By: Shannon Waller
This is directly from my executive coach. Focus and develop your strengths. Find others that are strong where you are weak and hire them.
We are taught throughout school to develop our weaknesses. Aside from learning basic reading, writing, and arithmetic, you can make the biggest impact on the world by focusing on what you are Uniquely gifted to do. That is your Unique Ability.
What Is Unique Ability?
The 4 Characteristics of Unique Ability:
- Superior skill. A superior ability that other people notice and value.
- Passion. You’re passionate about using it and want to use it as much as possible.
- Energy. It’s energizing for both you and others around you.
- Never-ending improvement. There’s a sense of never-ending improvement – you keep getting better and better, and never run out of possibilities for growth.
What does my Unique Ability look like?
If you’ve ever felt the excitement of doing something you excel at and others praise you for, something you’d happily keep doing all day long, you’ve probably experienced your Unique Ability in action.
A path to freedom and happiness?
The very idea of Unique Ability is liberating because it allows you to be who you are and gives you permission to make your greatest possible contribution to the world by doing what you love to do. It allows you to design the life you want. It also frees each of us from the many negative feelings like fear, guilt, inadequacy, and frustration that arise as we try to do or avoid the things that do not use our Unique Ability.
The flip side to the fact that everyone has a Unique Ability is that everyone also has areas that are not their Unique Ability. Freedom comes from recognizing and letting go of those activities that don’t engage your passion and that don’t generate energy, superior results, and never-ending improvement.
It’s often observed of the world today that people don’t suffer from the lack of opportunity; they suffer from too much.
Understanding your Unique Ability provides a much needed filter, so you can be more decisive and confident about what to do and what not to do.
Discovering Your Unique Ability
One of the trickiest things about Unique Ability is that it’s remarkably difficult to see our own because being so close to our own uniqueness makes it very difficult to appreciate.
The following are 10 exercises that help you identify your Unique Ability and put it into action.
The Activities Path
Exercise A.1: The Activity Inventory
Step 1: Your raw material: List all the things you do every day.
Step 2: Categorize your activities into:
- U = Unique Ability activities
- E = Excellent activities (have skill to get the job done but no passion)
- C = Competent activities (can get the job done)
- I = Incompetent activities (you do these wrong, stress and avoid them)
Exercise A.2: The Activity Snapshot
Step 1: Reorganize your activities into boxes of each category.
Step 2: Write a % of your time you believe you spend in each category
Exercise A.3: The Unique Ability Action Plan
Step 1: Create a basic plan so you can start to increase the time you spend in your Unique Ability and decrease the time you spend doing everything else.
It’s time to give yourself permission to give up doing things that are not your Unique Ability. Be resourceful and look for complementary talents and abilities to free you up.
Labeling something an Incompetent or Competent activity is not an excuse to be irresponsible about your commitments, nor are we suggesting that you try to let go of everything overnight.
“Progress not perfection.” Take as much time as you need to transform your situation comfortably and responsibly.
Start at the bottom: Competent and Incompetent
Five ways to free yourself.
- Stop doing it. If it’s not really that important, just stop doing it.
- Delegate it.
- Swap it.
- Automate it.
- Transform it.
Even excellence doesn’t make the cut.
If you feel guilt about relinquishing the tasks you dislike, think about it this way: By delegating, you’re giving someone else who likes this activity the opportunity to do more of it and possibly even get paid for doing it.
How can you grow your Unique Ability?
How can you use them to create more value for others?
Don’t be afraid to spend some time focusing your thoughts on envisioning what those activities could become.
Exercise A.4: The One-Year Goal
Step 1: Write today’s date and beside “Current %,” write down the percentage you estimate you spend doing Unique Ability activities right now.
Step 2: Write down a goal for how much time you’d like to be spending in your Unique Ability one year from now.
The Naming Path
Exercise N.1: The Unique Ability Question and Synthesis
Step 1: Email 8 to 10 people in your life whose opinions you respect and ask what they value and appreciate about you.
Step 2: Summarize each response so you have an overview of the key themes.
Step 3: Boil everything down to the 5 points that are mentioned most often and/or resonate most.
Exercise N.2: The Kolbe Profile
Step 1: Take a Kolbe A Index Test.
Kolbe measures what you “will,” “won’t” and are “willing to” do when you’re getting things done.
Kiobe describes how you take action in four modes: Fact Finder, Follow Thru, Quick Start, and Implementer.
Step 2: Use the 4 descriptive Kolbe Strengths words as part of your raw material for articulating your Unique Ability.
Exercise N.3: The CliftonStrengths Profile
Step 1: Take a CliftonStrengths test.
CliftonStrengths is a personality assessment that gives your Top 5 Strengths out of a possible 34.
Step 2: The descriptions of your Strengths provide great raw material for helping narrow down and understand your natural abilities.
Exercise N.4: Finding the Themes
Step 1: Review N.1. through N.3. and identify the common themes throughout.
Exercise N.5: The 10 Best Unique Ability Habits
Step 1: Write down your top 10 Best Unique Ability Habits.
This describes what you naturally and automatically do when you’re at your best.
Each habit will meet certain criteria: You have a superior skill, passion, energy, and a sense of never-ending improvement.
Exercise N.6: The Unique Ability Statement
Step 1: Distill all of the above into 1 sentence.
My Unique Ability is… my talents (what I do and how I do it) + passion (why I do it).
Hire people who have the Unique Ability to take on the activities where you are incompetent and merely just competent.