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DEFINE: What Are Your Specific Strengths?

Lesson 5 from: Design​ ​Thinking​ ​for​ ​Strengths-Based​ ​Leadership​

John K. Coyle

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Lesson Info

5. DEFINE: What Are Your Specific Strengths?

Lesson Info

DEFINE: What Are Your Specific Strengths?

This brings me to the second law. If you're gonna design a team, an enterprise, your life or your strengths, you have to know and accept the specific nature of your strengths. Weaknesses tend to be pretty broad. I have no hand eye coordination, I have no endurance, et cetera. Strengths tend to be quite specific. But we often use very broad categories to define our strengths and I love strengths finder, but that's only 34 and they're very broad. You might be a good communicator, okay, but to whom about what? We'll dig back into that one in a second. I, as a kid, was fast; oh okay, except when I wasn't. Never in anything over a minute. So, then, I'll break that one down: as fast as a sprinter. Well, that's a better category: a sprinter. But, I wasn't a great runner. Never was, never will be; regional level at best. So, over time over the years, I figured out and honed in on my strength as an athlete: that I am fast as a sprinter in sports requiring huge bursts of power against resistance...

with a short rest while traveling at high speeds while balancing, turning only left with a group of people trying to kill me. It's the only thing in the world I am good at. Alright, so you might be a good communicator. To whom, about what? Are you good with a big audience, a medium-sized audience, a small audience? Are you good with taking complex things and finding simple ways to describe them, or maybe taking simple things and finding the inherent complexity? Or maybe you're better as a narrator or storyteller, or maybe you're better at looking at analysis and data, or maybe you're better as a facilitator and pulling things out of a group, or maybe you're better one-on-one, and if you are, are you a coach, a challenger, a listener? All of these fit under the umbrella of good communication, and they're all fundamentally different. And if you don't know your superpower, you can't put on the cape. One of my favorite questions at cocktail parties, and I give this as a gift to you, you can use it, is: what are you best at? And it's a great conversation starter for two reasons: number one, you usually get crickets for a minute, which is kind of telling because I think a lot of people don't know, but a lot of people really want to know, and if you can get them started talking about it, they will usually lead you down a path that's quite interesting and that is quite engaging for them because as people explore their strengths, they learn things that is really beneficial, and it's good for everybody. Here's a list of strengths, and this is thanks to my friend David Rendall who wrote the book "The Freak Factor". I'll say I tend to be creative. Do we have any from the panel who would care to share with the microphone? For me, it's creative. Alright, awesome. I like calm. Yeah. Creative, curious. For those of you that will be taking this online or at home, you can use a worksheet to get your top five. There's a reason to do that actually, because we will circle back to these. At this point, we have some data, right? Looking back into the design-thinking process, we have a problem, we accepted it, being me and the coaches; we have a problem here, we accept it. You know, weaker aerobic motor: fact, okay. So, here's the definition of the problem we're going to do for you: we think what we need to do is fix your aerobic weakness. We need to fix your weakness, we need to get you able to travel farther, faster so you can finish the longer races, so our idea is to give empathy here, as they did, and so did I, our idea is we're going to train you harder than everybody on the team. While everybody is doing jumps and squats, you'll do hundred mile bike rides and sixteen mile runs, and in two years, you'll be ready for the longer races at the Olympic games. They were good people with good intentions. I did exactly what they said, and I went from 12th in the world to 34th in the world to not making the team two years later, just getting slower than I had ten years prior when I was 13 and made the team for the first time. That's what doubling down on my weaknesses got me, and it felt like this: a life a quiet desperation. I went into that camp an outgoing kid that got the nickname Hollywood because I wore sunglasses all the time. Two years later, I had no nickname and I hardly spoke at all because I had lost all of my social skills and willpower, and just exhausted everyday, didn't want to talk to anybody and do anything other than train, and it led to no good outcomes whatsoever. And this is what happens when you focus all your energy on your weaknesses. And that's where empathy matters: if you're going to design a life, a career, a team, an enterprise for your strengths and weaknesses, you have to actually have empathy for yourself for your organization. We are good at X, and we're not good at Y. I worked for a company that was in the technology space that wasn't great at technology. But we were awesome at customer service. And until we made the switch to stop playing whack-a-mole with technology that we don't have or can't get as fast as the big guys, that was the day we could then double-down on our customer service strengths and stand apart from the competition. So, you have to have empathy.

Ratings and Reviews

Daniel Viscovich

This class was fantastic. I appreciate John's insights and his discussion of design thinking, a process that now that I have learned it, makes so much sense! This has been an amazing course that will impact my decisions in life and work for the rest of my career. Thank you John!

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