Harnessing my super powers

Do you know where you are at your best? Do you have a clear understanding of what you need to do each and every day to feel lit, as the cool kids say? Do you have a list of actions to help you feel that way, right in your line of sight? Thanks to the incredible work and generosity of spirit of one of my soul sisters, I can say yes, yes and hell yes to all three of those questions.

Here’s a confession- I’m not a big fan of profiling tools. On the whole, they bring back memories from the early 2000s of David Brent-esque managers who saw them as a silver bullet to shifting workplace cultures that were beyond dysfunctional. Myers-Briggs: meh. DiSC: yeah, nah. I don’t like anything that gives people in a limiting label or worse, an excuse for unacceptable behaviour. Although to be fair, on reflection and after working with some incredible people in the human performance and development space, I think my feelings are purely subjective and were formed from working with people who didn’t use these tools to their potential nor how they’re intended.

Anyhoo- last year, when I joined Thriving Women, our first workshop was to be Strengths and Results. Specifically, we were to explore Gallop CliftonStrengths. My first reaction was to recoil, but I put on my big girl pants and gave it a crack. The first step was to complete an online profiling tool with 42 million questions. I had a coffee, cleared my head, took a deep breath and dove in.

A week later, it was workshop time. In front of the room stood my soon-to-be soul sister, Melitta Hardenberg. Here’s where I pause this narrative to give you a little insight into the intellectual powerhouse and sheer incredible person that Melitta is. Seriously, this woman has a shimmering cloud surrounding her, she is that magical a being.

Melitta brings more than a decade of experience shaping cultures in a range of industries from financial services to the tech sector. Melitta works with organisations to help navigate the early stages of buy-in through to embedding change within the organisational context. She’s an author, Head of Learning and Development at Seek, a runner, a mother of two spectacular little girls and writes the best out of office messages ever. Ever!

Here’s a taste what Melitta said in that workshop, paraphrased by me:

Do you get an opportunity to do what you do best every day? People who answer yes stay in business longer, delight their customers more and experience higher productivity and fulfilment.

A strength isn’t just what you’re good at but is what makes you feel strong. When you tap into this energy the impact is indisputable.

When you focus on your weakness you are in a state of surviving. When you focus on your strengths you move to thriving.

The aim with strengths awareness is to use your strengths against your greatest challenge. Which of your strengths can help you get the results to address this challenge?

It was here that my handwriting became illegible, mainly because I couldn’t keep up with the intellectual glitter Melitta kept throwing at me.

Then, we were given a copy of our results which detailed our top 5:

Intellection, Learner, Discipline, Activator and Focus.

My first reaction was resistance. On first reading, I couldn’t reconcile them with how I saw myself. Emma McQueen, our fearless leader, must have noticed my resting thinking face, because she came over to ask me what I thought.

‘Don’t these make sense to you at all?’ she asked, and then laughed. ‘Look at how you’ve taken yourself off to a corner so you can focus on them.’ Quite literally, this was true to my number one strength, Intellection.

I went to the coast that night, and the next morning I showed my mum. She saw them as uncannily appropriate and could easily relate them to me as a child and as an adolescent too. I repeatedly read over them for days, weeks and months, and made a plan of attack (ie my Strength numbers 3, 4 and 5) to learn more (ie my Strength number 2) find a way to embed them in my life. First step of this was catching up 1:1 with Melitta to find out how to do this, and we started by unlocking my full report. Game changing.

Here’s my top 10 and a quick summary of what they mean in practice when I’m intentionally leaning in to them:

  • Intellection: think deeply, think often
  • Learner: use your passion for learning to add value
  • Discipline: create structure and keep things organised
  • Activator: be the catalyst, make a decision, get going
  • Focus: set specific goals with timelines to motivate
  • Harmony: find common ground through practical solutions
  • Maximiser: strive for excellence
  • Empathy: appreciate and refine your gift for understanding
  • Input: keep exploring, always be curious
  • Achiever: bring intensity and effort

To be honest, I still don’t quite relate to harmony, but as a harmonious individual, we’ll leave it there…

That was 2019- as we all know, 2020 is a whole different beast. When Melitta put a call out in late March for a refresher on strengths my hand shot up faster than that nerdy kid in English Lit class (oops, that was me) as I knew that the state of the world would bring a level of stress that was … unprecedented. Yeah, I said it. I knew that the steps I’d put in place to anchor strengths into my daily life were quite shallow and a pandemic complete with sharing the workplace with remote learning cherubs needed a stronger approach.

I caught up with Melitta, I pleaded with her to give me some actionable practices, and I put those mofos on a a3 piece of paper right at eye level on my desk. My year 8 cherub gave them a pretty headline, and boom.

I’m so glad I was proactive about this: Melitta wrote an incredible article about the strengths that were most impacted by pandemic-necessitated restrictions and lockdown. Mine are up there. Throughout this entire shitshow I’ve intentionally used my strengths and while I can’t say that all day every day has been prancing unicorns and rainbows, on the whole, I won’t be looking back on this time with any real sense of reliving a nightmare. Instead, it’s a time where I’ve given considered thought to how I show up (to the kitchen, the living room, the f*cking letterbox) and I’m actually quite proud of the person I’ve leaned into- all because I was blessed to have access to the phenomena that is one Melitta Hardenberg.

Here’s where I break your heart – Melitta doesn’t really work 1:1 with people- rather she’s an on-masse changemaker. That said, you can access her genius via her book, Change by Stealth. Get your copy from Melitta.

Tell me, do you live your strengths?