Discover your natural strengths
Finding your Unique Ability
By F. Scott Addis, CPCU, CRA
Are you aware of your natural strengths? If so, are you harnessing these talents in synergistic ways to maximize your performance?
A number of years ago, I had the good fortune of being introduced to Dan Sullivan, founder and president of The Strategic Coach (www.strategiccoach.com), an organization that is focused on helping entrepreneurs reach new levels of success and happiness. The Strategic Coach Program has played an important role in the way I think, act and feel about my business and personal life as well as how I mentor others.
A key principle of Dan's teachings is the concept of Unique Ability®—a way of describing a powerful force that is at the very core of who you are as an individual. Each of us has a Unique Ability, although most people are not conscious of it. Because of this lack of awareness, these people have not experienced the infinite rewards that come from being able to harness and develop their natural talents and pursue their passions wholeheartedly. The better able you are to recognize your Unique Ability and shape your life around it, the more freedom, success and happiness you will experience. Your Unique Ability is made up of four characteristics:
1. A superior ability that other people notice and value
2. Love doing it and want to do it as much as possible
3. Energizing for you and others around you
4. You keep getting better, never running out of possibilities for further improvement
Most individuals are not able to identify their Unique Ability, let alone concentrate on it, because they are trapped by childhood training. We learn at a young age that the secret to success in life is working on our weaknesses. Unfortunately, this focus on weaknesses creates a sense of inadequacy, failure and guilt. As a result, our lives are filled with frustration, wasted potential and missed opportunity. Letting go of these perceived deficiencies to focus on the things you love is the secret to maximizing your performance.
Through Dan Sullivan's teaching, we learn that all people spend their lives in four zones of activity--incompetent, competent, excellence and Unique Ability.
Incompetent: This is an area of your life where you feel frustrated and stressed because you are just not good at the tasks involved. What activities in this category drain your confidence and would make you happy to get rid of?
Competent: These are activities where you compete with others and work hard but where your performance is merely adequate. A lot of other people could do these tasks with less effort and greater success than you. These are activities that create boredom in your life.
Excellence: You have superior skill in conducting these activities. People can count on you to accomplish these tasks. You may have even developed a reputation for your ability in these areas. Deep down, however, you do not have a burning passion for these activities. Even with external positive reinforcement, these activities do not fuel your passion.
Unique Ability: These are activities that create energy and enthusiasm. When you engage in them, you bubble over with excitement. You could do these activities all day long and never get tired or bored. They offer you endless possibilities for improvement, no matter how skilled you are at them.
Your success or failure in life depends on how much time you spend in each of these four zones. Unsuccessful people spend most of their time in the incompetent zone. Successful people spend most of their time in the zones of competence and excellence. And those who achieve extraordinary success and happiness spend most of their lives in the Unique Ability zone.
Discovering your Unique Ability
How do you discover your Unique Ability? How do you systematically identify activities that consume your life and drain your energy? How do you identify tasks that fill you with excitement, passion and purpose?
I would like to suggest that you begin with the Kolbe A Index™(www.kolbe.com). Developed by Kathy Kolbe, the Index is a proven and reliable tool to assess your instinctive and natural approach to creative problem solving. It is different from other assessment tools because there are no right or wrong or good or bad answers.
Kolbe's definition of success is the freedom to be yourself—to identify your instinctive talents and harness these talents in synergistic ways to drive productivity. The ability to understand your natural talents—especially your Unique Ability—will allow you to be highly motivated, creative and focused. Research substantiates that human instinct is the power behind actions. It is the source of conative energy. (Conation is defined as an inclination to act purposefully.) Historically, assessment tools have measured the cognitive (IQ) and affective (personality) aspects of the mind. While these tools are helpful in selecting, training and managing people, they may not identify instinctive talents. Understanding your instinctive abilities, as well as your intelligence and personality, will dramatically enhance your performance and satisfaction as you move forward in your career. (See boxes below)
The Kolbe A Index is focused on identifying your natural advantage—the degree of intensity with which you engage in each of the following action modes. (See four definitions below)
According to Kolbe, 100% of your mental energy and creativity is distributed across the action modes listed above. A number from 1 to 10 in the Kolbe A Index determines your mode of operation or MO. As you discover your unique MO, you begin to understand and appreciate your instinctive or natural ways of taking action. The first and most important step is discovering your Unique Ability. Abraham Maslow, the "father" of self-actualization who created the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, said that each person seeks "to be true to his or her own nature, to trust him or herself, to be authentic, spontaneous, honestly expressive, to look for sources in his or her actions."
I would like to suggest a six-step process to help you discover your Unique Ability:
1. Unique Ability Question: Begin by asking yourself what activities give you energy, purpose and passion. Consider asking people who know you the same question.
2. The Kolbe A Index: This tool will help you identify and understand your natural and instinctive talents.
3. Unique Ability Activities: These are the things that you do with skill and passion to achieve your best results. List these activities, and choose the ones that reflect your core values.
4. Unique Ability Statement: Express your Unique Ability in one sentence. For example: "My Unique Ability is mentoring and motivating people to achieve top performance."
5. Unique Ability Future: Envision yourself at some point in the future spending 100% of your time on your Unique Ability. Visioning is a powerful process of becoming clear about your ideal future. Visioning is understood and appreciated by top athletes, entertainers and successful people in all walks of life. Envisioning yourself using your Unique Ability will give you a sense of clarity, confidence, purpose and passion.
6. Unique Ability Goal Setting: Design an action plan to create your ideal future in which you spend 100% of your time using your Unique Ability.
Focus on your uniqueness—Delegate everything else
Through The Strategic Coach Program, I learned that successful entrepreneurs focus totally on their Unique Ability and delegate everything else. These individuals delegate tasks to others who possess a Unique Ability in those areas. You are surrounded by people whose Unique Abilities differ from yours. The tasks that drain your energy fill the bucket for them.
If you are frustrated, bored and tired, it is imperative that you discover and use your natural strengths: your Unique Ability. Socrates said: "Know thyself." Good luck!
Scott Addis is president and CEO of The Addis Group and Addis Intellectual Capital, LLC (AIC). AIC is a coaching and consulting company whose purpose is to transform the process that insurance agents, brokers and carriers use when working with their clients. Scott is recognized as an industry leader, having been named Inc. Magazine "Entrepreneur of the Year" in the Philadelphia region as well as being recognized as one of the "25 Most Innovative Agents in America." You can contact Scott at 610-945-1019 or firstname.lastname@example.org.