🚀 A Personal Growth Hack for 2021 — Double Down on Your Strengths

The Generalist — A Blessing and a Curse

While talking with them about the next step in their journey, it has become apparent that many of them identify themselves as “Generalists’’. Generalists are people, or in this case, employees, who thrive while doing many different things simultaneously, covering a wide variety of functions and roles within an organization, and enjoy learning and trying new things all the time.

The Strengths Revolution

In their book “Now, Discover Your Strengths,” Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton discuss the systematic 30-year long Gallup research, in which researchers have interviewed more than 2 million top professional performers. Their goal was to hear these excellent performers describe, in their own words — what exactly they were doing and how.

  • In their latest meta-analysis (at the time the book was published) Gallup asked 198,000 employees from 36 companies: “At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?”
    When employees answered “Strongly Agree” to this question, they were 50% more likely to work in business units with lower employee turnover, 38% more likely to work in more productive business units, and 44% more likely to work in business units with higher customer satisfaction scores.
  • When they asked the broader global Gallup database of 1.7 million managers and employees “the opportunity to do what I do best” question, how many of them strongly agreed? Drumroll.. 20%.
  • Moreover, the longer the employee stays with an organization, and the higher he climbs the traditional career ladder, the less likely he/she is to strongly agree with this statement.
  1. Each person can learn to be competent in almost anything.
  2. Each person’s greatest room for growth is in his or her areas of greatness weakness.
  1. Each person’s talents are enduring and unique.
  2. Each person’s greatest room for growth is in the areas of his or her greatest strength.

Talents and Synaptic Connections

A synapse is a connection between two brain cells (neurons) that enable them to communicate with one another. 42 days after you are conceived, your brain experiences a 4-month growth spurt, or actually more of a “Big Bang” — and you create your first neuron. 120 days later, you have 100 billion of them. That’s new 9,500 neurons every second. Once this explosion dies down, most of the drama is over. You have about 100 billion neurons when you are born until late middle age.

Maya — losing some synapses and tightening others while entertaining Ruby, our friend’s kitten.

“Your talents are your strongest synaptic connections and are the foundation of your strengths.”

In a typical workday, you make hundreds if not thousands of tiny decisions. Unable to intellectualize every decision — you are compelled to react instinctively. Your brain does what nature always does in situations such as this — it finds and follows the paths of least resistance, your talents. A choice appears, you are immediately whisked away down one of your synaptic connections, and the decision is made.

“Spontaneous reactions, yearnings, rapid learning and satisfaction will all help you detect the traces of your talents. As you rush through your busy life, try to step back, quiet the wind whipping past your ears and listen for these values. They will help you zero in on your talents.”

The authors advise pausing after reading the first 3 chapters and taking the online StrenghtFinder assessment (a coupon code is included in most editions). Once you get your results, you are invited to continue reading and explore how you can further develop and leverage your top 5 strengths.

My top 5 strengths

I went down this rabbit hole thinking I’d discover dominant strengths like “Creativity,” “Resourcefulness,” or “A Self-Starter,” words or phrases we often use when asked about our professional traits.

The Strengths Development Canvas

To help me practice this personal growth framework, I created the following canvas. It shows my top 5 strengths, including tips and instructions on developing each strength and leaving room for quarterly plans/actions and reflection. I have a total of 5 slides to cover all of them, and I filled out the relevant Q1 actions in each one (not shown here).

Clifton Strengths Canvas — Available Here

So… am I still a Generalist?

I now think that the dominance of my “Learner” and “Input” strengths is another way to explain why I like learning and trying new or different things all the time.

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Shelly Eisen Livneh

Shelly Eisen Livneh

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👩‍💻 A Tech Lover👷 Product Builder 📈 Growth & Product Marketing Specialist ‍🎓 An Infinite Learner