A New Year often brings the promise of change, perhaps even one of a “new, improved you”. When it comes to growing your personal brand, however, building this improved version of you starts by looking inward, particularly at what you are already good at. Knowing your strengths enables you to identify what differentiates you from others, along with what you need to cultivate and communicate in order achieve your goals…this year and beyond.
In this post, we focus on starting the New Year strong by examining this core part of personal branding. We asked James Eves, Gallup® Certified Strengths Coach and Founder of Zira Life, to share his thoughts on how to embrace your strengths for the year ahead.
If you look back on your career, could you identify the roles where you were using your strengths?
When I reflect on this, I start to see a clear difference. When I felt most energised, productive, and engaged in what I was doing, I had bosses that were actively drawing out my strengths and giving me more tasks that fed into that energy. On the flip side, the scenarios where managers were trying to turn me into a carbon copy of them, rather than a high performing me, led to frustration, lack of enthusiasm and poorer productivity. What has helped someone succeed in climbing a corporate hierarchy or in growing a business was their ability to use their strengths and arguably those of other people. If there is a person you respect and want to reproduce their success, you do not have to become version 2.0 of that person.
I recently became a Gallup® certified strengths coach and a frequent question that comes up is “what is the ideal strengths profile for a successful leader, business owner or <insert title here>?”
The answer? There isn’t one.
The successful person is the one that understands THEIR individual strengths and then proactively uses these every day. Not try to emulate someone else and how they operate. Acting a role feels inauthentic, creates inner conflict, and will reflect in your personal brand. In the words of Dr Seuss: “Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no-one alive who is you-er than you!”
Being yourself, I find, is like telling the truth. If you don’t have to lie or pretend to be something, then you naturally are you. That’s what people latch on to and want to work with. Creating my own business to help coach others has felt like I’ve finally arrived. I can now fully embrace and direct my strengths in a way that gives me lots of energy, meaning, and purpose.
This personal development has been really useful too when it comes to my relationship. My partner and I know each other’s strengths. This has allowed us to turn frustration and conflict into hilarious, more productive conversations! For example, I am very strategic and futuristic and when having an idea, I like to mull and talk it over. To let it develop. My partner? She wants to crack on with how something could work or be implemented asap. All the practicalities before I’ve left the dreaming phase. We both now recognise when the tension is rising and I’ll say “Can Hermione Granger just sit with me for a moment while I talk this through, then she has my permission to run riot with the organising and actions!” We burst out laughing every time and have found this to be something that has really helped us as business and life partners.
I never really thought I could ever work with a girlfriend until I met Michelle. When I was reading about my strengths profile, and the type of person I should collaborate with to be more productive, it described her strengths! And vice versa for her strengths profile. No wonder we get on so well and get so much done. There is clearly a lot more to relationships but those complementing strengths shine through. So, we now work many things where I may have an idea, Michelle gets energised and runs with implementation, then gets bored, and I carry it to the finish line! Teamwork and both encouraging each other to use our strengths. A winner!
All in all, if trying to build our personal brand, if we don’t understand who we are, and the strengths we possess, then how can we ever pursue our best work and relationships? Or present to the world the brand we want people to see?
So be you, use your strengths and great things will start to happen!
James is the Founder of Zira Life – created to help people discover and develop their talents to perform at their best through strengths-based coaching. He is also co-Founder of Inspiration North and Work Pirates – with an overall mission to help people and companies to create happier lives and more engaged workplaces. Recently he became an assessor for the College of Policing as part of their recruitment drive. He gets energy seeing people grow, develop, and reach their potential.
You can find James on Twitter @inspirationnorth and at www.ziralife.com