August 1 st


Part 3: I know my strengths, now what? How do I leverage them?


In last week’s blog comments I was asked: “How do you leverage your strengths in your business?” Since I could see that my response to the question was going to be longer than a typical comment, I decided to write a follow up post and use myself as an example.

So, welcome to Part 3 in my series on strengths.

First, there are strengths and there are signature strengths. A strength is a strong attribute or inherent asset; it reflects something you do well and with ease.

Strengths are typically viewed discretely and in isolation. E.g., she is an imaginative writer; he is a math whiz; she is an engaging speaker.

Signature strengths represent the unique combination of talents, skills, and qualities of being that you bring to any given situation when you are coming from your highest and best self. For this reason, they contribute to your “Unique Awesomeness Proposition” (credit for UAP goes to my mentors Marie Forleo and Laura Roeder) and they are a lot more interesting.

One of my long-standing values is:  the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. When you are willing to take a big picture view of your strengths, you will see interesting patterns and ways that these qualities interact with one another.

So it’s your particular package of strengths that matters. Avoid viewing it as a list of discrete skills and comparing yourself to others who share some of these skills. Instead, start thinking about how they work together, as a system, to bring your uniqueness to the world.

Exercises and tests like the ones I have been proposing in the previous posts can seem daunting or confusing at times, and can even feel isolating. And often the sites that offer these tests rarely provide opportunities for meaningful engagement. You take these fascinating tests and then ask: now what?

The value in taking any assessment flows directly from:

  1. Thoughtful reflection,
  2. The meaning you make of the results, and
  3. The action you decide to take next.

It has helped me to debrief exercises like these with a colleague, a group or a coach. Any assessment’s usefulness is directly related to the degree of reflection, meaning-making, and action taken. As a coach, I work with people to unpack these gifts, explore the possibilities, and design conscious actions. But here are some ways to explore the data on your own:

Exercise #3:  Strengths Debrief & Reflective Practice Exercise

Take a few moments to breathe and center your self. Find a quiet space. Pull together the data from the strengths exercises and have it in front of you. Grab a journal and respond to these questions. Writing in a stream of consciousness format is helpful. (That is, keep your pen on the page and write whatever comes to mind without over-thinking or censoring yourself). Using this method, your responses come less from the ego and more from the deepest part of your essential self.

  • What did you learn from this exercise?
  • What surprises you?
  • What delights you?
  • What frustrates you?
  • What resonates with you? What does not? Why?
  • What is useful? What seems less useful? Why?
  • Think of a specific time in your life when you were at your best. How were these strengths in play? Write about it. Be as specific as you can.
  • How do you see these strengths supporting and reinforcing one another in unique ways?
  • Think of a specific task or experience that is coming up in your work or life. How might you consciously harness your signature strengths to bring your best self forward?
  • How does the feedback from your AI 360 clarify this mixture of signature strengths?
  • Where might your strengths, at times, be overdone?
  • What next step will you take?

The best way to bring this work alive is to become aware on a daily basis of your unique package of strengths and how it best serves you and the world at large. Pay attention to how your strengths show up, what other people notice about you, what they seek you out for. These are clues to your signature presence. This is why I proposed the first exercise a few weeks ago. It supplements nicely the strengths testing we discussed last week.

Now I will use myself as an example. Here are the results from my strengths tests. Below I will share how I make meaning of them and how I leverage them in my work.















My first observation is how well the tests reinforce one another. I took them almost 10 months apart and yet they both seem to have nailed my top two strengths: curiosity and love of learning. The remaining three appear to map fairly well to one another too: achiever and responsibility map to industry, diligence, perseverance; connectedness maps to honesty, authenticity and genuineness. Caution, prudence and discretion may map to responsibility. Although StrengthsFinder is assessing “talents” and the VIA is assessing “values in action” or “character strengths”, I see that my results present a fairly congruent profile.

Next, I compare these results with feedback I have received over time, e.g., results from my first AI 360, results from feedback I received in graduate school, and client feedback. What comes through is that I am appreciated for my questions, my love and learning and willingness to share that learning with others, my ability to make relevant connections and package them in useful ways, my reliability and my ability to take action.

Here are a couple of ways I leverage these strengths in my work:

Career Example:  I transitioned from law, to management consulting, and then to coaching and facilitating. All of these career paths invite curiosity and life-long learning. As much as I have enjoyed every job I have ever had, when I stumbled upon coaching I felt at home in a whole new way. Coaching and facilitation allow me to fully utilize my natural inclinations toward inquiry, learning, data gathering, and connection, while also supporting my drive toward action and accountability.

Business Activity Example:  I finally started blogging. It may sound silly, but for my particular suite of strengths, writing by blogging is a great way for me to capitalize on all of these strengths. I get to explore, ask questions, conduct research, assemble and draw connections between various discoveries, take action by putting my thoughts on the page, share them and follow up by engaging and responding to your comments. And I am using blogging and my signature strengths to help me find my unique voice. It’s a work-in-progress. I can already see how we all blog differently and thank goodness! It would be boring if we were all the same.

I am curious . . . are these examples useful? Sharp enough? Let me know. Or tell me, what do you see? What would help you apply this work to your own life and work?

A final few caveats:

1. No one test ever defines all of who we are. A good tool offers some valuable data that we can work with consciously and use with awareness.

2.  Our strengths are only part of the picture. We will talk more about strengths overdone and what to do with our weaknesses in a future post.

Take action now. Click “like” if you like this post, share it, and leave a comment below. What is your take-away? What questions are you holding? What is your next step?


Note: This is Part 3 of what turned into a three part series. Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 .


Categories : Coaching, Strengths


  1. Kathleen says:

    “Suite of Strengths”… how SWEET truly, Laurie! I just love the configuration of your genius! yes, I see it in what you describe, like a constellation of strengths which = something completely unique and larger than its sum total! I have played with a LOT of these systems and each have served me in my self inquiry. From archetypal astrology to singer-loomis, to dream analysis… from deep exploration of my childhood themes and the themes of my culture, my family & ancestors culture. All of these aspects have created the image of the larger whole of who I am… which I call the Mandala of the Self… and I also name it as the Daemon… after James Hillman introduced me to that concept in his book The Soul’s Code. He too talks about how it takes a lifetime to “unpack” the image of the Daemon. He speaks to it very much in the way you have defined it here… and does it poetically… using images such as the myth of the Daemon… the genius/geni of talents/character/temperment that came with us at birth (like a companion angel)… to be actualized in our lives. Its a beautiful myth and has caught my imagination. I work with children and have three of my own and see that unique wild cryptic nature in each one that is so friggin brilliant! and its so friggin tragic how it gets stamped down through our educational system and necessity to conform.

    I am reeeeeeeeeally grateful for these sytems which guide us back to ourselves, so that we can flourish in life. I soo appreciate you bringing in the journal work, otherwise it can feel too restrictive. Your advice to play and explore really serves as a reminder to me.

    Thank you for such a comprehensive way to explore myself! going to print this out and work with it, along with the other two blogs you have posted.

    • Kathleen, thanks so much for your juicy thoughts and gracious feedback! I am familiar with myth but have not read The Soul’s Code so it’s going on my list! It’s great to read about all of the different ways you have explored this work too. There are so many ways to do this work. And what matters most is that we do it in the ways and with the tools that most resonate with us. I LOVE the term “Mandala of the Self”. Thanks so much for printing my blog posts. What an honor! If working with them provides value, I hope you’ll pop in and tell us about it. Your post means a lot since blogging still feels like a grand experiment to me. 🙂 xoxo

  2. Hi Laurie,

    Thanks so much for the detailed information that you have provided here. I love how you shared all of your own personal examples and results. It gives a perfectly clear picture of how we should and can use this material. I have completed my VIA survey and now I still have to do the Strength Finder 2.0.

    I love how the next step is to take some time to reflect, breath and answer some questions. I think this is key for myself. I need to allow myself some time to look at the material and absorb it.:)

    • Sasha, thanks so much for your specific feedback. I am glad to know that my example offers a clearer picture of how to work with the material. (I know this post was on the long side … thanks for reading!). I will be curious to hear how your VIA and StrenthsFinder results compare and what you learn as you reflect. It is a lot to absorb. I hope you discover some things that you can apply directly to your work. 🙂

  3. sheila says:

    Wow, thank you, Laurie, a lot to take in and consider. What I really find fascinating is how in looking back, I can see how my life changed course and took another path to capitalize on my strengths even when I didn’t consciously know I was shifting in that direction. You are right, it is just part of the picture, but it is a really good part. 😉

    • Sheila, I know exactly what you mean. I knew I was changing course but couldn’t always tell exactly why I was shifting the way I was. But as I look back I can see why my work is so satisfying now and what pieces were missing for me then. I have no regrets because I have learned so much from every step I have taken, but it’s nice to see how we can use what we know to serve us going forward.

  4. Freea says:

    Wonderful post and thanks for the reminder, that finding your voice/authentic self or whatever you chose to call it….Is a work in progress…I have been putting a lot of pressure on myself to hone that in and doing so requires so much introspection, which comes natural to me….I’m an introverted Virgo girl. (I actually have a lot of strengths in common with you!)..BUT…It can still be challenging, even as an introspective person. I feel that for many of us, who I consider to be multi-passionate entrepreneurs (another borrowed Marie Forleo term),..there are lots of faces we can chose to present, because us humans can be so multi-faceted. I could take many different angles with my voice and authentic self….and I struggle at times with which ones match my overall branding best…and I am still developing that….so I sort of LOVE the surprise that will come out of all of it. As long as it is truly authentic and from a place of love and passion…it will serve the world well! That is the important piece right?

    This is my first reading…so I will have to back track and read the prior posts. Thanks so much, this is GREAT stuff!

    • Freea, thanks for sharing how this post impacted you and for your reflections. We are all, most definitely, works in progress, evolving in every moment.

      I resonate with what you say about putting pressure on yourself to find your voice/authentic self. For me the pressure shows up as internal nagging and criticism. One way I finally moved past it, after months of thinking and journaling, was by leaping into blogging without having a full-on plan. Ultimately, I decided I would need to find my voice (or voices) by speaking. So here I am experimenting with it.

      When you say that you put pressure on yourself on find your authentic self, what does that look like? As an introvert you mention that introspection comes naturally. How does introspection show up for you?

      I hear you on the pull to be multi-passionate as well as having many different voices and faces to share with the world. What I can say is that although we are all evolving, we have a set of signature strengths that reflect our brand whether we are conscious of it or not. These exercises are ways to find out what other people already now about us.

      Like you, I am drawn to the mystery and the surprise in all of this. I think the better we know ourselves and the more open we are to continuing to grow and evolve, the better we can serve the world.

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful post and your interest in reading the other posts in this series. That means a lot to me as a new blogger. 🙂

  5. Love the detail in this post as well as the depth. I loved taking the assessment to discover my strengths. Taking a step back totally helps to not take any of this personally and live from what you are good at. The more we know about ourselves the better we can communicate and get our gifts out into the world. Thanks for sharing love. Keep up the amazing work. xo

    • Thanks Hillary ! I so agree with you … “The more we know about ourselves the better we can communicate and get our gifts out into the world.” Here’s to knowing ourselves and sharing our gifts!

  6. Ashley says:


    Thanks for breaking everything down so well! I loved seeing the connection between your strengths and how you’ve utilized them. Asking ourselves how we can utilize them and finding ways to do so, even the seemingly small, is a great start!

    I’m glad you’ve taken to blogging. It really is a great fit for your strengths! Isn’t it cool to think about how we all bring a different approach, voice and set of questions to our writing?

    • Thanks Ashley! Since you were the impetus for this week’s post (thank you!), I hope I answered your question? Do you have a better sense about how you can leverage your signature strengths in your work? Let me know if more examples would help. I don’t think it has to be a lot of work or require a lot of intentional maneuvering. My career path was not at all orchestrated. I have always followed my energy and used my intuition to move from one step to the next. I think when we follow our energy we find that we’re leaning on our strengths anyway. And when we know what they are we can use them with greater awareness.

      Thanks for your encouragement on blogging! That means a lot. And I love all the different blogging voices and that there is no right or wrong in any of this. It feels like a grand experiment and also feels so freeing. I look forward to reading some of your writing at some point too, if sharing it publicly is part of your path. 😉

  7. Suki says:

    Thank you Laurie to breaking it down. Your example is really helpful. You’re right! after the test, I did not quite sure how can I take another step. But after read this post, it give me a clear idea how I can apply to myself. Very very good example, indeed 🙂

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Suki! I’m glad my example helped you see how to apply your strengths to your own life. If you care to share any specifics, feel free. Reading your blog, I can imagine some of your strengths and how they serve you and the world. 🙂