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.
Here's A Full Transcript of the 17 Minute Episode
Lisa [0:04]: You're listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you'll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings, and I gotta tell you, it's hard to find something more energizing and productive than using your natural talents every day at work.
And today, you'll explore a question that came up in a strengths workshop I did with a group of high potential team members who said they want their talents to shine, but they don't want to seem like braggadocious jerks. So, their question was, how can you share this awesomeness without sounding arrogant? Or without sounding entitled?
What a good question because I hear it from all levels. And I even hear it from every cultural background I've experienced so far. So, for example, Australia and clients, they tell me about the tall poppy syndrome. It's that concept about cutting down someone who's higher in stature or prominence to bring them back down to size. And so of course, many Aussies are reluctant to talk about their standout areas, because it's really been a cultural faux pas to try to stand out. 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”. And regardless of your 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, if you're a manager, and you want to help your team members feel less awkward about this concept of speaking positively about the contributions they can make to your team, please, please, please, please, open up conversations and make them a regular part of how you operate with each other.
And since it's tough for managers to put this into practice, because you're busy, we actually have a 12-week series we made just for people leaders. And it used to be something we only made available to clients, yet it is so on target with this episode, that I want to offer it to you too.
So, if you go to lead throughstrengths.com/manager activation course, we will send you 12 weeks of conversation starters for strengths-focused one-on-ones and quick conversations for team meetings, so that you can keep learning more about what puts your team members at their best, because just like the tall poppy syndrome, many people aren't going to talk to you directly about their unique differentiators unless you ask them.
And a lot of our leadership clients start with good intentions. And then they get busy. And it's also kind of tough to come up with questions to keep this going because it’s sort of feels like yet another thing for your to-do list. And it's one of those things that is important but not urgent. So, then it gets cut from the list when distractions and interruptions and busy urgencies of the week, jump into your day.
So, this 12-week series will just make it easy-peasy for you, so you can keep strings conversations going. So that's leadthroughstrengths.com/manager activation course. Now, if we switch back over to thinking of this question 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, because whether you're a manager or not, you also have strengths that you need to share with the world. And you probably want to figure out how to do that without sounding like a big braggart.
So here are 3 steps for you to help you get known for your talents without having to feel arrogant about it.
Step 1 is to know what you want to be known for.
Step two is to focus outward.
And Step three is to talk to your leader about it. And I'll give you talking points for this one, because people always tell me that the script for opening the conversation, the actual words that they'll choose to use is the part that is super awkward for them. And that's where they get stuck, and they need some ideas about how to open this conversation.
So. let's break each one down. And step one, I'm suggesting that you should know what you want to be known for. So first, just take time. Imagine what you want to build a reputation for. This can be knowledge, skills, or abilities. Or if you're thinking through the lens of natural talents, think about how you would be getting work done if it brought you energy, if you were totally in flow, and if things even felt easy for you on the job.
[4:38] Imagine both the kind of work you'd be doing and how you'd be getting that work done. If you want help or some sparks for this, go to leadthroughstrengths.com/moreof and you'll see a list of phrases we made to spark your ideas. So, if you think about some phrases that different people could come up with, you'll imagine that somebody who picks the phrase “give advice”, or one “poke the bear” as to things they want more of in their day to day work life, well, they would be more of a status quo busting type of person.
They want to push the team forward. They want to get people on the edge of discomfort and really push progress. Maybe even it would describe someone who loves taking risks. And you can imagine that if there's another person on your team who wants to ensure quality and work carefully, and that's what they'd like more of in their day, well, they would be way more excited about getting assigned projects or roles that are all about operational effectiveness or safety or compliance.
And so that's why it's really important to do this first step, because if you don't know what you want to get known for, you'll get known for what you did well last. And I've seen way too many people become known as the quality assurance guru or the best team note taker, or the one who delivers quarterly ops review presentations. And they're known for it because they did it well last time, and they hate it.
They're known for it, because they delivered it well. But they didn't like the process, it actually sucked the life out of them. It took up all of their mental energy for days. It drained them and made them feel dreadful. But when you're a highly accountable, high achiever type of person, you try to knock it out of the park, even on work you hate. You use these brute force tactics so that you can work harder to come across as competent even in your weakness zone, so that your performance is still solid.
And if you're not the complaining type, no one is ever going to know that you're doing work that you don't like. And that's why you need to spend time thinking about what you want to be known for and your ideal world so that you can start aligning to that reputation you want to build over time. All right, that's step one.
So now step two. Step two, for showing up with your awesomeness without being perceived as an arrogant jerk is to focus outward. This is all about thinking about a business outcome that your talents can serve, or a person that your talents can serve. Since your talents, when you're using them, will help you feel ease and energy and enjoyment on the job, people are going to see that enlivened version of you while you're serving other people or while you're serving this business outcome, or this team goal.
So, let's just say for example, you've been nerding out on the peer reviewed journal of Applied Physics, all the literature you can find on understanding dark matter, and you happen to have the Clifton Strengths Finder talent theme of Input. And if you are on a team of physicists, you could move toward the enlightenment scale by sharing the findings with the team rather than just reading the journal articles for your personal education. You could summarize the findings, you could mention a team goal that you could see it applying to, but it would be fun, that would be a fun activity for someone who has the Input talent.
And it would also help them help the goal, help the team. They get to see your awesomeness, and they would appreciate your awesomeness. And so, if you offer your talents in this way, where you're naturally going to be drawn to those activities anyway, you're going to also find yourself uncovering where other people's trash tasks might be your treasured tasks, and vice versa. And that can lead you to task swapping opportunities where you can do like a task switcheroo with a teammate to get more of the work you love. And sometimes get rid of the work that you love and swap it out with somebody.
You can also volunteer your talents. You may have heard my interview with Ben Fanning where he talked about finding all the things you're looking forward to on your to-do list and on your calendar coming up in the next month. And then he encouraged you to step back and find the trend. And those things that you enjoy about them, there are going to be some threads there. And then he also suggested seeking out more of those things by volunteering to help a teammate in one of those areas, or to do a lunch and learn or to help the team with something that you get jazzed about. Maybe it's offering data or articles on topics, it would be helpful to them. But his basic idea was sharing these things with others, that would be fun for you to do anyway. And that's going to help you build a reputation for the work you love doing.
[9:28] We'll link to that Ben Fanning episode in the show notes so you can give it a listen to go deeper on this step to activity because this is all about finding ways to offer up your talents as a contribution to others to the team, and not waiting for someone to offer you one golden ticket job that encompasses all of your strengths awesomeness in one. It's more about creating the smaller moments for yourself that get you in a state of energy or state of flow so that over time, you can get known for that and once you build a reputation for it, then those offers do come in by task level, by responsibility level, and even by project work or job assignments.
And they naturally then start to line up with your strengths.
All right, this third step, this is the big juicy stuff that everybody wants help with. And that is talking to your leaders about your strengths. So that's your manager who you report to. And this is an important step, of course, because your manager has a lot of sway when it comes to the responsibilities of your role. So, I'm offering you three phrases that will work well, when you want to put your strengths right on your leader’s radar.
So, you can use these in one-on-ones. You could tweak them and use them in an email if you want. I think they go better in on-on-ones, but most importantly, put them in your own words, and then you're on your way. So, the three flavors of these scripts that you'll get here are –
- I want to support a team or a company goal.
- I want to bring my A game to the company. Or,
- I'll be applying self-development and I would love your feedback.
So, flavor 1. This is when you want to have a conversation about your strengths, but through the lens of how it can support a team or a company goal. So, an example might sound like you saying,-
“Hey, I've been thinking a lot about how I can personally support our goal to increase customer retention by 15%. And I wanted to volunteer some help around our context in our coaching. Are you game to hear an idea?”
Okay, so you can hear that is just an opener for a one-on-one that seems easy enough. You heard that I inserted a goal, the customer retention goal. And then that person found a customer retention path through talents. It's something around coaching. Maybe the person has the Developer talent, and they love doing coaching. And they found a path through the contact center.
So, once that conversation opens, then you can decide how big this contribution is that you're going to offer. It could be something small, like creating a quick cheat sheet for them. But it could be something really big, like spending one day of each of your months coaching context interrupts in that area of expertise. So, you get the idea. It's really just opening the conversation. And it's really a great one, because you're helping the leadership team understand that you're always thinking about how you can further the team's goals or the organizational goals. And then you can't sound braggadocious or arrogant when you are framing things through the concept of the company and the contribution you want to make to the company.
All right flavor 2. This is a different script. This is more on the I want to bring my A game to the company. Of course, this is Lisa language. I want to bring my A game. You could say I want to bring my top performance. You could say I want to do the best I can do for you. However, you would personally phrase that. But it would sound something like you know, -
“I've been digging into StrengthsFinder and I've been thinking about how we can amp up our performance as a team. And it really got me thinking about what puts me in my A game mode, and one of them is that I am really on fire when I'm pushing my limits of learning. So next time you're assigning a project that has a steep learning curve and a really short timeline, would you consider me for it?”
So that's it. It's a question where you see that I put the factor like, this is a person who has reflected and thought, yeah, I'm really on fire when I get to just learn a lot in a really short amount of time. So, they thought of a project scenario, where something requires you to ramp up really fast on a short timeline, probably a major change. And then just ask,” Hey, next time you see something like that, will you please consider me for that?”
And then of course, they can say, “Yes, I'll consider you. And even if they don't select you, you're in their mind. And they… I'm telling you managers want to know what kind of projects you want to be considered for. And you don't put anybody on the spot, but it's really helping them think of you in a way you want to get known.
Third flavor is when you're a team that talks a lot about self-development goals, and you want to put some of this into action, and you want to get feedback. So, flavor three is, I will be applying my self-development to a project and I would love feedback from you. So, it would sound something like, -
“This has been a really big year development for me and I've been thinking a lot about how I can boost up the contributions I've made to the team. And one talent I've really decided to consciously put to use and leverage more is my natural ability to use and build a network. And it's different from the way I've approached the projects in the past because we've been really siloed on this project. So, I wanted to mention it to you for feedback purposes, because I'm going to extend beyond our normal collaboration. So, if you hear or see comments, whether they're good or bad about how these new collaborations are going, I'd love to hear about it.”
[14:41] “I'm thinking that they're going to be really well-received, but it's different from how we normally do it. So, I want to get your antenna up for the feedback.”
So, there you go, that's the third one. it takes a little bit longer, but in that one, you're talking about something. Instead of asking for permission, you're saying, “Hey, I'm gonna go at this thing with this new approach.”
And in this case, the example was they have a really good ability to build and use a network internally at the company. And then the benefit for the company was more about the collaboration and expanded ways of getting things done and breaking the silos down. And you know, that's something that your leader is going to think, “okay, yeah, that sounds good”.
But then you've also raised their awareness about the fact that you are consciously using networking. And the next time something requires you or a person to go meet a bunch of new people, or expand the relationships on the team, you would be the one who's kept in mind for that.
So, keep in mind as you're hearing all these scripting type of ideas that they're written out in the show notes. So, if any of those three flavors of bringing up the strengths conversation resonates with you, you can just go right into the show notes and copy them, and then be able to make them your own and put them in your language instead of in the Lisa language.
So, there you have it, 3 steps for bringing awareness to your awesomeness without sounding braggadocious. You have 1) know what you want to be known for first then, 2) focus them outward, and then 3) talk to your leader about it because leaders are not mind readers even if they want to be.
And if you're a people, manager, as many listeners are, you can see why these strengths focus conversations are so tough because they are awkward for people. Yet, if you are the initiator of the conversation, you'll give them permission to unleash their talents. I mean, how great is that?
Give them permission to show up at their best. Start asking them what puts them at their best. Ask them what their most favorite task and least favorite elements of the job are, ask them what they would love more of. And so if you want that 12-week series to help you out with those conversations, go to leadthroughstrengths.com/manager activation course, and you'll get 12 weeks of conversation starters for those one-on-ones in team meetings. The format's really simple. It just opens up topics like recognition and motivation, their favorite elements of the job and it gives you questions to ask and of course, you'll word it in your own way. But the idea is then you can spend your time focusing more on them and their strengths rather than spending your time that you don't have to try to come up with creative strengths questions.
So, with that, thanks for listening to Lead Through Strengths. Remember, using your strengths will strengthen the performance on your team. If you're putting a lopsided focus on fixing your weaknesses, then you're choosing the path of most resistance. So, claim your talents instead and share them with the world.