Working Smarter With Strengths

Working Smarter With Strengths

I’d always wondered why, in job interviews, people were asked about their weaknesses. It made no sense to me. Is anyone interviewed because of real or perceived weaknesses? Aren’t they considered because of what, on paper, appears to be their experience and strengths?

When the book Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton was released in the early 2000s, I completed the StrengthsFinder* assessment and realized so much about myself.

But let me back up a bit: you may know me because I’ve done work with you or your employing company, or you have been in a session I facilitated or a course I taught. You may have read my column, “The Best Laid Plans…”, that ran for years in another meetings industry publication, or been a member of the original “MIMList” of which I was the moderator. You may have simply stumbled on this blog or others and not know anything of my background.

The short story: I moved to Washington, D.C. in 1978 and found work as a meeting planner with a nonprofit after working on events in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio. I didn’t know there were jobs or titles that involved meetings! I was one of the "fell into it" people. It seemed a good fit.

The organization that hired me in D.C. didn’t have the money to keep me on for full years, so for three to four months a year, I did contract meeting planning. I was the "queen of binders" containing all the meeting details and worried about all those things those who plan meetings worry about! Even before I understood the scope or risk management, I experienced risk issues and knew to plan for them.

In 1981, I opened my own company, with my former employer and a few of those for whom I contracted, as my first clients. As a parting gift from the nonprofit, I was given the “Joan Eisenstodt Memorial Notebook” with gratitude expressed for my ability to manage the details of the many meetings I had done.

Running a company requires similar and different skills; like meeting planning, both demand attention to details and record keeping. I was learning that my strengths were that I could “do” details but I really hated them—especially the paperwork.

I persisted and for years planned meetings and events for many different clients. I also began to teach and facilitate, write, and help clients design more creative content delivery methods for their meetings. I learned, partly because of a lawsuit in 1983, how interested I was in risk management and contracts and that "red-lining" a contract was akin to reading a great novel: it was looking at how the words strung together mattered to the outcomes.

If someone had asked me—and they probably did—what my strengths were, I’m not sure I could have articulated them.

That was until I picked up Now, Discover Your Strengths and, a few years later, StrengthsFinders 2.0 (by Tom Rath).

After completing the StrengthsFinder assessment, I cried because it pinpointed why I’d become increasingly tired and disinterested in doing the logistics of meetings. This is not to say I didn’t think logistics were important: good content and logistics have to be intertwined to have a successful event. It was that I had validation of my strengths and they were taking me in a better-for-me direction.

More recently, a friend and colleague, a GM of a hotel, said that their executive team had completed the strengths assessment and how it was making a difference in how they worked. With clients whose staffs have completed the inventory and deployed people in ways that utilized their talents or strengths, work was more productive and people were happier in what they did (see an illustration of my five strengths to the right, courtesy of CoreClarity).

When focused on strengths or talents, one is more apt to work in a way that is smarter, healthier, and just good. And now you have an opportunity to learn more about your strengths. Read the interview with CoreClarity's Candace Fitzpatrick and Gary Rifkin in this month's Friday With Joan newsletter and take the inventory**.

We'll follow up with the findings in future months.

*Editor's Note: Clifton StrengthsFinder is a web-based personality assessment that poses a series of 177 self-descriptors, delivered in pairs where one is chosen by the participant, that reveal the traits of whoever is taking the test. More details on how the test works are available on the Strengthsfinder website. Ways of taking the test include, creating an account on the StrengthsFinder website and taking the paid test ($15). Or by purchasing a physical copy of StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath, which provides access to the test.

**If you have already taken the StrengthsFinder test and know your top five strengths (or decide that you want to do so via the means above), CoreClarity will provide you with free info on how to better utilize that knowledge. Check out the custom-tailored Google Form for more details.

As with all of my blogs and commentary on this site, these views are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Meetings Today and its parent company.

Posted by Joan L. Eisenstodt

Follow Joan on Twitter: @joaneisenstodt

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