In this month's issue of Harvard Business Review, there's a beautiful strengths-based article (though the author, Edward Hallowell may not call it strengths-based- I'm choosing to do so!) titled: What Brain Science Tells Us About How to Excel
. The author introduces The Cycle of Excellence - things YOU can do to ensure you're as engaged as possible in your job. What I like about it is that he puts the onus on the employee to stand up and ask for what he/she needs in a role, right down to recognition. If you're not getting what you want out of your work, you have to speak up! What can it hurt? The worst that can happen is that your manager says "no" to whatever you're requesting. And that can be a gift too. If you can see that you're not ever going to get the lateral or upwards move that you need to be able to do more of what you love, that you're never going to be recognized for what you've contributed, that you have no control over setting good goals that challenge the best you have to give, that you're always going to be expected to follow tight rules and regulations with no time for play... well... polish up your resume, dear reader. This is not to lay all the responsibility on your manager. You'll read plenty of tips in the article on how to take control of the situation yourself. As we know from the research though, people join a company and they quit a manager. (Managers out there? You'll get some good insights if you read the article too!)
The sidebar in the article is so good that I don't even trust you to click through so I'm going to put his awesome questions right here for you to consider:
From What Brain Science Tells Us About How to Excel, Edward M Hallowell
"1. What are you best at doing? It is amazing how many people spend years trying to get good at what they’re bad at instead of getting better at what they’re good at.
2. What do you like to do the most? This is not always the same as the answer to question 1. Unless it is illegal or bad for you, do what you like. If it is also productive and useful, it ought to be your career.
3. What do you wish you were better at? Your answer may guide you to a course you should take or a mentor you should work with. It may also indicate a task you should delegate.
4. What talents do you have that you haven’t developed? Don’t say none.
5. Which of your skills are you most proud of? This often reflects obstacles you’ve overcome.
6. What do others most often say are your greatest strengths? This question helps you identify skills you may not value because they seem easy to you.
7. What have you gotten better at? This gives you an idea of where putting in additional effort can pay off.
8. What can you just not get better at no matter how hard you try? This tells you where not to waste any more time.
9. What do you most dislike doing? Your answer here suggests what tasks you might want to delegate or hire out.
10. Which skills do you need to develop in order to perform your job? Your answer to this question might lead you to take a course, read a book, or work with a mentor or coach.
11. What sort of people do you work best/worst with? Do you love to work with highly organized, analytic types? Do creative types drive you crazy? Make up your own categories.
12. What sort of organizational culture brings out the best in you? It is amazing how many people won’t leave a culture for which they are hideously unsuited.
13. What were you doing when you were happiest in your work life? Could you find a way to be doing that now?
14. What are your most cherished hopes for your future work life? What could keep you from realizing those hopes?
15. How could your time be better used in your current job to add value to the organization? Your answer here gives your manager valuable input he or she may never have thought to ask for."
Good ones, eh?
A little further note on #6. I still like this question because I feel it does give one more to think about in terms of possible strengths that we take for granted but do note: YOU are the person who has the best insight into your own strengths because only YOU know how an activity makes you FEEEEEEL. It is the feeling around the performance of a specific task or activity that is your cue to whether or not it can be translated into a game-changing gig for you. If the feeeeeling ain't there, no matter how good you are at something, it will never give you the type of fulfillment that people write books about.
What question do you find most helpful? After answering these questions, what steps can you take to further engage in your work and make it more amazing?