When "Now Discover Your Strengths" came out, let's just say I was a very late adopter. So late, in fact, that I had already bought "Strengths Finder 2.0" first. After taking the test to find my strengths, I was non-plussed. I felt like I already knew what my strengths were, and the book and quiz basically confirmed it.
For those of you keeping track, my top five strengths are: Strategic, Woo, Communication, Context, and Connectedness - in that order.
Call me slow, but once I knew what I already knew, the book sat on my shelves for years. Since I "already knew everything" it was relegated to the bookshelf that I rarely touch - the one I'm cleaning out now to move into my studio.
When I clear off bookshelves, I always dive back in to some random pages and see if the book still holds any value for me before I let it go. Some books I read once and pass off immediately. Not because they aren't good, but because I really feel like I've gotten everything I could from the book.
Yes, sometimes that means buying another copy of the book when my hard-headedness wears off, but not usually. I have a learning addiction, so I'm constantly absorbing new material, and like any user, once it's all used up, we discard it and move on to the next fix.
For whatever reason, I held onto an entire collection of books by Marcus Buckingham, Tom Rath, and Donald Clifton. I kept telling myself that they'd come in handy for client work, and since I'm taking on fewer one-on-one clients now, it seemed like a good idea to go back through them and see what good they'd do me.
So as I flipped back through the book, I read the descriptions of each of my strengths. I found myself nodding. Then, I found myself writing them all down - and highlighting! I haven't highlighted a book since college!
Clearly something was happening in my brain. It was almost unconscious... like my hands were operating independent of me. By the time it was done, I'd re-worded the five lengthy paragraphs to look something like this:
What makes me so awesome? It’s a unique combination of clear, meaningful strategy and communication with a positive impact.
Clear, Meaningful Strategy: Strategy is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective that allows me to see patterns others don’t. It's a big reason I was appointed to a government-sponsored think tank as a teenager. It’s an advantage that helps me find potential obstacles before you hit a road block, a dead-end path, or the land of confusion. Clarity is king with me. I also believe we are on this rock for a purpose. Yes, we make our own decisions and we are accountable for those choices and actions, and still we have a greater gift to share with the world. Whatever your connection of choice (Spirit, God, six degrees of separation, etc.), we are all connected to each other in some small way. This perspective helps me understand how today’s strategies impact tomorrow’s results.
Communication With A Positive Impact: Words are my palette. I've won multiple awards for my writing, music and performances. I have a deep need to bring ideas, stories and events to life, energize them, and make them exciting and vivid. I use examples that make it easier for you to relate, understand, and apply to your specific situation. People like to listen to me because I’m a knowledgeable, passionate communicator and I inspire them to take action in meaningful ways. I also believe that words are meaningless unless they mean something to you. So I want to learn who you are, what makes you tick, where you’ve been and where you want to go. Your back story helps us understand how to plan for the future. You'll make better, more confident decisions when you understand your back story. This keeps you from making the same mistakes or re-inventing the wheel on your path to success.
If you've read the book, you'll recognize some of the language, but it's decidedly my own spin on what Clifton, Rath, and Buckingham have described as my top 5 strengths. I've already added it to my about page, and will soon have micro versions on my social media profiles and new one-sheet as well.
You can do this for yourself, in a few simple steps:
1. Buy the book and take the test. Make sure you get a copy of the book that has an unused access code for the test. Once you've taken the test, make note of your top 5 strengths.
2. Copy down all 5 strengths descriptions. The paragraphs are way too long for a bio. You'll be editing mercilessly in the next step. For now, just copy it all down.
3. Edit mercilessly. Change all the "you" statements to "I" statements, and re-write the paragraphs into something very client focused. I was able to eventually take the Strategy and Connectedness paragraphs and blend them into one. For me, I wanted to show people that Strategy is worthless without a bigger picture meaning.You can see that I used the phrase "I also believe..." as a transition from one thought (strategic) to the next (connectedness). You want to streamline all this information into something digestible for an average reader. You're not necessarily trying to condense each strength into one or two paragraphs like I did, though. It could be 5 smaller pargraphs if your strengths don't seem to logically go together like mine did. In any case, do what works for you, since this is your bio, and you want to be proud to share it with people.
4. Sprinkle in your credentials. The idea is to give a nod to your accomplishments, but stay focused on how they help your clients. You'll want to find no more than 1 or two things that illustrate each of your strengths. Here I've mentioned my appointment to a think tank as a teenager to illustrate and affirm my strategic abilities. I've also mentioned that I'm an award-winning writer, musician, and performer - which hopefully serves to both inspire my audience and encourage them to experience the different ways I communicate with context.
5. Check for grammatical issues. Cutting and pasting words and ideas often leaves a trail of errant punctuation, capitalization, and stray words that just don't belong. Look for fragments, incomplete ideas, and anything that doesn't clearly represent your unique value to your clients. Remember, your bio needs to be client-focused, even if it's talking about you.
6. Rest. Not everyone writes or edits well. You'll likely need a few passes at this, but even if you're a fantastic writer, I recommend at least one re-write. Once you've made your first round of edits, let it rest for a day and come back to it with fresh eyes. You'll probably see a few tense changes you missed, as well as some ways to refine the language and make it sound more like you.
7. Repeat the edits. Even I caught some glaring things I could fix as I was writing this post. Make sure your credentials are the ones you feel the most positive about - they don't have to be the most glowing praise, but the ones you feel proudest to share with people. If it doesn't work for you, you won't share it with people. The whole purpose of a bio is for people to get to know you. Repeat steps 6 & 7 as needed.
8. Let 'er fly! Share it with a few trusted people and get their response. You may find, as I did, that some people have no idea about what makes you so awesome. They may also point out some things you missed. That doesn't mean they're right and you're wrong. You still have permission to do things your way!
This approach can actually work with most of the personality-type assessments people take. You may notice that I included my fascination advantage "anthem" (knowledgable, passionate communicator) - which is taken from Sally Hogshead's work, "How The World Sees You." Strengths Finder is just one approach that worked surprisingly well (and fast) for me. I may go back and look at the results from some of the other assessments I've taken and see how I can incorporate them, but for now, I have something useful, meaningful, and intriguing for my clients and potential clients to get to know me better.