If you did not grow up as a fan of superheroes it is still likely that you know of some. Characters like Batman, Spider-Man, Superman and Wonder Woman give us hope to being able to make a difference in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world, in an imaginary sense.
Have you ever considered that you too have superpowers? Natural talents, skills and abilities that when you leverage them, produce results that might even surprise yourself. Perhaps you are like many whose superpowers have gone untapped. Our lack of self-awareness has led us to a path where operating outside of our strength zone is the norm.
How tragic would it be if Superman didn’t know he could fly? Or if the flash didn’t know he could run so fast? I believe each one of us have at least one, or a set, of professional superpowers we should be cultivating daily. Yours may be casting vision. Maybe it’s creativity and innovation. Maybe it’s your exceptional communication skills. Whatever it may be, you have some unique abilities that help you impact the various spaces you are in day in and day out!
Identifying a shortcoming that we may have seems to be easier than identifying a strength. This oftentimes leads us to focus a substantial amount of effort on trying to develop weaknesses into strengths. I believe we should allocate most of our energy developing our strengths into superpowers while working to mitigate weaknesses.
I’ve been able to do this by focusing on what I call the “3 P’s of Personal Impact.” These areas of focus are Potential, Preparation and Performance.
Each one of us has the potential to be great but, what does it mean to have the potential but never activate or act on it? I believe the extent to which you can reach your potential is directly tied to your level of self-awareness. There are many ways you can enhance your self-awareness. Several ways I work toward this are assessments, critical reflection and constructive feedback.
Four assessments that I have gained insight from are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DiSC, 360 Assessments and Strengthsfinder. While neither of these assessments are designed to give a comprehensive picture of who you are, they do indicate how you may be showing up in the world.
The University of Tennessee Chattanooga define critical reflection as a reasoning process to make meaning of an experience. Critical reflection is descriptive, analytical and critical, and can be articulated in a number of ways such as in written form, orally or as an artistic expression.
This sort of reflection not only challenges you to pause, it also challenges you to make meaning of your experiences, information you’ve consumed and the beliefs you’ve developed. As we continue to grow, learn and navigate through life it is important to understand why you perceive the world the way you do.
Soliciting feedback about yourself from others is a guaranteed way to stretch your comfort zone. However, it is great way to get honest feedback about others perceptions of you which could potentially reveal blind spots. Seeking feedback from peers, your management chain and mentors can add tremendous value but should still be taken under careful consideration. Some good questions to start with are:
1. What would you say are my strongest skills/abilities?
2. What would you say are some areas I should focus my developmental efforts?
3. What would you say my personal brand is?
It would be nice if we could flip a switch and make the impact we desire but the reality is that there is a lot of preparation that goes into the process. The more intentional you are about your preparation the better. Two ways you can be intentional with your preparation are to create an individual development plan and to engage in continual development activities.
Individual Development Plan
There is a lot of literature available on how to construct an IDP. As you consider the areas you want to focus on, at a minimum, I suggest to identify and write out the following:
1. short and long-term goals
2. strengths to build upon
3. weaknesses to mitigate
4. relationships to initiate or cultivate
5. There is an additional portion that I would include in the IDP that I will spell out in the Performance section below.
Continual Development Activities
In the process of developing your strengths into superpowers, the developmental activities you utilize are where the rubber meets the road. Formal education and training are always an option but there are many other ways to supplement those and still get what you need. Below, are several options to consider:
1. Read or listen to a book.
2. Read an article or do research on best practices regarding developing in your target area.
3. Take a course through a MOOC or an online training platform.
4. Take an assessment.
5. Join a professional organization like Toastmasters.
6. Seek a mentor.
7. Pursue a professional certification.
8. Carve out time in your schedule for your growth activities.
With your potential and all of your preparation it is now time to show up and make an impact. This can be just as challenging as the other two areas because opportunities to leverage your skills are not ever present. Sometimes we have to strike up some courage and make ourselves available to take on something new.
If the opportunity to use your skills isn’t as easy as volunteering you may have to carve out your own space and create opportunity for yourself. Understand where your organization is heading and what it needs to achieve its goals. Identify ways that you can engage with those activities or present new ideas for initiatives that could move the organization in the right direction. This can be a complex endeavor but it can potentially pay great dividends. There is a benefit to the organization and there is the benefit of you gaining more experience and making impact as a result of you leveraging your superpowers!
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