As a staff, we are currently working through Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. Strengths Finder 2.0 is a book with a companion online assessment to help you figure out your strengths (as you might have guessed). Personally, I’m a big fan of assessments. Someone wiser than I once said the unexamined life is not worth living. That may be hyperbole, but there is some truth to it. The more we know about ourselves, the more effective we can become. And the more we know about those we work with, the more effective team we’ll be.
Back to Strengths Finder. It’s a fascinating concept really. The author points out that most people tend to spend time focusing on improving their weaknesses. We even celebrate “heros” who overcome a very average skill set and do something remarkable (he uses the movie Rudy as an example). As inspiring as those stories are, he points out that if strength is the product of talent times investment, we can gain a much higher rate of return if we focus on our strengths.
In the Rudy example, he suggests that Rudy may have had a 5 on a 1-5 investment scale, he probably only scores a 2 on a talent scale. Thus, his maximum strength is 10. However, if he put all that effort (5) into a natural talent, his maximum strength would have been 25, a 250% increase in return. And while it’s laudable that Rudy made a great play in a key game, in the end it doesn’t accomplish much.
I was further fascinated to read that only about 30% of people surveyed say that they have the opportunity to do what the do best at work every day. That floored me! That means that two-thirds of working people don’t get to do what they do best every day. This book/assessment comes along at an interesting time as I have been reflecting recently on just how blessed I feel to be able to be doing what I know for certain I was made to do. This is what I do better than anything else, and I get to do it every day and get paid for it! It actually scares me a little bit because I’m worried that someday someone will wake up and say, “Hey, he’d do this for free, what are we paying him for?”
I started thinking about the people I know who are not working out of areas of strength. I think this happens quite often in the church. Churches that have someone volunteering in a role, and finally grow to a point where they can pay someone to do the job, often hire the volunteer. Sometimes this is good, other times it’s disastrous. I see questions posted over at Church Sound Forum all the time that start with, “I’m really new to this position and I really don’t know what I’m doing…” and I think, “Wow, this person is not working from strength!”
How much more effective would the Church be if each staff member were truly gifted to do what they were doing? If everyone was working out of their strengths and if they had the opportunity to do what they do best every day! Not possible, you say? Why not?! In what other context does it matter this much? What other institution has this much on the line?
And I speak on this topic from personal experience. As long as I’ve been involved with media and technology (which is a long, long time), I’ve been really, really good at it. It just comes naturally, it’s not something I have to work hard at (though I do—I scored high on “Achiever” and “Learner”). But there was one aspect of the business that eluded me; sales—selling myself and what I could do for other people. When I started my own company, I teamed up with someone who was good at sales. We had a long run of steady, satisfied customers. But when my partner and I decided to part company, my work dried up. Knowing I struggled with sales, I took on the unthinkable—a job in sales. I figured if I had to do it to make a living, I could get good at it. After 2 years, one thing was perfectly clear: I was no good at sales. And it wasn’t for lack of trying, either. I quit and went back to doing what I do best.
Today, I feel like I can accomplish more in a morning than I could in a week of trying to sell. I’m less stressed and enjoy a much higher quality of life. All because I’m doing what God made me to do. So what about you? Are you working from an area of strength? Do you get to do what you do best every day? If not, why not? If nothing else, I recommend taking the Strengths Finder assessment and find out what your natural talents are. Then you can put yourself in a position to work from strength instead of weakness. Even if you do get to do what you do best every day, take the assessment anyway. Like the ad council says, “The more you know…”