How to focus on your strengths.

Artists spend their lives perfecting their weaknesses so that they have a larger set of tools to use when they share their creations with the world. 

We have no problem spending hours focusing on the smallest detail of our art in pursuit of perfection. 

Our ability to pursue this painstaking work is built into our DNA.

From an early age, we are taught to use a deficit model, which focuses on identifying and addressing our weaknesses rather than building on our strengths.

While using a deficit model is necessary for artists honing their craft, it is not a great approach for other aspects of personal and career development. 

Recently, I stumbled upon a book called Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow, which helps you focus on your strengths rather than always trying to fix your weaknesses. 

The book comes with an online talent assessment that helps you:

  • discover what you naturally do best
  • learn how to develop your greatest talents
  • use your customized results to live your best life

Upon completion of the assessment, you are given your top five strengths, along with a detailed description of each, which can be incredibly beneficial to your career path. There are four main “domains” that each of your strengths fit into.

  1. The Strategic Thinker — Artists who would prefer to think, plan, and strategize about their career instead of acting on it. Thinkers often keep journals, love to plan, and are very comfortable discussing an idea. On the flip side, they are often risk averse and it can be difficult for them to act on an idea. Here’s what StrengthsFinder says about strategic thinkers: “Strategic Thinkers are the ones who keep us all focused on what could be. They are constantly absorbing and analyzing information and helping the team make better decisions.”
  2. The Executor — Artists who have an idea, can quickly gather 3 friends, plan the activity, and act on the activity within a month are likely executors. These artists are often high energy, excited to take on risk, and will sometimes act on an idea even if the desired outcome isn’t completely figured out. Here’s what StrengthsFinder says about Executors: “Leaders with dominant strength in the Executing domain know how to make things happen. When you need someone to implement a solution, these are the people who will work tirelessly to get it done.”
  3. The Influencer — Artists who are good at telling their story via social media, gathering large crowds for their performances, and have had many successful partnerships for their work are great influencers. Here’s what StrengthsFinder says about Influencers: “Those who lead by Influencing help their team reach a much broader audience. People with strength in this domain are always selling the team’s ideas inside and outside the organization.”
  4. The Relationship Builder — Artists that can easily pull an ensemble together and keep them going as a high-performing group are relationship builders. Here’s what StrengthsFinder says about Relationship Builders: “Those who lead through Relationship Building are the essential glue that holds a team together. Without these strengths on a team, in many cases, the group is simply a composite of individuals.”

Where do you see yourself fitting into these domains? I hope you’ll take the assessment to find out. I have found the process to be incredibly eye-opening and telling as I reflect on my own leadership style and it helps me better understand the perspectives of others when I know their strengths. 

Photo Credit: Dulcey Lima

More Stuff From Me!

→ Enroll in Extending Techniquesa course designed for performing artists who want or need help developing non-performance skills needed for a career in the arts. Note: For a limited time, we are offering half off our beta version of this course. When you register, enter the code ExtendingTechBeta to activate the savings.

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Nate Zeisler is the Dean for Community Initiatives at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He envisions a world where students majoring in the arts have a clear path to a sustainable career, where creative minds are empowered and inspired to rule the workforce, and where access to the arts is not just for the privileged few, but for all.

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