This week’s lesson from my book: Self-Aware: A Guide for Success in Work and Life is on “discovering your strengths.”

Here are the steps I asked my students to consider:

  1. According to the Gallup survey discover your top-five signature strengths? (you will need to buy one of the Gallup books to get the code to be able to take this survey)
  2. As with all similar surveys, the Gallup is based on self-report. Yet, research shows we do not know ourselves as well as we think we do. Self-report assessments therefore can be notoriously unreliable. Therefore I also ask my students seek feedback from others who know them well, about what these significant others perceive as the students’ strengths. I do this by asking them to send an email to up to a dozen people asking a simple question, “What do you see as my key strengths?”

You might also consider doing the Best Self Exercise that was developed by my colleagues at the Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Request positive feedback from people who know you. Then you use this information to create a portrait of your “best self.” You can find out more and purchase the Reflected Best Self exercise online.

  1. While it is crucial to know our strengths, it is equally important to be aware of our blind spots. I ask the students to reflect on their blind spots by asking other trusted people for feedback about this topic.
  2. I emphasize to the students that strength surveys focus primarily on intellectual strengths. It is important to recognize that there are multiple types of intelligences and that we are all far better at one or two than others. For example, I have many gifted athletes and musicians in my class. I emphasize these strengths can be as important as intellectual strengths in determining success.  Other types of intelligences which are important to identify include: athletic, artistic, musical, and social emotional intelligences.


I conclude this section with feedback from a student from last year who wrote about her experience trying to understand her strengths and blind spots.


“The Gallup Strengths Finder revealed my 5 top strengths: ideation, input, restorative, deliberative, and learner.

Overall, these strengths were accurate as were the tailored descriptions that were provided. I identify most strongly with the ideation, input, deliberative, and learner strengths.

My strengths all conversely result in blind spots. One such blind spot I have always had difficulty expressing my ideas linearly. I tend to make abstract, logical jumps and get frustrated when people are unable to follow my ideas. This class helped me realize that different people have different learning styles. I prefer ideas, while others prefer facts. To address my blind spot, I need to remember to connect the dots between my ideas and support them with examples to help other people better understand me. The converse of the deliberative strength is perfectionism. I have tendency to keep sewing up loose ends in my work to the point of diminishing marginal return on my time.”

-a student



For more information on strengths please refer to chapter 2 of my book: Self-Aware: A Guide for Success in Work and Life.

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