Starting a business is a crazy, nerve-wracking and exciting time. There is so much to do and often, in the beginning, all that responsibility is on your shoulders. I believe that having coaching during this time is critical to keep you on track and improve your chances of reaching your goals faster. Coaching can help you to improve your self-awareness which is critical to your personal and professional success. One way we accelerate the self-awareness process is by using Clifton Strengths to give your compressive understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.
The strengths tool has helped me in many ways and I wanted to share in particular how it has helped me as an entrepreneur and business owner.
The strengths tool clearly tells you what you are better at than other people. Reading my top five strengths gave me alternative labels to define myself and what I can do. Those things which at times had been negatively labelled now stood out to me as being very much positive.
Impatient was now my Activator strength
Inflexible was now my Arranger strength
Talkative was now my Communication strength
Perfectionist was now my Maximiser strength
Clifton strengths gave me a different lens through which to see myself and the awareness and tools to help me manage the negative behaviours and labels. It allowed me to recognise when, for example, my activator and fast need for action, was negatively impacting others and how to slow down. It allowed me to see when I need to arrange and when I can take a step back. This flexibility helps me to bring the best version of myself to a given situation and increases my confidence.
The positivity of strengths leaves people feeling energised and inspired and ready to get started. It makes no apologies for who you are and celebrates what about you is unique. When starting a business you can often be facing critique, doubts and plenty of setbacks, the Strengths tool can remind you of how you stand out and can make it work.
Knowing where to focus
As an entrepreneur you are wearing so many different hats, jumping from one to another without much time to think. Business owner, sales manager, marketing professional, admin assistant and trainer were all hats for me in the beginning. As things start to grow you need to hang some of those hats up and bring more focus to your role. Knowing my strengths helped me to do that. I know for example that with my Communication strength I am good at creating training materials; this involves absorbing information and pulling out the key points for training audiences. This is always an aspect of my role that I would keep. This helps me to know where to invest my time and energy in development. I can focus my skill development on the areas of talent that I have. For example, in storytelling, advanced training and coaching techniques all help to develop my communication skills.
Your strengths are the tasks that leave you feeling energized. Often at the end of a long week training, I feel ready to go and socialise, I am full of energy and appreciation for being able to utilise my strengths. If you are starting out notice what parts of the role lift you up and what parts of the role drains you.
Knowing where to ask for help
Clifton strengths isn't just about what you do well, it also helps you to understand what you don't do well. The great thing about being an entrepreneur is that you are not constrained by a pre-defined job role. You create your own role. Accepting that you can't, and shouldn't do everything is critical. Often I see people doing everything themselves, using excuses like, only I can do it well, it's faster if I do it, or I don't have the money to employ someone to help. To that I say - nope others can do it as well and even better than you; yes of course it's faster if you do it right now, show someone else how and what is the opportunity cost of your time?
Entrepreneurs spending their time doing lots of admin or task that don't match their strengths need to think about all the ways they could be better spending their time. Clifton strengths gave me a clear indication of what I should stick at and what I should hand over to someone else. The best thing is at that once you start to see strength in others you can lift them up by giving them things to do that they are really good at and eventually they will do those things better than you could.
Help you to form better collaborations
At some point in your business journey you need to build a team around you. This might be in the form of full time staff or interns, freelancers or collaborative partnerships. Over the past 7 years of owning a business it has become clear to me that you go much further together! But how do you know when you have found the right fit? In the beginning for me this was done much more on instinct than anything formal. I got a feel for someone and whether I liked someone, or not. This was a very hit or miss approach to forming working relationships. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it resulted in partnerships with people who were just like me, which doesn't add much value! Clifton Strengths gave me a way to assess who I actually needed to be working with. To understand where I needed help and what strengths would be valuable to complement mine. This has given me a different filter when meeting new potential collaborators, I am no longer looking for the people like me, but for the people who can bring to the table what I can't.
As your team grows Clifton strengths will also help your team to see in each other what you see in them. It will help them to make the best use of each other's talents and appreciate each other for their differences.
Identify development opportunities
We all have things to learn, and this is all the truer for entrepreneurs who are facing new situations and challenges every day. A world of learning is just a few clicks away and with all that choice it can be overwhelming. From the Strengths research we know that people learn faster and the learning sticks when they develop in line with their natural talents. You are much better to build on what you already have than to try and learn something you are no good at. Clifton Strength gives you that ability to see those areas of potential and help you to know where to invest your learning and development resources.
All entrepreneurs are different; they can be bold, courageous, outgoing, reserved, contemplative and impulsive; driven by a cause and driven to succeed. Whatever your entrepreneur style knowing yourself as fully as you can, the good, the bad and the ugly, will help fast track your business to success.