441: The Power Of Actually Understanding Your Strengths (And Leveraging Them)

Learn how to really understand your strengths so you can leverage them in your career search.

on this episode

A ton of people have taken strengths assessments, and have a good idea of what their top strengths are, but many people never dig deep enough to really understand them, or even how to leverage them.

Judith also felt this way, even after taking several assessments. But after working with a coach, she finally learned to really understand her strengths, as well as how to leverage them in her career search.

what you’ll learn

  • How to understand your Clifton Strengths assessment results
  • The importance of declaring your goals upfront
  • How to adapt the “5 Whys” method to dig deeper into your strengths
  • Ways you can leverage your strengths in your own career search
  • How to prioritize what you do based on your strengths results

Success Stories

I’ve been offered the job! It was great having the opportunity to speak with you prior to my interview. It enabled me to highlight my strengths as part of the conversation and I was able to be clear about my enthusiasm for opportunities to be proactive versus reactive. I also highlighted my desire to provide positive individual experiences. Our discussion not only assisted me in the interview but it also helped to increase my confidence!

Bree Hunter, Project Officer, Australia

“It’s hard to find something that fits, that’s why so many people change careers. When I finally understood my strengths and how I could apply them it all made sense. It just made it easier to see what types of jobs and roles would fit me. In my new career I get to do the marketing that I love with a company I’m excited about.”

Kirby Verceles, Sales & Marketing Director

All the stars aligned and I ended up finding the right thing at the right place at the right time, and it was you guys! Everything that you said was speaking to me and the things that you had done in the job that you had transitioned out of and into. Also how finding work that you love is your passion for people! Honestly, it was you Scott, I mean, the way that you talked about it, how passionate you were, I was like, there's no way he's gonna put out a faulty product. So I'm gonna try it, you know… I recommend you to all my friends, you know, even if they don't realize that they're looking for a new job, I'm like this is the first step, let's do this! Even if you maybe don't move out of this career. This is going to help!

Maggie Romanovich, Director of Learning and Development, United States/Canada

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 00:01
I seem much better now how my five or seven Clifton Strengths tied together and the ones that I had felt were really not that much of a big deal, I can see better how they now fit in into.

Introduction 00:15
This is the Happen To Your Career podcast, with Scott Anthony Barlow. We help you stop doing work that doesn't fit you, figure out what it does and make it happen. We help you define the work that's unapologetically you, and then go get it. If you're ready to make a change, keep listening. Here's Scott. Here's Scott. Here's Scott.

Scott Anthony Barlow 00:39
If you've listened to the show for any length of time, you know, we spend a fair amount of time talking about signature strengths. But figuring out your signature strengths can actually be really difficult if you try and do it by yourself. Small secret that maybe isn't really a secret is that sometimes, a lot of times, your signature strengths aren't always obvious to you. This is because to you, it's just what you do. It's what you're able to do. It's what comes easy to you, you're embedded in it, and you think that because it's easy for you, it just isn't a big deal for everyone else. For example, you know, think of that time that you got praise from boss or coworker for all the work that you did on a particular project and you shrugged it off as no big deal. It's probably happened a lot. What you saw as normal, others could see as a special set of talents. This is just a clue, just a set of clues to begin figuring out your signature strengths. We use something called the “5 Whys” method as one way to boil down to what the strengths are. Now, this actually comes from our career change bootcamp program. It also is a popular problem solving method that's used in things like Kaizen methodology or way back when to total quality management from the late 70s and early 80s in manufacturing, but it also strangely enough works really well here too. And I wanted to share this with you specifically, I want to share a one on one coaching session that I recently did with one of our career change bootcamp students on this very topic.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 02:26
My name is Judith Ní Bhreasláin, I'm based in London in England. And I've worked for the last 20 years in financial services.

Scott Anthony Barlow 02:32
Okay, Judith had been a listener of the podcast for a while, and then joined our CCB program back in September. And as you worked through the program, she soon came across the area where we begin to identify signature strengths. She did this as mentioned, talked to 35 people to get feedback on her strengths, but she felt like there was something missing. That's when she reached out to see if she can get additional resources. And you get to hear what happened as a result.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 03:00
So I signed up for CCB in early September, and I had been reading some books and listening to your podcasts before that for a while. And I decided that what I was trying to do in terms of change career and look for a new role would be much, much easier in a more structured environment and with some coaching so that's what kind of led me to sign up for CCB. I raced through the first module, which is kind of setting yourself up for success, and then I got to the strength module, which had been, where I had to do the Clifton strengths survey. I saw what my five tips and strengths were and particularly agreed with some of them. So I adopted two more, which I felt were appropriate. And I like all the few items, I think 35 people asking for feedback on my strengths, and we're no real surprises in what I got back. And so things like one organized and structured and I'm tenacious, I get things done, I get into languages, etc. But there were no major surprises there. But it was still very much. I felt that I was being told these are your skills rather than your signature strengths from how I don't just adhere to description of signature strengths. I'm also very much a person who likes to make sure I'm doing things the right way. And then I'm going to get the right answer. So that's part of my personality.

Scott Anthony Barlow 04:04
I've gathered that.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 04:07
You'd mentioned the "5 Whys" on some podcasts and also and I think, in some activities, for module two on strength, but I couldn't find an example. So that's how I got in touch with you guys and said, to be really good to have some examples. So that I could get deeper down from what I think are my skills to really understand my signature strengths. And I've done some work and I have done some of the "5 Whys", but I was getting kind of get convoluted answers. And I was getting to the stage where I was thinking to myself, well, the reason why you like languages is because your country was occupied by another country. So that was not very productive in terms of actually moving forward and having that I can talk about in about myself in interview, etc. But that's really where I am and as I know what my skills are, but I'm not clear, I'm not sure that I've really got to the to the nitty gritty of my signature strengths. That I’ve explored deep enough.

Scott Anthony Barlow 04:54
Okay, that sounds fantastic. Here's what I'm hearing out of that. One, is you've got a really very solid amount of feedback in a variety of different forms either from other people, co workers, etc. and also from, you mentioned the Clifton strengths assessment. And it sounds like on the assessment, in particular, that some of those you agreed with very well and some of those disagreed with. So I think we can dig a little bit into that. I'm curious about that more so than anything else. But then additionally, you have gone through a variety of different exercises and just don't feel like you've really gotten too, I'm going to call it the bottom of it, for lack of a better phrase. Is that fair?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 05:41
That's right.

Scott Anthony Barlow 05:42
Cool. So I think what might be really helpful to help you get to the bottom of it, is two things, we can go through the "5 Whys", but I think we'll go through and we'll do that in a slightly different form. So the "5 Whys" being that exercise that we did mail back and forth about getting to the root cause. And I think there's really many different ways that we can get to, what is the root? What is the bottom? What is the signature strength in this case? However, I think that will use the "5 Whys" if it's most appropriate, someplace along the line. And I want to try some other ways, too, depending on what we find that you need as we're continuing our conversation. Is that fair

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 06:23
Yeah, that sounds great.

Scott Anthony Barlow 06:24
Okay, so do you recall your strengths from Gallup?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 06:32
Yes, I have some here in front of me.

Scott Anthony Barlow 06:33
Fantastic. What are those? When was this off?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 06:36
In order for the first five, there's harmony, inputs, consistency, communication and focus. And I've adopted discipline and learner as well on top of those.

Scott Anthony Barlow 06:47
So harmony, input, consistency, communication, and focus?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 06:52
Yes.

Scott Anthony Barlow 06:53
Okay. What were the two that you've adopted, learner and what?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 06:57
Discipline.

Scott Anthony Barlow 06:58
Learner and discipline. Okay. I suspect just based on the interactions that you and I have had via email and then what your coaches shared with me too that learners probably in your top 10 easily. I think there's no doubt about that.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 07:18
Yeah, I loved learning new things, but not just almost to, I mean, it’s an extent, yes, but I learned almost anything. And I love the learning process. It's not just the thing at the end that whatever the skills that I learned at the end of this.

Scott Anthony Barlow 07:27
Yeah, that makes sense. The two that you have seen less evidence or that you disagreed with, as you put it, what were those?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 07:36
So there was communication. I mean, I'm fine with communication. I can get up, I can talk in front of people, etc. But there were some of the verbiage around communication was that I really enjoyed telling stories. And I wouldn't say this is particularly the case and the more I started to develop my desire to read more tales, I have to tell the sentence today, few activities delight you as much as evoking images in your listeners minds that bring forth laughter and tears. And I don't see myself as somebody who's the center of attention, telling a story or telling jokes, etc, that the people then react to.

Scott Anthony Barlow 08:07
How do you see yourself as it revolves around communication?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 08:11
I'm probably more of a talker than listener, which is something I'm trying to fix of it. And I liked being in small groups. So the conversation is, you know, it can flow from one person to another person. So it's not always me doing the talking.

Scott Anthony Barlow 08:23
But definitely more of a talker than a listener is your natural modality, natural tendency.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 08:28
Yeah, I have to… like I have to bite my tongue sometimes and go let the other people speak.

Scott Anthony Barlow 08:31
Okay. This is gonna work well because I'm more of a listener than a talker. So we're gonna get along just fine, Judith. The other one, besides communication, which one was that?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 08:44
The consistency.

Scott Anthony Barlow 08:45
The consistency, okay.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 08:46
People tell us to… tell them to the consistency are keenly aware if you treat people the same. And there was a second part of that I did agree with crave stable routines and clear rules and procedures. And I like putting in place rules and procedures for people to follow. I'm possibly less of a rule follower myself unless I agreed through.

Scott Anthony Barlow 09:03
Okay. Tell me about that. Give me an… in fact, what would be really helpful here is give me an example where that's been the case where it's like, “Eh, I'm not so much of a rule follower on that particular area. But here's another area where I did agree with. Let’s route through a different examples here, just so we're on the same page first.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 09:23
Okay, I have to carefully don't get arrested here first, for speeding. I'm very strict about myself in terms of not speeding in within cities and towns, because people are crossing the road, etc. Whereas on the Norway and Germany, for example, doesn't have a speed limit on some roadways. And I think that's a very sensible rule. But I'm living in Britain at the moment and there is a speed limit. And sometimes I go over the speed limit. So I think, well there's nobody else on the road. It's not a busy roadway. So the speed limits is a silly speed limit. But there is an example.

Scott Anthony Barlow 09:54
Okay. All right. Fantastic. Do you find that that is pretty consistent across all areas of your life, in terms of how you selectively decide about the rules for lack of a better phrase?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 10:10
Yeah, probably I'm just thinking about things like boarding planes and I mean, samples are coming to mind. Yes. If I agree with the rule, then I will follow it. I disagree with the rule and it's not gonna hurt somebody else, then I might not necessarily follow it to the latter.

Scott Anthony Barlow 10:22
Okay. Were there any pieces of the communication or consistency definition that you did agree with?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 10:30
Yeah. Good, few. I mean, it did a highlighting exercise. I went through the yellow highlighter.

Scott Anthony Barlow 10:34
That’s what I was gonna ask next but I figured the answer was probably yes. Based on you like to do things right, which I suspect ties into a few of these pieces in terms of your signature strengths.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 10:45
Things like I’m, one on one conversations are natural part of my day. I regularly establish rules or processes to handle recurring activities on the political establishment practice schedule and follow us on, I persevere. And my training was very rigorous, I set standard operating procedures. So that's inconsistency. So they wouldn't apply. And favor everybody using reliable step by step procedures. That's on the consistency side, other lot less on the communication side, there were just a few things. So forthcoming nature, which is true, I'm open and honest, I'm not afraid to share. And particularly in the workplace, I am not the kind of person who holds on to all the information in case when I tell somebody else I lose my job. I'm really not afraid I'd rather share all the information I have. And that means I'm not no longer required, well, something else will come along and I'll find something else. So I enable others to share their thoughts and feelings with me. I would say that's true. I mean, particularly more junior members of staff often come to me and want, you know, with help around political issues or how to deal with somebody. So, that's something that is true. And I can keep a discussion or small talk moving. I don't enjoy it, but I can do it. And I could occasionally search for the right words to make my point where I would have thought that applies to nearly everybody, but that would be true.

Scott Anthony Barlow 11:59
I would say no, it does not apply to nearly everybody. However, it definitely applies to you, which is what we're talking about right now.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 12:08
And that was it. That was really kind of I didn't find anything else.

Scott Anthony Barlow 12:11
Okay, that's a great level setting for me here and gives us a great place to start. So, here's what I'm thinking about, one other quick question one the discipline part. Why did you pick that up? You must have resonated with that. But what about discipline?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 12:28
Yeah, so I did the same highlighting I found a description of discipline online and printed it out, just the same highlighting exercise, I'm loads of them up that were applied to me. So I like my world to be ordered and planned. I instinctively impose structure on my world, I set up routines, I focus on timelines and deadlines. I break long term projects into a series of specific plans and work through each plan diligently. And I want to feel in control. I'm impatient with errors. And see, I'm productive despite life many distractions. I recognize that mistakes might depress me, I've got a few examples with us. And I enjoy helping other people to add order to their lives. So some of the feedback I got was from one or two people in particular, was that when they're doing something with me, they just don't worry at all about what's required or where they need to be. They just know, I’ll make sure that they get to the right place at the right time and that everything that we're going to do there will be organized.

Scott Anthony Barlow 13:19
Okay, let's start with that part right there. So those people know that it's gonna be done, it's gonna be organized, it's gonna be good, it’s gonna be great end result when they're working with you. Right?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 13:30
Yep.

Scott Anthony Barlow 13:31
Okay, that particular area that sounds like something that you got feedback on multiple times. Is that fair?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 13:39
Yeah, that's right. Yeah. Something that I can't stop organizing and I've been doing it since I was four or five.

Scott Anthony Barlow 13:43
Okay, fantastic. Give me an example of that, I can't stop organizing. Where's something that seems a little bit on the outliers or seems a little bit on the extreme side, but you cannot can’t help it. Where has that come up in your either current role or past roles?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 14:01
So I'm not just working at the moment, I've taken some time off. But, one of two of the things I've done during that time was, organize our wedding and make my wedding dress. And then as soon as that was finished, we decide extension projects that we've increased the size of the house, and I run that project and I had for both I think on the house extension project, I had excel and project plans, and I made my husband come and sit down and project meetings etc. and I had issues and risk log for the builder. So all of the skills I've used in previous program and project management roles, I used, you know, those same skills and through these two more personal projects.

Scott Anthony Barlow 14:34
It makes me so happy that you did that for your wedding and your house extension. That's great.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 14:40
I kind of couldn't have not done it, actually not have had an excel plan, they just… it have to be that way.

Scott Anthony Barlow 14:47
I think that in that particular case, that was definitely you leaning hard into some of those skills. But what did that do for you? When you kind of begin to tear that apart or tease that apart, what did you get out of the deal? This is, I know that's a weird question, but go with me for just a second.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 15:04
No, I understand. Yeah. Think about know where you're coming from. But what I got was that I always knew what was supposed to be happening on a particular day. I also had the things, let's say I'm just… random example. And we're part of the project including getting a new bathroom. And we had a guy come in to fit the bathroom on a certain day. And if I had just had in the project plan, fit the bathroom on the first of October, but not had all the tasks into choose the shower, choose the tile, etc. in a good few weeks and a month in advance, and then the bathroom tissue would have turned up, I mean, wouldn't have had all the things necessary for him to do his job. So it meant that at any point in time, I knew what needed to be done that day. And also where there were problems. So if we didn't get everything done on a particular day, I knew that we don't have to spend you work late at night to try and make sure we got me caught up on the things that we're at something or we have to shift the priorities around or delay the fitter or, you know, to take action to remediate any delays. In a nutshell, I knew what the situation was and where we had problems and where we were on track.

Scott Anthony Barlow 15:58
Okay, what did knowing the situation and where you have problems at whether or not you're on track, what did that do for you? Be selfish here for a second.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 16:09
Maybe feel more in control, made me feel that we were more likely to succeed by the date, our target date, that they're the two main things.

Scott Anthony Barlow 16:16
Why was it so important for you to succeed by the target date?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 16:20
I don't like to fail. So when I set myself a target, I don't like to not meet that target.

Scott Anthony Barlow 16:25
Where do you think that comes from for you? I don't think anybody loves to fail. Like most people don't love to fail. However, there's probably some places that have had an impact on that being a driver for you.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 16:38
I mean, I’m always good at school. You know, but I worked hard but not very hard. So, success kind of came naturally. And then I suppose, as I got kind of higher up in school, as I advanced through the years, there were subjects that I found a bit more difficult. And I remember failing an exam when I was 12. But it's just a small exam. But I remember thinking, oh my god, I'm never gonna do that again. You know, I always going to succeed. Is that the kind of thing you're thinking of?

Scott Anthony Barlow 17:00
Yeah, there's not necessarily any right answers here. Let's keep pushing on that for just a second here. And see if we can make some really useful things out of that. So when you've had that type of experience, or those other types of experience where you have failed and you're thinking, I'm not ever going to do that again, and instead, are driven to succeed. Give me some specific examples where you're particularly proud of that you have driven it to success even though it was hard.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 17:32
thing that comes to mind when I was 16, I think I did an audition for the Irish Youth Orchestra, I play the violin. I didn't know the Irish doctrine, I didn't get played. And I practiced an awful lot more and the following year, and I did an audition again, then I got a place. So I worked hard to succeed the second time when I had failed the first time.

Scott Anthony Barlow 17:49
What kept you going there?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 17:50
So determination. I really want to be part of the orchestra. Some of my friends were in the orchestra. I guess there's a little bit of me at the time thinking, “I'm not good enough, but I'm going to make myself good enough. I can do this.” I mean, I'm usually quite good at being able to motivate myself. You know if I have a setback in almost anything. Okay, well, I've just had a setback. There's no point in emoting about it and, you know, being depressed about it. Get up and do whatever the action is necessary to come off that setback and try and succeed the next time.

Scott Anthony Barlow 18:17
So it sounds like part of the way that you look at success is not at individual failures along the way. It's whether or not you accomplish the thing that's important to you at the time. How close is that to how you really think about it? And then what would you change from that statement?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 18:34
That's pretty close to, I’m just thinking that my wedding dress that I made, by the way, that's a stupid idea. And I don't recommend anybody does it.

Scott Anthony Barlow 18:39
I love that you did that, by the way.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 18:41
It’s very stressful.

Scott Anthony Barlow 18:42
It sounds stressful.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 18:43
Yeah. And my wedding dress was finished about five minutes before I put it on, on the day of my wedding. And so my aunt actually did the last few stitches. But I had decided I wanted to do this wedding dress. I realized about two or three months before the wedding that I… just was idea. It wasn't gonna be ready on that side to side unless I stopped work. And it was very important to me to do side to side, to stop work at that point and devote myself to the wedding dress. So I looked at all the different possible options, I can go and buy a dress, but it's not going to be what I want. And I can stop work and do it. I can make myself an easier dress, I suppose, that would be another option. And I thought no, what I wanted to do, what the target I set for myself is this I've had, let's call them setbacks, you know, haven't gotten where I want it to be by now. I'm going to take the course of action that's needed or that I feel that’s needed to make sure I do the thing that I had to do.

Scott Anthony Barlow 19:27
Okay. So here's what I'm hearing out of that. And by the way, we just did part of the “5 Whys” as well, we just asked slightly different questions that don't feel like why because sometimes you get stuck when it's just like, “well, why? why? why?” Instead, we're looking at it from a few different angles here. And one of the things that I'm hearing in all of these examples that you just gave me is that it's actually not just one strength popping up here, as you are achieving some of these different pieces if we start to pull them apart, and that's what we've been doing by asking these questions, then it's actually multiple strengths, or strengths themes, as Gallup would call them, if were using their terminology, that are coming together at any given point in time, allowing you to accomplish what you want or what is particularly important to you. Let me see if I can provide a little color on what I mean by that. So let's take your wedding dress example, right? So I think it's probably a fair assessment that, first of all, most people in the world would not have embarked on that in the first place, right?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 20:42
Correct.

Scott Anthony Barlow 20:43
Okay, so that’s thing number one. And then when you did, you really did leverage, I think both of those pieces of consistency as well as discipline in being able to push through, and at the same time you were definitely leveraging your learner strength. And also, I think one of the things that has a tendency to drive you as well is this harmony, peace. Harmony is like taking a chaotic situation and taking all the steps and restoring it to whatever you consider to be normal or harmony. If you want to like, take all of Gallup's definitions and really reduce it down to a couple of simplistic words. So, all of those pieces were working at the exact same time in that scenario for your wedding dress. And all of those layered hand in hand actually allowed you to get the thing finished. I think there's a very small portion of people in the world, very small percentage of people in the world that would have been able to do that, that are not already, like, you know, if you make wedding dresses for a living or something like that. Like that's one thing. However, people who don't do that are pretty unlikely to be able to make happen what you made happen. And part of the way that you made it happen was not just one particular area, it was leaning into all of your strengths, which allowed you to fully leverage some of the past experiences and skills that you've had as well. So we can keep going on with this. But it is starting to make sense in terms of all this layer together. So I think, you know, when we talk about signature strengths for you, it's these pieces in tandem. It's these pieces in combination with each other. It's not just one of these strengths themes that Gallup provides on an assessment, right? It's not just one piece of feedback that you got from reaching out to friends and co-workers and people that know you well, and not as well and so on and so forth. It's really, for you how these layer together over the top, in a very unique combination that allow you to do things that quite frankly, are very unique in the world and we’ve just talked about several, I mean, how many people do you think in the world in this day and age can make their own wedding dress, especially something this is extensive, is what you wanted, and was important to you. I’m gonna guess, like, “.00000” like, I don't know, very, very little right?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 23:22
Lots of zeros.

Scott Anthony Barlow 23:22
Lots of zeros. So on one hand, you should absolutely be proud of that. And on the other hand, I think that really gives us a big window into how you're leveraging these strengths together. Same thing for the trial with the violin. Again, this is something that selectively is very important to you. And I'm picking up that theme there too. And I think that that's a really big part of it. And I think that, as a general statement, true for most people. And when I say as a general statement, I'm talking about something has to be semi important to you to take extreme action against it in one way or another.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 24:02
Yeah. Like I'm not interested in running, for example, I'm never going to go and spend loads of time learning how to run or buying the right shoes or any of that kind of thing. It’s the only thing I want to learn about it.

Scott Anthony Barlow 24:10
And that basic part is true for most people in some way to some degree. However, I think it's really amplified with you, in particular, and we see it come out, in very selective ways. You are willing to take more action than the average person against that. And I think part of where that pops up that's leveraging that consistency and discipline themes, as well as the harmony themes. I think harmony is kind of almost what gets you over the edge, it’s what causes you to have that desire to be in control to some degree, especially as it interacts with the discipline.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 24:50
Yeah, I never thought of that. Okay.

Scott Anthony Barlow 24:52
So those two are working in tandem together and it almost amplifies your need for that. So when we get to the bottom of, ‘why is that?’ I think that creates something that's very positive in your life, not always. Sometimes you see the shadow side of that and it puts you in pretty stressful situations because you have a need to take this situation and bring it to order in one way or another, right? And that creates stress for you. But the positive side, what you're getting out of that or how you're benefiting out of that is that's something you have a deep desire for.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 25:23
Okay, yeah.

Scott Anthony Barlow 25:24
So, and I think it probably does a few other things for you. And that's where we could pick up on the why’s part. Because if we want to jump 17 steps ahead here, like part of what you're going to be doing is taking these strengths and beginning to look at, in the real world, where can I lean into these more so than what I even have in the past? So the more that you understand what you need, and how some of these, you know, just from a little bit of a selfish side, how these are benefiting you, the more that you can begin to decide how do I find this and target these places in the real world where it's also benefiting mutually, you know, wherever I'm working or wherever I'm putting my time and effort into. Does that make sense?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 26:06
Yeah, and I can see for example you said a few minutes ago, that I'm willing to take more action than the average person to get something done, something that's important to be done. And I can see plenty of times in roles, in previous roles in the workplace, where I've done that, whether it be to, you know, I taught myself Spanish so that I can be more effective in one of my roles. You know, I'll work longer hours if necessary, I'll talk to people I might not be comfortable talking to because I think they could help my team or whatever it is. I can think of a number of examples where I've done that. So would you say that one of my signature strengths is I'm willing to take more action than the average person or so here I am doing my perfectionist, I need the right answer.

Scott Anthony Barlow 26:42
Yes. Let’s try and quantify these. I think that's a part of it. I don't necessarily think that that is causal. I think the result is that you take more action than the average person. But I think the real reason you take more action than the average person is these different pieces and parts in combination with each other. Because you have harmony and you are a learner and you're able to do things like go learn Spanish, because that's going to make you more effective. And ultimately, it's going to impact bringing things to order that are important to you. So if we're looking at signature strengths, I think we're looking at these pieces and parts and in tandem, and the combination of them really is your signature strength that allows you to make unique contributions. Does that make sense? I don't know if I'm directly answering your question. I'm not directly answering your question.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 27:37
No, and I don't think it doesn't make sense. You're not directly answer the question, I suppose. And what I'm looking for is my personality. What I'm looking for is a list of my five signature strengths or six or whatever the number is, and I don't feel up. So we're saying now there's my signature strength or one of my signature strengths is the way I might Clifton strengths is harmony, focus, discipline, learner, etc, how they interact with each other. But I guess, I don’t see that that's specific enough to be.

Scott Anthony Barlow 28:00
Let's see if we can take a crack at it and make it more specific in some of your own verbiage. Everybody's different. Some people lean hard on if we're just using Clifton strengths forbid, which just gives us language to be able to talk about it. It's really most important that you understand it. However, this gives us a place to start in terms of language to talk about it. So let's keep going with Clifton strengths. And for some people, they really lean hard into just a couple areas over and over and over again. You, I think part of something that's unique about you is you lean really hard into a large number of these and each thing that we've talked about that is potentially difficult for you or is something that you have overcome or whatever else hasn't just been one or two of these. It's kind of been all of them in one way or another. And I think that that needs to be represented here when we talk about your signature strengths in one way or another. So, let's take a crack at just defining these. I'm gonna look at my notes and talk at the same time. And then you tell me which parts I'm getting wrong. And we'll kind of move through it in a little bit of a messy fashion together to get some definition that feels good to you. Does that sound good?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 28:31
Okay. That sounds great.

Scott Anthony Barlow 29:29
Okay. Let's see here. We've got the harmony, input, consistency, communication, focus, learner and discipline. We've got… let’s think about this almost, I don't use this all the time, but let's think about this almost as an equation for just a second, an equation for what creates a compelling work or compelling situation to you. So, thing number one is it has to be important to you. Whether it's work, whether it's, I mean, you literally moved on from your job, because your wedding dress was really important to you. And that is awesome. It's also a good indicator that if that's not there, the rest doesn't matter as much.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 30:18
Yes, I would agree with that. Yeah.

Scott Anthony Barlow 30:19
Okay. So what makes that important? Or what makes something important to you? Or how would you quantify that? Let's do that messily here imperfectly.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 30:30
Yeah. What makes something important to me? I guess I have to be learning, which comes back to the learner. So in my last rule, I got quite bored some of the time, because I was doing the same repetitive stuff. And it's also stuff I used to do maybe 10 or 15 years ago, or even longer ago. So it was a real slightly more junior than roles previous to that. So I wasn't learning. I wasn't politically challenged on that side. And so I didn't enjoy the role.

Scott Anthony Barlow 30:53
Okay. So for you, it's not just about learning. It has to be challenging you enough. It has to be the right level of challenge, right? Okay. What else? Anything else that makes it fall into the important category for you?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 31:08
Nothing's coming to mind at the moment.

Scott Anthony Barlow 31:10
What makes you feel personally vested into it? Because that's one of the themes that I'm seeing again and again, you will take pretty extreme actions, especially leveraging your learning strengths in order to, you know, accomplish a goal or…

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 31:25
Yeah. I’ll say something. And if I say I'll do something I'll do it. So I told everybody I want to make my… I was going to make my wedding dress.

Scott Anthony Barlow 31:32
So therefore, you have to.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 31:34
So that I would turn up in something that I haven't made. Yeah.

Scott Anthony Barlow 31:37
Why is that so important to you?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 31:38
It’s probably pride. If I hadn't succeeded in making it, I would have felt that I'd let myself down. Probably that I looked, that I tried to take on too much, that I failed at that particular goal. Beaten a little bit. I don’t mean beaten in the sense that I would have been, you know, depressed for six months or anything but I would have felt something got the better of me. No, that’s not allowed.

Scott Anthony Barlow 32:00
Not allowed

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 32:01
I guess I feel, I don't want to sound big headed or anything. But if I set my mind to do something, I can do it. I don't mean I can go out and suddenly become a famous sports person or anything like that. But if I set myself a goal, even if it's a really hard goal, of course I can do it. I just need to just keep the focus and do it.

Scott Anthony Barlow 32:18
For you, there's something I didn't ask before, have you declared or set the goals and found later that even though you may have finished it like, what, this really wasn't actually that important to me or I should not have done this in retrospect, or by the time you get to the end of it, you are attached to it and your perception of level of importance matches, I don't know the work that went into it. I may understand how you think about that or if you've had that experience where they've been mismatched at the end.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 32:52
I suppose, I mean, looking back at the wedding dress again, I didn't realize how much work it would be. When I stopped work, I literally worked 70 hour weeks for the next two months to get my dress done. And I just, yeah. And I pulled in some help from my side, my aunt told me and I asked advice in various places and I was like, I found a few things online to help but it was more than a full time job. And for the eight weeks or seven to eight weeks. So if I had known enough, maybe I wouldn't have made the decision to make the dress, maybe I wouldn't have made it, maybe I would have just said no it's actually too big enough.

Scott Anthony Barlow 33:26
Because that typically what happens for… after you declare something to be important? And then you, like, learning Spanish I suppose there's not as clear of in-line for Spanish. So, maybe that example.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 33:41
Yeah, and I love languages and I speak a few languages. So learning another one is relatively easy. But what's gonna take time you just have to, I just have to put the time in and work on it. And with the language you don't get to the point where now influence and yesterday wasn’t, it’s a process. So it's slightly different. Just trying to think about work situations which are different, obviously, in a work situation. It's not the case of me saying, “I'm going to achieve this.” It's usually the organization's goals are this and my part of the goal is to achieve this. And it's something that, yes, I've taken on, but it's also been assigned to me by my client or my manager. So it's kind of less clear. I mean, to be honest, I think this is probably the biggest thing I've ever taken on my life. I would say that.

Scott Anthony Barlow 34:18
Okay, so for you, then there's several different pieces, excuse me, that make it incredibly important. It either has to be embedded into something else that you've already declared as important like a, you know, job or role that you're already working in. Where it is a piece of the work, if you will, or it has to have that learning and the right level of challenge involved in it. And then additionally, I think that there's some element here of that pride piece. I think that's involved and we can come back to that here in a minute. Okay, so we've got to have this important piece. And then additionally, once you get into it, it's almost like once you get into whatever it is, whatever the project is, whatever the goal is, whatever the thing is that we're trying to make happen, then it really is this combination of almost the pair of consistency and discipline, I would say. I think the…think about the learner piece is that's like, creating a foundation underneath. It's almost like feeding all of these other strengths as long as that challenge is there, and as long as you get to learn in some of the ways that are most important to you, as long as we have something important that you're working on, then that allows… It's that foundation underneath that sort of, like, feeds the other pieces here. Once you start, then your discipline and consistency begin to really kick into play and almost at the top layered over the top of everything else is that harmony. So the harmony is wanting to take this situation which may be chaos, maybe not in perfect order and bring it to order. And the discipline and the consistency are part of what keeps you going into doing that. The input side of it, I heard it crop up many different ways. Even to where you're saying, “Hey, I got a little bit of help from the outside. I sought out feedback here.” You've mentioned those types of phrases as we've been going along four or five times. They're cursory though they're on the outside. That's not necessarily what is driving it, but it helps you push it over the finish line in one way or another. So I would say it's more of a tendency, but it's kind of an underlying tendency if you want to think about it that way.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 35:35
Yeah, I would agree. When I read the inputs and description, I felt “yes kind of applies” that wasn’t the phases, the purpose didn't jump out at me.

Scott Anthony Barlow 37:08
When I think also that it's less tangible for you in how you work. So it's there, but it's not the reason everything works. I think the real reason everything works if we want to focus on creating the definition for signature strengths purposes, I think it really is that you can't help but to be ordered in planned and trying to bring things back to feeling like you're in control that causes you to be incredibly productive to allow things to be in order. And I think that your communication piece is almost a natural byproduct. I think part of the reason you've kind of disagreed with communication is I think that in some ways you have some of the natural tendencies there but it's been a, you've needed to develop that over time and you've had been forced into situations or you're a part of situations that require you to gain a lot experience in that area. So it becomes a strength based on it being a product of your environment and other areas. So your discipline and consistency and harmony have caused communication to move up in your strengths. Does that make any kind of sense? There's also natural tendencies there but I think that also explains why, when you look at that, it's not like oh my goodness, this is me.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 38:33
Yeah. I didn't get a tool for the communication. I'm possibly if I'd been in another role, I would have probably been in situations where I had to give talks or whatever. I wouldn't… the communication might not have come as good so highly.

Scott Anthony Barlow 38:45
Yeah, absolutely. But you have been in a variety of different situations where it required you to get better at communication. So it leaned into some of your learning pieces, in one way or another. And naturally, communication has over time, become a strength where some of the other ones might be built in more from both nature and nurture. Okay, so back to signature strength definition here. So I really think that it's about this desire to be like we'd say signature strength number one, I think it's really this desire to be ordered and planned or be in control. I think everybody wants to be in control to some degree, however, you have an extreme need for it that is driving a lot of these pieces here. And I think that that's control slash harmony.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 39:34
Okay. And you would stay like us. So one of my signature strengths is the desire to be ordered and planned and be in control.

Scott Anthony Barlow 39:40
At least this is a rough draft. Yeah. I mean, looking at the other pieces that really are tangibly, but I think it's about in those areas, you know, desire to be ordered and planned and in control in the areas that are most important to you.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 39:55
Yeah. I mean, that certainly fits, I mean, I've been calling it just I've been saying I'm organized, I’m good at putting structure and chaos planning etc. It’s just a different way, I guess.

Scott Anthony Barlow 40:06
I think it is more than that and I think that, you know, most of society is not gonna understand that little tidbit that we just talked about, the desire to be ordered and planned and controlled for those areas that are most important to you. And we're operating on a definition of important that allows you to use your learning has the right level of challenge, you know, has some measure of pride associated with it or it’s embedded into other things that are important to you as well. But I think all of those are contiguous, all of those pieces must be there. So in my mind, they need to be a part of the definition. And we may not have the perfect verbiage, necessarily, however, that's exactly where I would start because all those little pieces are really driving the day to day or, you know, actions that you take over time to move something across the finish line. And so I'd say that, that would be one of your signature strengths if we're mashing a couple of those together. And I think the other one has to do with learning separately, because that's really creating that foundation, creating that bedrock for you to enable all of these other pieces. In my mind, I've been putting that off because I'm trying to figure out how to quantify that for you or help you quantify that. But let's see if we can get through that piece of it together here in the next couple of minutes or so too.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 41:26
I mean, one of the things I've come up with since I started working in this is that, I love new situations and learning, and I actually actively look for opportunities to push myself out of my comfort zone. So, and if I look back at past roles, I would tend to have… I was asked to go to Milan and to run a major program that had been failing. And I didn't know the nitty gritty, the detail of all the different projects, but I had the organizational skills, the, you know, I wanted to go and learn about the different projects. I wasn't fazed by the fact that I didn't know any of that detail. So I had the challenge of learning, the environment initially and also the challenge of language as I learn Italian. And that gave me… that satisfied my learning, I suppose. And then I was able to use my consistency, harmony and discipline to actually push things forward again over the line. Stopping one situation like I guess where and I enjoyed it in another role, I went into it. Once again, I didn't know the technical topic, but I was using my program management, my organization skills. And then I learned the topics that I would be more effective at my role. So yeah, the learning thing, I enjoy doing that, I don't necessarily want to squint and run the same kind of program as I did before, because then it wouldn't be at my learning piece.

Scott Anthony Barlow 42:28
There's a lot of people that fall into the learning category. And there tends to be a lot of different reasons why or what people are getting out of the learning. So I think our answers are there. So let's ask just a couple of questions. Let's see if we can unpack that. If you were not having the doing or application along with the learning because every single example that I've heard so far has some measure of using what you've learned extensively, and even maybe even graduating beyond what the initial learning objective might have been. If that application piece was not there, do you feel you'd still get the same joy out of learning?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 43:11
Yes. An example: I decided I went to Italy when I was 21. And I decided within minutes of arriving in the country that the language was beautiful and I was going to learn it. So I just learned it because I thought it was amazing. But I didn't need it. I didn't use it for years. And I loved the learning process. So I love the language but also I got a major kick out of every time I was able to say another thing or learn to more complex from a more structured, I enjoy that process.

Scott Anthony Barlow 43:34
When you say, “You know, I got a major kick out of when I was able to say another thing.” Tell me about that. What do you mean by that?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 43:41
So let's say for example, when I learned the past tense and suddenly I failed to start talking about the past tense more fluently. And that gave me a feeling, oh I'm getting better and a sense of satisfaction. And I didn't do exams for a while, but then I decided to put myself forward first Tuesday's exams. And shortly after I started work, I was a way of measuring my improvement. I didn't need the qualifications, but for me, it was a way of proving to myself that I was getting better.

Scott Anthony Barlow 44:05
Okay, so if you didn't have the means to see that you were either getting better or learning, would that still feel the same? Like if you were just going through and learning about Italian but not necessarily having that same level of practice or not necessarily having some of those checkpoints or milestones along the way, would that still be just as enjoyable to you?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 44:33
Probably not quite. I like getting a qualification or knowing that I've got to a certain level, which is often achieved by passing an exam. So, I mean, yes, I enjoy the learning, but I really enjoy ticking that box. Now I've achieved that level and I can start working on the next level, as opposed to I think I'm not good, but I'm not quite sure.

Scott Anthony Barlow 44:52
Okay. All right. So for you, it's about the progress not specifically about the learning then. So just as an example, for differentiation. I've coached many people before where they might fall into the other side of the category where they're learning about a particular topic. And for them, it's more about the joy comes in the entertainment of learning, not necessarily the progress that can come from the output of learning. Does that make any kind of sense in terms of differentiation?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 45:24
Yeah.

Scott Anthony Barlow 45:25
Okay. So I think for you, though, it is maybe you're getting joy out of the act of learning it but that other side of it being able to, you know, check the boxes as you said or take some of the exams or accomplish the next thing, part of it is the progression or the progress that happens along with the learning and tandem for you, that is really what is making it most beneficial for you. Okay, alright, so then. So it's not just about learning, it's also about learning something that's important to you, where you can show progress to yourself, too, because it's not necessarily about, sometimes it's about outputs for other people as well. And I think that's where it'll start to engage other areas more frequently, like your consistency, like your, you know, discipline. But initially, you know, learning those things that are important to you where you can, that show that progression. It seems small, but I think that that's something that's really important because think about, think about, like, future roles. If you are just exposed to being… to learning things that are not important to you, but required in one way or another, that's not gonna be a good fit, or vice versa. If your goal is to learn without progression, that's not gonna feel as good to you either.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 46:48
Yeah. Progression doesn't need to be an exam, it can be other ways of. For example, in Spanish, I didn't do exam but when I first ran a conference call in Spanish then that was a mark of progress, for example.

Scott Anthony Barlow 46:59
Yes, absolutely. But you have to see that progression. Otherwise, it doesn't feel the same to you.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 47:05
Yeah.

Scott Anthony Barlow 47:06
Okay. So we're hitting on things that are really, they seem small, but they're actually really big for you. And you have these pieces that we've talked about here, not just for learning, but for the other areas too that are really deep level needs and giving you a lot of satisfaction in one way or another. So I think it's gonna be really important for you that you're focused on these smaller pieces in your next role, like the opportunity to learn with progression as an example or like the ability to make sure that you're lined up, first of all with a situation working on stuff or with an organization or with people that you feel is important to you and falls into that category and is that the right level of challenge and allows you to, here's something else we didn't talk about, but that progression, I think is common to a lot of these different areas of your strengths, allows you to, for lack of a better word, level up over time where you're not working on the same exact thing over and over again, because I think what I'm hearing from you is that, you know, once you learn it, once you apply it, once you meet that progression, if you're continuing to do that same thing over and over again, for a long period of time, that's no longer going to feel challenging. And then it's going to feel, even if the other pieces are there, it's not going to be good for an extensive period of time.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 48:31
No, it's hard to feel bored.

Scott Anthony Barlow 48:33
Yeah, absolutely. Does that make sense how we're starting to then take these tiny pieces and apply them back in the form of what you're actually looking for. So we've got really basic definite, really basic definitions for some of your signature strengths. And I think you can continue to hone and wordsmith those, in terms of what feels right. But these subtleties that we're talking about are the and how these overlap are really the most important pieces for you. Because if you're missing them out of your work, it's going to be misaligned or it's going to feel misaligned. You're going to be like, I don't know why this feels misaligned.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 49:08
Yeah, and this isn’t the right role for me and I need to leave. Okay, now this has been really, really useful and I'm allowed to think about now. It’s just good.

Scott Anthony Barlow 49:19
Okay. So, just to kind of round it out here, initial reactions or takeaways, what's one thing that was reaffirmed for you, and then I'll ask, you know, what was one thing that was a new way to think about it for you? So we can capture these.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 49:31
I seem much better now how my five or seven Clifton strengths tied together and the ones that I had felt were really not that much of a big deal, I can see better how they now fit in into me as a person and to my strengths and where they come from. And that was a kind of a new thing. Reaffirm, I guess I had kind of started the "5 Whys" or it's not always why can be false or why or whatever, as well. And I had started asking myself those questions that I had got some of the way but I just hadn't gone far enough. So it's been… and I can see now still got a lot of work to do. I need to do the same with some of my other with some of my other skills and get to the bottom of those.

Scott Anthony Barlow 50:06
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that there are these desires that drive you and I am using the word desires because it's definitely something that is deep rooted that you want. And I mean, we could even go further and say, “Hey, how did you acquire these desires, you know, along the way?” And we could go into the clinical side of it. But I'm not sure that that, unless, you really want to explore that, you know, with somebody else later, I don't think that that matters as much. I think what's important here is that you know that you get a lot out of being incredibly organized. And you get a lot out of feeling more in control where you can for those areas that are really incredibly important to you for other reasons. And I think the more that you can work with that, rather than against that is gonna change your quality of life over time. Because yes, sometimes those things are gonna cause stress but also the other side to like you not feeling in control or not having pieces in place to allow that feeling of control to satisfy that desire, then that's also gonna cause stress if it's one to the other way.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 51:15
Yeah. If I don't have a project plan, then yeah, if I let myself get into a situation where I don't have a project plan and for whatever reason, it doesn't happen very often. But then yes, I start to feel stressed.

Scott Anthony Barlow 51:23
Yeah, exactly. So the more that you can recognize those pieces and just call it for what it is like, look, I need this, I get a lot out of this I benefit tremendously when it is this particular way and find those ways that interact with those strengths and ultimately, those desires that are driving a few of these strengths here, then that's gonna continue to refine your quality of life, especially as you continue to change roles or organizations or whatever over time or make future equivalent of whatever would be the way you address for the next project. Oh, there'll be, like, something else.

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 51:57
Never again. There’ll be something, yeah.

Scott Anthony Barlow 52:00
But yeah, absolutely. That's, I think, really, really great takeaways, anything else that I can do for you to help make this tangible and useful for what we've covered so far?

Judith Ní Bhreasláin 52:12
No, I don't think so. I think this has been really useful for me and as I say, I have a lot of thinking to do and I'm work now to use the kind of conversations we've had and use the techniques that we've used with me and and see how I can apply them some of the other things I've got on my list of skills.

Thomas Williams 52:29
For me, having that knowledge and having that understanding is that I just had to focus on doing something every single day. So, for the hardest part for me was the identity piece, because I never had practice or experience doing anything else. It was gaining confidence doing something new that I've never explored nor been complimented for.

Scott Anthony Barlow 52:50
All that and plenty more next week right here on Happen To Your Career. Make sure that you don't miss it. And if you haven't already, click Subscribe on your podcast player, so that you can download this podcast in your sleep, and you get it automatically, even the bonus episodes every single week, sometimes multiple times a week. Until next week. Adios. I'm out.

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