Years ago, I worked in a small office, and our executive director got very excited about Strengths Finder 2.0. You take a quiz, and it tells you what your top five strengths (or themes, as the book refers to them) are. For the team I was on at that time, my director used it to modify her leadership style for each person and in making new hiring decisions.
It was a pretty interesting exercise. Though it didn’t surprise me that communication came out as my first strength. I mean, it was a relief given my career choice that I might have a natural inclination toward communicating. Honestly, all of my top five made sense to me.
But I couldn’t help but look through all of the other options and wonder. Why didn’t “Relator” or “Empathy” rise to the top? One of the strengths is described as “Woo.” The book says, “People strong in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with another person.”
At the time my job was in business outreach. I was at chamber and local business association meetings constantly. I made presentations frequently. I had to really put myself out there. So why wasn’t that a strength?
Then it hit me. It wasn’t a natural strength. I had to learn it. Practice it. And oftentimes, force it.
If I’m honest, that’s still true for me. There are times when I’ve got to really psyche myself up for meeting new people. Coffee is paramount to doing that but so is the reminder that only good things come of meeting new people.
It’s always worth my time, whether professionally or personally. It’s kind of like working out. I might have to force myself to do it, but afterward I never say, “Boy, I wish I hadn’t gone for a run.” It always feels like an accomplishment.
I probably don’t have to tell you, but MarCom is a great place to practice your networking skills. We have three more breakfast programs of the year before we take a break for summer. And even though they are early on a Friday, we have coffee and bacon to make it easier. Not to mention, our speakers always bring fantastic case studies, tips and new ideas.
This was truly not a long-winded way for me to tell you to come to more MarCom events (unless it worked). My point was that strengths aren’t always what come easy to you.
When I say my boss used it for hiring decisions, she looked at what we lacked and tried to hire for it. Which was an interesting strategy, but it can be misleading. Just because you aren’t a born organizer, it doesn’t mean you can’t develop a system that works for you.
Figuring out your natural strengths can be revealing or simply confirm what you thought to be true. The real test is what you do about your weaknesses and how you work on areas that are difficult.
And if, like me, you’re not a natural networker, we can hang out at the next breakfast meeting. You’ll find me by the coffee.
By Annie Gannon, MarCom President