Helping people find a “sweet spot” to use their gifts and abilities is a complex task. Thus far, in our Friday leadership series we’ve talked about Spiritual Gifts, identifying passion, and finding purpose through our abilities. However, all these topics are primarily aimed at helping people find what to do. Have you ever asked how we should employ these gifts and abilities?
I’ve seen people in the right “what” category get frustrated and burned out because they never stopped to analyze “how.” So close… and yet so far. So, how can we help people determine how to serve?
1. Know Yourself… Thoroughly
If people are truly going to find their sweet spot, they have to know themselves thoroughly. While no instrument will peg people exactly, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) remains my favorite peek into personality. It addresses four key areas and identifies your preferences in each area:
– Where do you prefer to focus your attention?
- E = Extraversion = these people prefer to focus on the outer world of people and events
- I = Introversion = tend to focus on an inner world of ideas and experiences
– How do you take in information, or find out about things?
- S = Sensing = take in information through the five senses; recognize practical realities
- N = Intuition = prefer to see the big picture; grasp patterns and see new possibilities
– How do you make decisions?
- T = Thinking = tend to look at all logical consequences of a choice; objective truth
- F = Feeling = tend to consider person-centered values; goal is harmony and recognition of individuals
– How do you orient toward the outer world?
- J = Judging = live in a planned, orderly way; stick to schedule and look for closure
- P = Perceiving = flexible, spontaneous; open to experience and last-minute options
At the end of the assessment, each individual will have a four-letter identifier (e.g., ESTJ, ISTP, ENFJ, etc…). This combination of letters highlights an individual’s preferences and how they tend to operate.
Each one of these has strengths and weaknesses. The point here is not to argue which is “best” or which is “right.” The point is to recognize we’re all wired differently and some attributes are more useful in certain situations. The better we know ourselves and the people we mentor, the better able we are to place them in situations where these preferences will become strengths.
You can take a sample inventory here, or google MBTI assessment. I recommend as thorough an assessment as you can find (or afford… if done professionally).
Now that we know ourselves a little better, what’s next?
2. Think “How” and not just “What.”
Spiritual gifts, reflection journals, and identifying abilities can all help discover what one is good at doing. But finding the sweet spot requires us to go beyond “What” and find out “How.”
Let’s look at a practical example:
– Someone has a gift and passion for service (the “What”). You place them in a volunteer position to serve meals to the homeless where they interact with lots of people. Success… right?
- A person with an “E” preference will likely be in heaven, being energized and excited
- A person with an “I” preference will feel drained and exhausted by the same experience
But take that same gift of service (the what), and place them in a position of dishwasher and watch what happens:
- The “E” person will be bored out of their mind; leaving drained and unfulfilled
- The “I” person will be in heaven; performing service while able to contemplate in their inner world
Mind you… this does not mean they can’t perform in opposite roles. But if done for long periods of time, you’ll begin to see signs of burnout or disinterest. These are the volunteers that stop showing up after a while, or the employees who just go through the motions.
There are countless other examples where asking “How?” can help find the sweet spot. Consider just a few examples where this might help:
- You’re starting a project that will require adherence to strict deadlines. Which personality type is best suited to oversee it? (J or P?)
- You need an investigation to discover the cold, hard facts; who will do the best job (T or F)?
- You’re starting a project that will require a great deal of interaction with people, an opennes to new ideas, and will require a great deal of flexibility for last minute inputs from other organizations. What combination of letters might work better? (E, N, P…. or I, S, J?)
You get the idea. While capable people can perform in any role, why not put people in roles where they can use their natural preferences as strengths? Not only will things get done, but people will more likely be fulfilled and energized in doing them.
Here’s to the power of asking “How?”
What other ways do you identify “sweet spots” for people you lead or coach? What other assessments do you favor to help people learn about themselves?