Miguel Cervantes once wrote that the man who is prepared has his battle half fought. Individuals who develop a plan are destined to be prepared for what lies ahead. More importantly, when the plan incorporates our strengths, we are preparing for our success. When Lance Armstrong developed a plan that involved using his strengths, he laid the foundation for his destiny as the greatest cyclist the world has ever seen.
In his early years, Lance did not have a precise racing plan. He would win short races with a “go all-out aggressive, in-your-face” attitude. His strength was to use his explosive power for most of the race. However, Lance knew that this style would never get him to the top of the racing world and win the long haul of the Tour de France.
Lance developed a plan that enabled him to use his strengths-to use his explosive power at the correct moments of the race. Every racer is given a Tour Bible, a guide book that shows every stage of the course with profiles of the route. With this guide, Lance created a plan that allowed him to stay close to the leaders, but also permitted him to explode with power when needed. His plan maximized his strengths and led him to victory a record 7 times in a row at the Tour de France.
While Clarence Quillen never raced in the Tour de France, he used the same principle of maximizing his strengths to find his road to success in the home building world. But Clarence was not always in this industry. In fact, he started his career as an engineer at NASA. However, due to downsizing in the 1970′s, he lost his job with that governmental company.
Clarence was never one to wallow in self-pity. So, the next day after his firing, he went to Castaic Lake and sat by the shore. He wrote down three main aspects to guide him on his next vocational journey. He first created a list of his top strengths. Some of those strengths included being creative, having integrity, thinking critically, possessing a love for learning, and working very hard. Then he created a list of his “work wants” such as he wanted to be independent and work for himself as well as create something that he could leave behind. Last, he created a list of his true friends, those he could rely on in times of trouble.
Quillen sat on the shore for two days working on his three key lists. When he felt the lists were complete, he analyzed what they meant for his future. Clarence decided that they led him into the construction business. Emphasizing his key strengths placed him on a path that today is a multimillion dollar home building business in Los Angeles.
Today, many business experts purport the same philosophy about being in our strength zone at work. One expert, Marcus Buckingham, has popularized this notion in his bestselling business book, First, Break all the Rules. Buckingham touts that our productivity and happiness are a function of how well we use our strengths. The following drills demonstrate how to implement your strengths:
Make the invisible-visible
Mark Legatte owned the public relations company, Sincerely Real. One of his primary tasks was to question CEOs and heads of staff at companies and strip down their message to the bare minimum. His tactics made him highly successful because he was always able to fulfill the needs of his clients.
Then Mark got bored at his job and wanted to move on in his life and onto a new career. But Mark did not know where to go or what to do. Mark also did not really know why he was so successful in the past. He enlisted the help of an executive coach, whom Mark said, help to make the invisible visible.
His coach enlightened Mark about his true strengths-From their discussions, Mark discovered that he was very empathetic and knew the right questions to ask at the right time. Based upon his discussions with his coach, Mark realized that he too should become an executive coach. Today, Mark has a thriving coaching business called Essentially Real.
The first step to developing an effective plan for life is to make the invisible-visible-you must first take a hard look inward and ask yourself what signature strengths have contributed to your success.
List your 5 signature strengths:
Martin Seligman, professor of psychology at Penn State University, has discovered that individuals who use their signature strengths in their careers will not only be more successful but much happier.
How often do you use your strengths? Do you think you use them more than 20% of the time at work? 50% of the time? 75% of the time?
To discover this percentage, first look at your list from the above exercise. Next, record each time you use that strength during a given day for the week. Do this in 2 hour increments over an 8 hour workday. For instance, if two of your key strengths are creativity and being a good listener, and you use those strengths each once during the day (i.e., any time during a two hour period), then you have a percentage of 50% (2 X 2 hours for an 8 hour period).
If you discover that you are only using strengths less than an average of 20% on any given day during the week, you may need a change to get back on track. Ask yourself these questions:
1)In what areas of work might I use my strengths more often?
2)Can I take on different projects to use more of my strengths?
Develop strategies to implement your strengths and you will be much happier when observing your increase in success.
Do you want to attract more clients? Then, use your strengths to your advantage.
New age books, such as the Secret, speak to the Law of Attraction. In short, this law is about Karma: What you give, you will receive-What you put out into our world, we will attract. If we give off positive energy, positive events will come our way: If we give off negative thoughts, we will attract unwanted events.
You may or not believe in the Law of attraction. But every sales professional or business needs to continually attract new clients to stay afloat.
One simple method to attract new clients is to use your talents. When you are engaging in your strengths, you will be giving off great confidence, great joy, and great positive energy. Once that happens, people will gravitate toward you. Following the principles of the law of attraction, you will get more clients by giving away great energy.
Are you using your unique strengths to gain new clients?
Perhaps you are a great chef. Have you done any cooking events to attract new clients? People will be interested in you because you are giving off great energy when you are cooking. It is not about the cooking, it is about the positive heat you will give during the event.
Perhaps you are a superb artist or simply love to paint. Are you teaching any art classes in the hopes of gaining new clients? When you are involved in painting, you will be colorful and your energy will be magnetic.
To attract more prospects, look at the list of your 5 signature strengths. Now, ask yourself if you are using these strengths to your advantage. If not, create a plan to incorporate one of these unused strengths each week as a vehicle to gain more business.
Combine your strengths
If you combine your strengths, you double your advantage. It worked for Mark McCormack who started IMG as well as the sport agency business.
Mark McCormack was a great negotiator as well as quite the golf enthusiast. As a young lawyer, he befriended Arnold Palmer and persuaded him into allowing McCormack to manage his everyday activities and finances outside the golf course. That way, Arnold could focus all his energies on golf. With only a handshake, Mark became Arnold’s agent, and the sport agent industry had begun. While Mark would have been a very successful lawyer, when he combined his strengths, he had success beyond measure.
This article is excerpted from the Washington Post Best-Selling book “Full Throttle: 122 Strategies to Supercharge your Energy and Performance at Work” by Dr. Gregg Steinberg