When was the last time someone gave you meaningful feedback that was focused specifically on your greatest strengths?
If you're like most of us, you just might have a hard time answering that question.
When the words "feedback" or "performance review" come up in the workplace we tend to brace ourselves to hear things we could be doing better. Even though the feedback may be very balanced (positive and negative), we tend to only hear the criticism. Why? Because we are often are own worse critics. We simply don’t see ourselves the same way that other people see us.
Several years ago, I was at a turning point in my corporate career. I was doing some soul searching and looking for direction about "what was next for me". Sure enough, an email shows up in my inbox from the late Thomas Leonard. (It's amazing to me how things "show up" just when I need them!) Thomas talked about the power and value of validating your strengths. This is what he suggested:
- Choose 15 – 20 people you respect and who know you well (they can be people from all areas of your life – the more diverse the better)
- Send them an email telling them that you're working on your personal/professional development. (If that feels to weird for you, tell them you're completing an assignment for a class.)
- Ask them to identify 3 of your greatest strengths, and if possible, give an example or a story about when they noticed each of the strengths.
This felt a little weird to me, mainly because I just had never heard of it before. Finally, I thought "Heck, what's the worst that could happen?" So I did it.
I can tell you it was one of the most powerful personal/professional development exercises I'd ever experienced. By simply having the courage to ask for positive feedback I was overwhelmed with what people wrote. And…it was in black and white, so I could keep it! Guess which file I pull out when I need a little inspiration?
I felt a deeper connection to the people who responded, validated, appreciated, and completely energized to move forward in my career. Now that is personal power!
What could this little exercise do for you? What do you have to lose? Just do it!
- Choose 15 – 20 people you respect and who know you well
- Draft your email (see above)
- Include a deadline (2 weeks max)
- Create a folder on your PC to file the responses (print them too!)
- As the responses come in, copy and paste them into one document
- Once you have all of the responses review them and ask yourself the following questions
- What surprises me?
- What common threads exist?
- How can I capitalize on these strengths?
- Send out a warm note of appreciation to all who responded
Let me know how you do!