Archive for the ‘Talents’ Category

When I was in high school, someone at my church asked me to start teaching a Sunday School class for boys who were in junior high school.  I did so, had a great time, and thus embarked on a practice that – except for very few years – has been a staple in my life since then.

I took a break from teaching a few years ago after many years of co-leading the college ministry at my church.  Except for occasional substitute teaching for others, I have had the joy for a while of participating as a student under the quality leadership of others.  It was a treat to do so.

But now it’s time to put back to use those teaching inclinations and abilities – time to get back in the saddle.  Every skills inventory I’ve taken for decades identified teaching as a skill, so it seems a shame to not put it to use except for an occasional lull to rest and reload.

So Sunday morning, August 5, I begin a new class for adults at my church.  The initial target group is a number of men and women who are either in some recovery program or dealing with some serious life issues and difficulties.  Anyone else is welcome to attend, of course.  The focus is on what we are studying and not on our life circumstances.

I debated for a while about teaching again because the selfish part of me wants to continue attending another class taught by a gifted, knowledgeable man.  But when the reasons for not teaching are selfish and the reasons for teachings are other-centered, the better choice is obvious.

All of us are gifted in a different ways.  We know how good it feels to do things we do well, just as we know how frustrating it is to be expected to do something outside our comfort zones.  If you are unsure of your talents, skills, gifts or abilities, then it’s time you take a formal test or have a series of conversations with others who know you well so that you can figure out where you excel.

Doing so will help you live out leap year lesson #213 – Put your talents to work.

While stopped at a stoplight this evening, I watched a squirrel quickly run along the small wire strung between two telephone poles high above the sidewalk.  I was impressed with its speed and agility and its obvious willingness to do something I would never attempt.  Squirrels are very good at that sort of thing – bounding from limb to limb or tree to tree, nimbly walking their wired tightropes, etc.

I’m sure the squirrel thinks nothing of it.  It just comes naturally.  Unless you or I have the skills, however, of Nik Wallenda who recently crossed Niagara Falls on a wire, we’d be in trouble if we were judged according to our high wire abilities.

You and I have different skills, talents, gifts, and passions.  Fortunately, each individual is incredibly unique in this regard.  We don’t have to have the same skills as others.  We couldn’t all be alike even if we wanted to (and I hope we don’t want to).

Because of our uniqueness, we would do well to spend more time developing our individual strengths and using them, and less time trying to make up ground in what we or others perceive to be our weaknesses.  How many work performance reviews center around what the employees doesn’t do well rather than on what is done well?  How many individual development plans devote more time, energy and resources to getting better at things we aren’t good at instead of maxing out our unique contributions based on our talents and passions?

If you’re a squirrel, be a squirrel and don’t let others tell you that you ought to be more like a dog.  And if you know what your strengths and passions are, then concentrate on developing and using them in greater ways.

Nobody can be good at everything, nor should anyone try.  We need to be the wonderful, unique creations we are designed to be.

Leap year lesson #176 is Be the you that only you can be.

If you have discussed performance reviews with your boss, then you have probably spent time talking about your weaknesses and ways to improve. That’s a valid topic for such occasions. There is always room for improvement. I’m curious, though, as to how much time in those conversations typically is given to discussing what you are good at and how you can even better utilize those strengths.

Many teams at my work have together studied the book and taken the StrengthsFinder assessment. It identifies your top five strengths from over 30 possibilities based on your answers to many questions. I’ve taken the original assessment as well as the StrengthsFinder 2 assessment and find them to be very accurate. Normally, when teams take the assessment the intent is to let employees do what they do best, perhaps adjusting assignments, projects and roles based on the strengths identified. That’s a good plan, but teams don’t always follow through with that plan very well.

It seems that in our desire to have people more well-rounded or cross-trained (or to do more with less), we gradually lose sight of the fact that people can do more and can do it more efficiently and with a better attitude if they do things they are passionate about and know how to do well.

I don’t know about you, but I am most miserable when I am forced to do something that I am uncertain about how to do well. So what should my response be to those situations? Should I devote all my time and energy to improving where I am weak (and live in a constant state of frustration)? I don’t think so. It seems far more logical and beneficial for all if I do things that I’m good at and that I love doing, and that I not spend much time worrying about those other matters.

So if you beat yourself up from time to time about what you can’t do, try to concentrate instead on what you can do, and do it. Do things that complete you – not things that deplete you.

Leap year lesson #22 is Concentrate on your strengths.