source of great personal satisfaction. When we achieve something, we feel empowered, motivated, and inspired to take on new challenges in life.

Accomplishments also are a great way to uncover certain skills and strengths you might possess. You can do this by breaking the accomplishment down into several small parts that form a story. As I discuss in Find Your Fit, your short story should consist of:

  • background about the situation
  • why you decided to do this particular thing
  • a problem or challenge you faced
  • details about what you did step-by-step
  • your results—how it all turned out.

Once you have your short story defined, you can go back and reflect to see what types of skills you might have in these categories:

  • skills when working with people (for example, teaching, supervising, counseling, or working within a team)
  • skills when working with things (for example, operating machinery, fixing computers, or cooking)
  • skills when working with data (for example, compiling information, computer programming, or data analysis)
  • skills when working with ideas (for example writing stories, composing music, or developing new products).

If you can assess your accomplishments and break them down into small parts, you will be surprised at the amount of information you can gather and leverage for planning your next career venture.

Know when you are a natural

There have been many instances when people ask me how I am able to put ideas together into a written product quickly and effectively. Often I really don't have a good answer because my brain has a certain way of functioning that enables me to put my thoughts together easily. Has this happened to you with anything in your life? Have you been successful at something with little or no training? If so, you might have found something for which you are a natural.

Another way to find out if you are a natural at something is to reflect on the type of assignments that people often go to you for. Is there something that others regularly ask your help with? If so, it usually means that others view you as a credible resource for a particular competency, which is a sign that you might have a natural strength.

Next steps

Once you have discovered your strengths, it is time to start developing them. Practice them on a daily basis, take classes to expand your knowledge, and seek out others who are better than you and learn as much as you can from them. The more you can put yourself in front of opportunities to improve your strengths, the better leader you will be and the more value you will be able to add to your bottom line.

Matching Skills and Strengths to Careers

In most instances, the things that we love are often those for which we are most skilled.

Make a long list of all the things that you love and the reasons why you love each of them. Then try to think about a career that could involve each of those strengths. If you need help, use the following resources to guide you in finding careers that match your skills and strengths. These also are good resources to share with your team to ensure employees are placed in the right roles.

MAPP Career Assessment


A 15-minute test that matches you with careers that fit your skills and strengths.


A comprehensive career skills website that includes a variety of resources and a 15-question assessment that evaluates your overall skill set.

Occupational Outlook Handbook

An online resource that includes a large quantity of information on various career fields.

O*NET Skills Search

A free tool that provides a list of potential occupations that could be a potential fit to you, based on skills that you select.

StrengthsFinder 2.0

The new version of the original book Now, Discover Your Strengths. This book features hundreds of different strengths that someone can possess.

Read more from CTDO magazine: Essential talent development content for C-suite leaders.

About the Author

Dan Schwartz is an HR communications manager with BKD CPAs and Advisors. In his role, Dan is focused on executing communication initiatives for BKD to support the firm’s culture and communicate the Employee Value Proposition (EVP). He is responsible for developing, writing and overseeing the release of internal and external communication documents and programs that promote the firm's key people initiatives. Dan has published articles, books, videos, and podcasts related to career development and leadership development. He is the author of TD at Work: Managing as a Ground Floor Leader, Winning Strategies: Achieving Success in the Classroom, Career and Life and is a contributing author to Find Your Fit: A Practical Guide to Landing a Job You'll Love.

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