In this episode, Lisa answers the question: How can you share the awesomeness of your personal strengths without sounding arrogant or entitled?
Resources of the Episode
- ”More Of” Resource
- The Quit Alternative: Instead, Take That Job And Love It – With Ben Fanning
- You'll find lots of other StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page
Awesomeness Without Arrogance
Today you’ll explore a question that came up in a strengths workshop I did with a group of high potential team members who want their talents to shine, yet they don’t want to seem like braggadocious jerks. Their question was, “How can you share your awesomeness without sounding arrogant or entitled?”
What an important question. I hear it from all levels, and even from every cultural background I’ve experienced so far.
For example, Australians will tell you about the tall poppy syndrome. This concept is about cutting down someone who is higher in stature or prominence to bring them down back to size. Of course, many Aussies are reluctant to talk about their standout areas because it has been such a cultural faux pas to stand out on purpose.
My Japanese clients tell me about the saying, “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.”
In Western cultures I hear things like, “Don’t rock the boat” or “Don’t make waves.”
Regardless of the country, most of these sayings are meant to keep you humble and remind you to not run around being an arrogant jerk. Yet, unfortunately, they also keep a lot of people from sharing their gifts with the world.
So, back to thinking of this in a self-reflective way, how do you begin to offer your personal strengths to the world while also staying humble and being perceived well? Here are three steps to becoming known for your talents without having to brag about them.
Step 1 - Know What You Want To Be Known For
First, take some time to imagine what you want to be known for. This can be knowledge, skills, or natural abilities. If you’re thinking about natural abilities and talents, think about how you would be getting work done if it brought you energy — if you were totally in flow — and things even felt easy. Imagine the kind of work you’d be doing and how you’d get work done.
To help you with this, try the "More Of Inventory" where you’ll see a list of phrases to spark your ideas. You’ll can imagine that someone who picks “give advice” and “poke the bear” as the two things they’d want more of — well, they would be more of a status quo-busting person who wants to push the team forward and get people on the edge of discomfort — maybe even someone who loves living risk-taking mode.
And you can imagine another person who wants to “ensure quality” and “work carefully” — well, they would be way more excited about a project or role all about operational effectiveness or safety or compliance.
That’s why it’s important to do this step first.
If you don’t know what you want to get known for, you’ll get known for what you did well last.
I’ve seen way too many people become known as the quality assurance guru or the best team notetaker or the one who delivers the quarterly ops review presentation — and they’re only known for it because they did it well last time.
When actually, it may have sucked the life out of them. It may have taken up all of their mental energy for days. It may have drained them and felt dreadful, but when you’re a highly accountable high achiever, you’ll try to knock it out of the park. Even on work you hate. And the thing is, someone else probably loves the kind of work that you loathe.
Many high achievers use brute force to become competent, even in their weaknesses zones, because the only acceptable way of showing up is to offer a solid performance. And if you’re not a complainer, no one will ever know you don’t like that work. That’s why you need to spend a bit of time thinking about what you’d really love to be known for. In your ideal world. Then you can start aligning to that reputation over time.
Step 2 - Focus Outward
This is all about taking an outward focus. It’s thinking about a business outcome your talent can serve. It’s thinking about a person you can help. Since your talents will help you feel ease, energy, and enjoyment on the job, people will see the enlivened version of you while you serve another person or a team goal or business outcome.
For example, if you’ve been nerding out on the peer-reviewed Journal of Applied Physics literature on the understanding of dark matter — and you happen to have the Clifton StrengthsFinder talent theme of Input — you could move toward the enlivenment scale by sharing your findings with the team rather than just reading the journals for your personal education.
You could summarize the key findings and mention a team goal that it applies to. This would be fun for someone with the Input talent theme and it would also help the team. They’d see your awesomeness and would appreciate it.
And if you offer your talents this way, you’ll often uncover where one person’s trash tasks are another person’s treasured tasks. That's half the beauty of StrengthsFinder and using strengths in general. It can lead you to task swapping opportunities where you can do a task-switcheroo with teammates to get more of the work you love.
You can also volunteer your talents. You may have heard my interview with Ben Fanning where he talked about finding all of the things you look forward to on your to-do list or your calendar. Then he encouraged you to find the trend in the things you enjoy.
He also suggested seeking out more of them by volunteering to help a teammate in one of those areas. Or offer a Lunch and Learn to the team on something you get jazzed about. Offer data or articles on topics that would be helpful to the team. It’s basically sharing things with others that would be fun for you to do anyway.
This is all about finding ways to offer up your talents as a contribution to the team — and not waiting for someone to offer you the golden-ticket job. It’s more about creating small moments for yourself that put you in a state of flow or energy or enjoyment so that over time you can become known for that. And once you build a reputation for it, the offers for project work and roles and assignments (even at small task levels) will begin to match up with your strengths.
Step 3 - Talk To Your Leader About It
This is an important step, of course, because your manager has a lot of sway when it comes to the tasks and responsibilities of your role.
Here are three flavors of conversations (3 approaches for talking about your strengths with your manager) that work well when you want to put your strengths on your leader’s radar. These are great for 1x1s. Or you could tweak them for email. Put them in your own words, and you’re on your way.
Flavor 1: I Want To Support A Team Or Company Goal
Formula: "I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can personally support [goal], and wanted to volunteer some help around [talent or thing you want to build a reputation around]. Are you game to hear an idea?”
Example: “I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can personally support [our goal to increase customer retention by 15%], and wanted to volunteer some help around [our contact center coaching]. Are you game to hear an idea?”
Chew On This: Once this conversation opens, you could volunteer a small or large contribution — anything from the creation of a quick cheat sheet resource, all the way through spending one day each month coaching contact center reps in your area of expertise.
Flavor 2: I Want To Bring My A-Game To The Company
Formula: “As you know, I’ve been digging into StrengthsFinder and thinking about how we can amp up our performance. It got me thinking about what puts me in A-game mode, and one of them is [talent or thing you want to build a reputation around]. Next time you’re assigning a project like that, would you consider me for it?”
Example: “As you know, I’ve been digging into StrengthsFinder and thinking about how we can amp up our performance. It got me thinking about what puts me in A-game mode, and one of them is [that I’m really on fire when I’m pushing my limits of learning]. Next time you’re assigning a project that has a steep learning curve on a short timeline, would you consider me for it?”
Chew On This: Managers in my training sessions tell me that they’d love it if they knew what kind of projects their team members want to be considered for. A simple “please consider me …” request increases the chances that when they’re making decisions in the future, they’ll think of you.
Flavor 3: I Will Be Applying Self-Development To A Project And Would Love Feedback
Formula: “This has been a year of big development for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to amp up the contributions I make to the team. One talent I’ve decided to consciously leverage more is my [talent or thing you want to build a reputation around]. It’s different from the way I’ve approached my projects in the past, so wanted to mention it to you for feedback purposes. If you see or hear comments (both good or bad) about me, I’d love to hear them. I’m going in thinking that it will be well received, yet it’s different from how we normally do it so wanted to get your antennae up for it.”
Example: “This has been a year of big development for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to amp up the contributions I make to the team. One talent I’ve decided to consciously leverage more is my [natural ability to build an use a network]. It’s different from the way I’ve approached my projects in the past because we’ve stayed pretty silo'ed on this project, so wanted to mention it to you for feedback purposes. If you see or hear comments (both good or bad) about the new collaborations, I’d love to hear them. I’m going in thinking that it will be well received, yet it’s different from how we normally do it so wanted to get your antennae up for it.”
Chew On This (especially if you're a people manager): If you're a leader, as many listeners are, you can see why these strengths-focused conversations are so tough. They’re awkward for people. Yet if you initiate the conversations, you give them permission to unleash their talents. Ask them what puts them at their best. Ask them what their most favorite and least favorite elements of the job are. Ask them what they would love more of.