What has a swan rescue got to do with finding your strengths?
Research in the field of Positive Psychology indicates that using your strengths at work increases your engagement at work. But how do you know what your strengths are?
One way of identifying your strengths is to take one of a number of online strengths profiles that will produce a list of your strengths. One free profile is the VIA Character Strengths that lists 24 value-based strengths and has been well validated. Another well-researched profile, and one of the most detailed, is the aptly named Strengths Profile that provides a report of your strengths categorised into four areas: realised strengths (good at, do often & enjoy), unrealised strengths (good at, enjoy, but don’t do often), learned behaviours (good at, do often but don’t enjoy) and weaknesses (not good at) – which at £30+VAT is good value (if you are interested in a strength-based workshop, or a team profile do get in touch).
I particularly like the nuance in the Strength Profile of things you are good at, do often but don’t enjoy – these can be things you have enjoyed in the past but fallen out of love with as you have done them too often; or if you’re like me, things you need to do, such as the accounts and paperwork where the attention for detail is necessary, but they don’t fire you up.
Strength Spotting and Swans
If you don’t want to take a “test” then you can simply ask someone, or a few people, who know you well, what they see as your strengths. Or keep an eye out yourself on what you do well, and enjoy doing.
Sometimes strengths come to the fore in adversity or they may be something that you were good at as a child, but had forgotten about. Or something you never realised you were good at until a certain event occurs.
Last Tuesday was such an occasion. I had just finished a meeting in Cambridge and exited onto Mill Lane, one of the streets that leads down to the river. As I walked towards where I had left my bicycle, I noticed a number of passers-by had stopped and were photographing a swan which was sitting forlornly in the middle of the road. Some of the Scudamores punting staff were there too, wondering what on earth to do with the swan – was it hurt? lost? confused? As traffic started to build up, it was obvious something had to be done. Shoo-ing the swan had had no effect except to make the swan even more confused.
By now a van was blocking the swan’s path back to the river. So I took off my coat and gave it to one of the Scudamores’ staff with instructions to throw it over the swan’s back while I took hold of the swan. As he was somewhat astonished at my instructions I explained that it was to stop the swan flapping its wings, and that I would gather up the swan and take it back to the river. So I swiftly picked up the swan, and ignoring her hiss of protest, carried her back to the river where, with a quick shake of her tail feathers, she happily swam away.
This short video was taken by another member of Scudamores’ staff.
By the way, did I mention that I used to rear geese as a teenager?
PS: don’t try this at home! Not all swans are as docile!