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Curiosity, strengths and realising your potential

Humans are inherently curious beings. We wonder how high, how far and what would happen if?

We’re extremely curious about others, too. We know what our boss’s husband does for a living, the breed of a colleague’s rescue dog and which actor played Princess Anne in The Crown.

But for all our curiosity about the world and others, we are so rarely curious about ourselves.

We get a better understanding of ourselves through feedback. One of the reasons why feedback is so important is because it can help to identify, clarify and validate our strengths.

It’s important to have a vision, but if you don’t have an idea of what your strengths are, you’ll find it much harder to make that vision a reality.

Shining a light in the dark

I think there are two main reasons why we don’t look inward as a matter of habit.

The first is a general reluctance born of a fear that if we look too deeply at ourselves, we might not like what we find (as though it would be all bad, which is never ever the case).

The second, and this becomes truer the more busy our lives are, is the idea of self-reflection is a frivolity or self indulgent, that it is the opposite of progress and action. The consequence of this is that we tend to rely on the feedback of others to inform our idea of ourselves. This is, I should say, perfectly natural and fine. The problem is that in isolation and without reflection, it simply isn’t enough.

For starters, we typically only ask for feedback once a year and we tend to ask those who will say kind things, rather than those who might offer us challenges.

Additionally, as a result of working from home, we simply aren’t getting feedback in the way we used to. Interacting with colleagues on chat or on a video call doesn’t give us those moments in which we learn about ourselves and others in a freer way.

The feedback of others should complement the insights we uncover about ourselves.

Our lives have changed in a dramatic way over the past year and I think it’s time we abandon old habits and embrace new ones.

Change of this nature demands that we all need to be exceptional learners, we need to be curious about ourselves as much as we are about others.

Let’s no longer rely solely on what our line manager thinks of us in a performance review once a year to drive our development and career. We need to be more proactive seeking feedback and insight about ourselves and our environment regularly without fear, confident that only we decide what we do with these insights.

I think we should consider letting go of some aspects of the traditional model of building awareness to assess, judge and box people; today demands we are more self-directed in learning about ourselves and our strengths. We must learn to hold insights lightly and make personal choices about where to focus our energy and resources.

I want to share some ideas to support you in your journey of strengths discovery.

Getting curious about your strengths

  1. Look outside your immediate context. For my executive coaching clients I often include a qualitative 360 review where I interview my client’s colleagues and stakeholders. Their perspectives are invaluable. Over the past year, I’ve tried to replicate this for many more people. I’ve developed a self-directed tool, The Strengths Tool, which for those curious about their strengths, curious about the opinions of others and keen to consider these through time and context, i.e. not just in one organisation.
  2. Make the first step a small one. The Strengths Tool provides a good first step, that gives people a foundational understanding of what a strength is and how understanding them lays the groundwork for further enquiry, perhaps with a coach, perhaps in their own teams.
  3. Remind yourself that you are okay. Constructive feedback on your strengths is always a positive experience. Either there’s room for improvement in certain areas and you can get busy developing yourself, or you might find there’s a strength in you that you’ve not seen yourself. It can be a powerful way to build confidence and to let go of behaviours that no longer serve you. We might have limited time for interactions with colleagues who remind them that they are good at what they do and remind them that they really are okay.

The Strengths Tool can be found on our website.

Let me know how you get on and please do give me feedback. It’s important to me that this tool is useful. Finally, if you’d like to have a conversation about how understanding your strengths can unlock your potential, please get in touch