“It’s the abilities not the disabilities that count.”

― Peter Drucker

I frequently teach workshops on personal branding and job seeking strategies to individuals in career transition. The students are highly successful professionals – scientists, senior academic administrators, marketers and finance executives. During these workshops, I have the participants tell their career story, focusing on their accomplishments and strengths. This exercise stops many of them in their tracks. Why?

As Lynda Wallace, my colleague and author of the book A Short Course In Happiness says, “The reason we often don’t notice when we are good at something is because it comes easily. That’s what makes strength.”

Research in factors contributing to thriving at work and in life has shown that focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses contributes to greater success, creativity and well-being.  In researching Strengths Based Leadership, Gallup scientists studied more than one million work teams. They found that when an organization’s leadership fails to focus on individuals’ strengths, the odds of an employee being engaged are a dismal – 1 in 11. When leaders focus on and invest in their employees’ strengths, the odds of each person being engaged go up eightfold.  Peter Drucker, the esteemed father of management consulting, was often quoted as saying, “Only when you operate from strengths can you achieve true excellence – one cannot build performance on weakness.”

How do you go about determining what you’re good at, and what you have the potential to be great at? There are a number of strategies to help you. Here are a few you might want to try.

Exercise 1: Clifton Strengths Finder

The “Father of Strengths Psychology,” Donald Clifton, Ph.D. (1924-2003), along with Tom Rath and a team of scientists at Gallup, created the online StrengthsFinder assessment. Rooted in more than 40 years of research, this assessment has helped millions discover their natural talents.

This assessment can be found online at

Exercise 2: Finding the Hero Within

Step 1 – Write a description of a person you admire. Be specific about the reasons you like and respect them.

Step 2 – Write a list of the person’s strengths based culled from your description.

Step 3 – Rewrite the characteristics you listed in the first person i.e., I am determined, I am resilient, etc.

Step 4 – Circle those that represent you most closely. Read them daily.