I recently became a certified facilitator for
the Strengths Deployment Inventory ™ (SDI), the critical tool in Relationship Awareness Theory, developed 40 years ago by Dr. Elias Porter. The cool thing about this tool (unlike many other assessments I have encountered in my career) is that it goes deeper than a surface description of your personality or style. The SDI gets at your Motivational Values underneath your behavior so as to illuminate what uniquely drives you both in good times and in conflict.
The application of the Strengths Deployment Inventory ™ (SDI) to relationships and team interaction is huge. Imagine if you actually understood where someone was coming from...think of the ways you might be able to shift your behavior to more successfully relate to that person. Mind-blowing!
One of the 4 tenets of the SDI ™ is that a weakness is simply an overdone or misapplied strength (either actually overdone, or overdone through the filter of someone else's lens). For those of you in leadership positions, you know that in order to have the greatest possible success in engaging, relating to, and communicating with others you must access and maximize a blend of your signature strengths. We want to use all of our strengths in a balanced way for more effectiveness and success. It is when we get attached to, get stuck on or over-rely on using a particular strength that misunderstandings or breakdowns in communication and relationships occur.
Are you caught in a pattern of overusing one of your signature strengths? Are you sometimes too much of a good thing? Click here to download my Optimizing Strengths pdf worksheet and use it to guide you through my Strength Balancing and Optimization exercise below.
5 steps to balancing and optimizing your signature strengths
1/ Identify your Strengths
First, and most importantly, you must do the work of identifying your strengths. A strengths-based approach to work and life has been proven to develop individuals at a far greater rate than an approach focused on correcting deficiencies. If you want to contribute fully to this world, it is key to identify and then fully step into your signature strengths. What are the qualities that you possess that contribute the most to this world? What makes you, you?
Take 3 minutes and do a "spew". Simply write a list of as many personal strengths and qualities as you can. Remember, we are talking about strengths and qualities here (not learned skills or technical abilities). For example, instead of writing " I am a good accountant", ask yourself "what qualities of mine make me a good accountant? You might say: "analytical, intelligent, thorough" etc. Get it? This is about You.
2/ Rank your Strengths
Decide which strengths are the ones you MOST often employ in most situations or that stand out for you as your "go-to" strengths. For this exercise, simply rank your top 3 strengths.
(Note: your "go-to" strengths may change for certain environments, or with different relationships)
3/ What do your strengths overdone look like?
Are you drawing on all of your strengths or showing up and relying in a potentially overdone way with your strongest strength? Think of a situation in your life - perhaps how you might run your staff meeting, show up at a networking function, interact with your teenager or another personal example. Identify what your go-to strength would be in that situation. Imagine what "overdone" might mean for that strength in that situation.
For example, I decided my top most used, go-to strength was "self-confidence". However, self-confidence if overdone, could come across as intimidating, controlling, arrogant or even manipulative! Even though my intent as I use my self-confidence strength is positive, the effect on others may be something quite different (and unintended).
To get you in the swing of this kind of thinking, let's look at the "overdone" side of some other very noble strengths:
Caring if overdone (or perceived as being overdone) could be enabling, smothering, controlling. Analytical if overdone (or perceived as being overdone) could be cautious, weak, indecisive.
Organized if overdone (or perceived as being overdone) could be controlling, inflexible, rigid.
4/ "Borrow" your other strengths
What the SDI ™ would then have you do, depending on the situation you are in, is to "borrow" your other strengths so that your message is received in the way you intended. Think about which of your lesser-used strengths you could use in each situation to balance and enhance your go-to strength so that it is perceived in the way you intend and optimizes your communication.
(E.g. Lets say I am running a staff meeting - Again, I might identify "Self-confidence" as my go-to strength in that situation. Knowing that self-confidence (is overdone or perceived as being so) could be intimidating to some of my staff, I could then consider augmenting my self-confidence by "borrowing" other strengths of mine that aren't as frequently present in that situation like 'flexibility' or 'caring'. My more rounded out presence would create a better atmosphere for successful communication during that meeting.
5/ Be all of you!
Am I asking you to change or deny your signature strengths? Absolutely not! However, being aware of, and drawing on your less-used strengths to round out and balance your presence can add much needed depth and dimension to your personality, enhance your relationships and aid communication.