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When Strengths are Under-Appreciated


I wish I could add two words to this quote. If I could, it would read, “I will no longer extend myself to anyone who doesn’t appreciate me, including myself.”

Are you someone who under-appreciates the things you do best? If you are uncertain whether self-appreciation is an issue for you, answer the following two questions. Do you value yourself and the things you do well – as much as you would if you managed someone like yourself? Do you fully appreciate when you are able to easily complete a task that someone else has struggled with and subsequently asked for your help to complete? If you answer “no” to either or both of these questions, I suspect you under-appreciate your strengths.

Although it should no longer surprise me, I continue to be caught off guard when my clients only see weaknesses where there are clear talents. In short, frequently I have clients who do not view all of their traits as positive. Below are some of the comments I have heard when coaching:

“Oh, so you mean there’s something good that can come from having Responsibility?” This comment came from a manager who felt she had been dumped on again and again by higher-ups who took advantage of her dedication and willingness to see challenging projects through to completion.

“No one around here likes me because I have Deliberative as a Strength. They think I cannot make a decision.” This sentiment was expressed by an individual who had known since she was a child that she had trouble making decisions quickly. When I helped her reframe how the talents she used when she was being Deliberative helped her colleagues think through various possibilities and most likely protected the company from jumping into new endeavors too quickly (something that frequently occurs with the Activators on her team), she started to view her Deliberative characteristics in a more positive light.

“I’ll never succeed in the corporate business world because I have too much Empathy.” One of my most gratifying individual coaching opportunities was with Kim, the individual quoted above, who believed all of her strengths – and especially her Empathy – made her weak. She could not see how her insight into others’ emotions could help her in business.

Kim had taken the Clifton StrengthFinder assessment more than a year before she started working with me but it soon became clear to me that she did not fully understand her results. She was desperately searching for a new job after a succession of short-lived positions that only reinforced her idea that she had little to offer the kind of organization she aspired to join.

Kim was like a wilted flower. She was beautiful – inside and out – but she desperately lacked the confidence and pride in her natural talents that are fundamental to a successful job search. Discussing the practical ways that her strengths of Empathy, Harmony, Developer, Consistency, and Restorative could be used to sell herself in an interview was like putting a wilted hydrangea stem in a cool bucket of water. Kim blossomed immediately once we homed in on her love for organized workspaces, checklists, problem solving, and people. Armed with the new awareness that her “Top 5 Strengths” made her a strong candidate for the office manager position she fiercely wanted, Kim returned for a second interview.

Immediately after the interview, Kim gave me a full report of how things went. She was almost giddy. Kim knew the interview had gone well and said it was a sharp contrast from her first interview that had taken place prior to our coaching sessions when she was unsure of her strengths. Kim was hired immediately. The position paid $10,000 more per year than her last position, but infinitely more important than Kim’s fantastic compensation package was the shift in Kim’s understanding of herself and her talents.

In three one-hour coaching sessions, Kim discovered how to explain what she does best and how her skills could be put to good use. After less than eight months in her new position of office manager, Kim was promoted. Kim had been organized, timely, and easy-going in her past jobs. However, in the other positions she had not articulated to her employer how she could put her natural talents to use. Her greatest assets were going unused and underappreciated by Kim and by her past employers. Once Kim gained confidence in herself and acknowledged her abilities, she found a position that was well-suited for her and an employer who valued her skills.

Since receiving her first promotion, Kim has been singled-out by the directors of her organization to receive leadership training. This elite, city-wide training program has allowed Kim to build relationships with up and coming leaders in her city and flex her Relationship Building talents into real Strengths. Although it is only two years since our first coaching session, it seems as though it was light years ago. Kim is thrilled with her position, her company, and her life. She is fulfilled at work and at home. She credits this internal and external transformation to her ability to recognize and harness her true, authentic gifts. Kim was able to flip the internal paradigm in her head that told her that Empathy, Harmony, and Developer were weaknesses and undesirable traits in a hard-nosed business world. Today, Kim recognizes that her talents bring her power and success. Those talents allow her to flourish at work because she values them and nurtures their development.

Kim’s ability to embrace a new way of thinking about her strengths was a critical step to unlocking her full potential. My job as a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach is to shine a bright light on the importance and value of ALL strengths found in a client. It is what makes my days both challenging and remarkably inspiring.

To learn more about this process please contact me at Sarah@freshconceptsonline.com or visit http://freshconceptsonline.com/unstuck-last/ to purchase the book Unstuck at Last.

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