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The Natural – Your Talents Point To Your Strengths

by  Mike Henry  |  Leadership Development

Everyone is “a natural” at something.  Think about it.  I’m sure you know someone who is naturally gifted, endowed with more of a particular talent.   If you’re like me, sometimes you get tempted to envy them.  But you’re a natural at some things, too! In Strengths Finder 2.0 [1]  Tom Rath used the 34 “themes” of strength that were identified by years of research done by the Gallup organization for the book Now Discover Your Strengths.  Gallup surveyed over 100,000 people on their strengths and passions, and in their first book they identified and described the top 34.

Rath expanded the results to create ideas for action to help people spend more of their time working in the area of their greatest strengths.  The evidence described in the book explained that when a person’s boss ignored them, there was a 40% chance they would disengage in their job.  If their supervisor focused on their weaknesses, the chance of disengagement dropped to 22%.  However, if their leaders focused on their strengths, those things that make them come alive, the chances of them becoming disengaged dropped to 1%!  In fact, two thirds of people surveyed said they were disengaged at work because their job provided little chance of doing what they did best.

Strengths Or Talents

The 34 themes identified are what the author called strengths, which is why the author chose that name for the book and the study.  But a pattern to the themes exists that explains why I call them talents.  First, the themes don’t seem to be very exclusive.  Second, the author suggests you can improve your strengths, but many of them are really things that come naturally or activities that you seem to have an inherent penchant for.  Rather than improving in those areas, the suggestions lean toward how to spend more time in your area of strength rather than how to improve your performance of that strength.

In fact, that’s where I make the distinction between talents and strengths.  This series asserts that a strength is something for which you have energy, ability, and passion.  An activity you have a natural ability for is a talent.  In Buckingham’s Now Discover Your Strengths, they explain that:

“Great managers… define talent as a ‘recurring pattern of thought feeling or behavior that can be productively applied.’ The emphasis here is on the word ‘recurring.’ Your talents, they say, are behaviors you find yourself doing often.”

Gallup and Tom Rath seem to overlap Talent and Strengths to a significant degree as well.  They note that talent is more finite and a multiplier of strength.  Your patterns help identify your natural abilities.  (I agree the lines here between strengths, talents and themes begin to fade.)  Remember we said the formula for strength was:

Strength = Energy X Talent X Passion

So back to Strengths Finder 2.0.  The system identifies your top 5 strengths, but many are just the behaviors you find yourself doing often.  The overall process, at least for me, was insightful.  The report identified my strengths as WOO (Winning Others Over), Individualization, Ideation, Activator, and Communication.  Other strengths listed include:

  • Developer
  • Belief
  • Responsibility
  • Empathy
  • Harmony
  • Strategic
  • Maximizer

I appreciate the report for a two reasons.  First, I never valued Individualization.  I was so glad to see it on the report — and on my report!  I believe there is an ideal place for everyone.  I’ve always like this quote by Erwin McManus:

I see everyone as pre-great. – Erwin McManus [2]

I believe that with the right motivation, anyone can become a high-achiever.  I think that’s a common characteristic of leaders: they see people as pre-great.  They optimistically look forward to the best from everyone.  I was blown away when I read the description for Individualization, those terms were in there!  I’m not suggesting this is a good or bad ability, it’s just mine.  I never saw that ability as a strength or a talent on any previous evaluation.

The second reason I appreciate the Strengths Finder 2.0 report is for how it revealed a talent I didn’t want to see.  I wouldn’t have chosen WOO as a talent.  After reading the description, it was a bit less painful and I am learning to appreciate it  more as time goes on.  But for each of the behaviors, the author points out the best uses of the talent as well as the behaviors to protect against.

Who Are You?

The results provide insight into you, if you’ll allow it.  My five themes are behaviors I seem to repeat with little effort and much success.  That’s why I explain this tool in my discussion on talents.

Why not get a better idea of what you do well through an objective analysis that only takes a half hour and the time to purchase the book?  In less than an hour, you can learn a lot about you: what you like, don’t like and get some insight into what makes you tick.  One or two more hours and you can do this with your entire team.  There’s even a section in each theme’s chapter that explains the challenges and best ways to work with someone with the themes you don’t have.

The activity informs and challenges.  It will provide your team or company with a common language for team interaction as well as more depth in your relationships and projects.

So, now that you’ve considered your natural talents, do any of them overlap with your energizing activities from our previous post?  If so, you’re starting to see a trend.  Begin to focus on those overlapping activities and get ready as we add the passion element in the

Next Post: Passion: The Secret Ingredient

Think about your recurring activities and behaviors. Those that energize you are a key to your core strengths. When you add Passion to the equation, you’ve identified the key to your strength.

What are your talents?  Have you ever considered your talents a key part of your strength as a leader?


[1] Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath © 2007 by The Gallup Organization

[2] Wide Awake by Erwin McManus © 2008 by Erwin Raphael McManus


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About The Author

Articles By mike-henry
Chief Instigator (Founder) of Lead Change Group and VP of IT for a mid sized technology company. Passionate about character-based leadership and making a positive difference.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Mike Myatt  |  01 Sep 2009  |  Reply

Hi Mike:
Another great post containing great insights and wisdom. I agree that everyone possesses natural talents, and that the trick is to not only understand and develop your talent, but to play to those strengths.
.-= Mike Myatt´s last blog ..CEOs; Feared or Respected? =-.

Mike Henry  |  03 Sep 2009  |  Reply

Thanks for the comment Mike. It does energize people when they can play to their strengths.
.-= Mike Henry´s last blog ..The Natural – Your Talents Point To Your Strengths =-.

Mike Van Hoozer  |  01 Sep 2009  |  Reply

Great post Mike! I totally agree with you! I have been thinking a lot about how much time organizations spend on building on strengths vs obsessing over people’s weaknesses. My thought is that the percentage may be 20%. What if organizations flipped the focus and spent 80% (or higher) building on strengths and aligning people to what they did best? Also, I love this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson about granting greatness (i.e. expecting the best from people): “Trust men [and women (my addition)], and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.”

Mike Henry  |  03 Sep 2009  |  Reply

You’re so right. Let’s flip it: 80% of our time concentrating on our strengths. Great quote too. The prejudice of low expectations is a cruel thing.
.-= Mike Henry´s last blog ..The Natural – Your Talents Point To Your Strengths =-.

Laurinda  |  02 Sep 2009  |  Reply

Great Post! I love the distinction between Strength and Talent. We see that in professional athletes: Individuals with great talent, but because of no passion or effort they don’t live up to the hype. It’s also true in Corporate America.
.-= Laurinda´s last blog ..On Being Productive =-.

Mike Henry  |  03 Sep 2009  |  Reply

Agreed. Passion is the key (and my next post)! Thanks for the comment. Mike…
.-= Mike Henry´s last blog ..The Natural – Your Talents Point To Your Strengths =-.

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