Leadership development

6 questions for identifying your strengths

February 11, 2020
If you only do one thing in 2020: Ask better questions to improve your one-to-ones!

When was the last time you talked about strengths? As a manager, have you had a meaningful discussion about your employee’s strengths in the last three months?

If not, you may want to book some time in. According to Gallup, this question is predictive of employee engagement and performance.


That’s because when managers are committed to building their employees’ strengths, employees feel cared for and feel that they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day. In fact, employees who use their strengths every day have a 50% higher retention rate, according to Marcus Buckingham.


Identifying your strengths

Given the business impact of leveraging our strength at work, managers should coach direct reports to identify their strengths and realise the value of those strengths.


If it’s your first time coaching an employee, you may be tempted to open your next one-to-one with “let's talk about your strengths” but this can be a little intimidating and won’t drive the best discussion.


Instead, here are the six essential questions to ask in your Strengths-based one-to-one.


Add these talking points to the agenda for your next one-to-one in CoachBot beforehand to give your direct report a chance to prepare as they wish.


  1. What are you like at your best?
  2. Choose a family member, a close friend and a colleague. How would each of these people describe your strengths?
  3. Think back on your career. What strengths have you used in the past?
  4. What’s your personal Unique Selling Point (drawing on the strengths discussed in previous 3 questions)
  5. How could you use these strengths more at work?
  6. Who can you ask for strengths-based feedback before we next meet?

Listen carefully

Your main role during this one-to-one is to listen closely, jot down all the strengths that come up and look out for themes. Your employee may share their strengths in a jumbled way or may struggle to identify themes clearly. By listening carefully you will help them make sense of it all.


As their manager, you can also provide feedback on strengths that you really appreciate or bring up strengths that they may have forgotten.

Bonus points: Reverse roles

So far we’ve discussed how a manager can help an employee identify their strengths but there is no reason why you can’t reverse roles and repeat! In fact, by doing it the other way round your direct report will learn more about you and is likely to trust you more.


What’s more, your direct report is often well-placed to help you uncover some of your own strengths.


Ask for feedback from others

There can often be big differences between what you think your strengths are and what others see as your strengths.


Question number 6 is a prompt to speak to someone else in your team or company about how they see your strengths. If you don’t have a chance to take them for coffee, try sending them a message like...

“I’m collecting some feedback on my strengths and would love to know where you think I add most value? Or what are you most likely to recommend me for?”


"But my manager is never going to talk about my strengths"


You don’t need to wait for your manager to bring this up. Be the captain of your own career. Use the talking point above as a reflective writing exercise. Then, next time you’re with your manager, ask for feedback on what they see as some of your strengths. They may be more open to discussing these talking points than you’d expect!  


Resources

https://hbr.org/2013/07/three-myths-about-your-strengths

https://www.marcusbuckingham.com/rwtb/business-case-for-strengths/