Discovering Personal Strengths
Last week, my team and I participated in a valuable professional development exercise. We each took the Strengthsfinder test to better understand our individual and team strengths followed by a team exercise led by Lauren Lipsky, Manager of Career Services and Alumni Relations at AlphaSights.
Developed by the Gallup Organization, Strengthsfinder is based on positive psychology and encourages individuals to leverage their strengths rather than focusing on their weaknesses. The test includes approximately 200 scaled questions, each with a scenario on either side. To answer, you select the option that describes you most. See below for an example question. Once completed, your 34 top themes of strength are revealed; we focused on our top 5.
As a team, we discussed each of our strengths with Lauren and how they influence personal work style and team dynamics.
My top five strengths were Individualism, Arranger, Developer, Futuristic, and Discipline. Before Strengthsfinder, I had an idea of the areas where I tend to excel, but the assessment provided validation and guidance to help me maximize my strengths and work at my full potential. I learned how I uniquely experience each strength and how it may influence me in my everyday life.
For example, take Individualization. I knew before this assessment that I tend to adjust to other peoples’ working styles, but I never knew why. After talking with Lauren and reading about my unique strengths related to individualization, I learned that I like to understand others’ talents, skills, and motivations. This way I know how to productively work with them and see where everyone’s contributions are most valuable — especially when planning with a team.
When discussing the futuristic theme, my colleagues pointed out that I often ask “what if” and enjoy discussing big picture ideas and directions. I came away from the session knowing my strengths as well as potential barriers that come with them, which are really helpful in understanding how I work and how I can work better with others.
In the session, each person on the Communications team talked about different aspects of their themes and how they influence them in and outside of work. It was a great way to learn about each other’s work styles and thinking processes. The conversation allowed us to jump in and give positive feedback to reinforce each other’s strengths, validating one another’s value/contributions to the team and therefore, forming deeper team connections. We put together a team grid of all of our strengths to see where we can optimize productivity and tasks and identify strength gaps that we should be aware of.
The session itself was also just fun. It was great to get together as a team and have a positive conversation that wasn’t related to a specific project at work and gave us an opportunity to learn new things about one another.
The most interesting aspect of the Strengthsfinder test, in my opinion, was the personalized insight report that describes how you uniquely experience a specific strength in relation to your other top strengths. For example, my coworker, Natalie De Paz, and I are both arrangers but the way in which we use this strength is very different. Natalie is more people-focused, understanding everyone’s talents in relation to their role on a project and is effective at identifying the right people to fill specific knowledge gaps. However, I tend to focus more on logistics and like to see things through from start to finish. I’m organized in my preparation, reading and learning all that I can, while seeking out different groups to receive training on subjects I don’t know. It’s fascinating that people can have similar strengths but use them so differently and in various contexts.
Lauren was extremely knowledgeable about Strengthsfinder and an effective facilitator for our conversation. She clearly explained the meaning and implications of our strengths and connected them to why we do certain things the way we do. For example, I tend to be the planner in my friend groups and Lauren identified this behavior as a result of my arranger and discipline strengths. It was insightful to see how our strengths play into our everyday behaviors.
A lot of people think career services only comes into play when figuring out your career path and looking for the next job opportunity. But it’s really beneficial to have a proactive team to identify our strengths early on in our roles at AlphaSights so we can maximize them right away and in the future. I’d recommend the Strengthsfinder assessment to others — whether in a team or looking for a new role — because it helps you understand and leverage personal strengths inside and outside of work. Lauren emphasized that it’s important to target your strengths and keep growing in areas you’re already strong in while managing your weaknesses. Too often, people focus all of their energy on overcoming weaknesses which may lead to missing out on opportunities that most align with your existing strengths.
Brooke Mustain joined AlphaSights in July of 2018 and serves as an Associate on our Brand Communications team.