In any activities, we are all at different levels of performance. We know that one level of performance is strength—performing the activity consistently and near perfectly. But, if something is not at the level of strength, then what would we call it? CliftonStrengths© doesn’t provide for other levels of performance in an activity since its scope is themes of talent. So how can we measure the potential for strength in an activity?
To address this gap, I’ve have adapted a model that I learned while studying under an anthropologist turned business coach named Marsha Shenk.
It makes the most sense if we start from the bottom of the ladder and work our way up. Also, you can apply this ladder to rate your performance in every activity. And then use the strength formula to apply your talents, knowledge, and skill to improve your performance in the activities you wish to develop.
For any activity, there is always a time before we learn the activity even exists. In 1994 I first learned of something called the world wide web and that it was possible to build a website. The internet existed before then, however I was oblivious to it. When we are unaware of something, we behave like a bull in a china shop, capable of creating major problems without even knowing it.
Once I learned that website building was a potential activity, I graduated to the next rung in the ladder, inept. The empty blue box represents an utter lack of knowledge or skill that I could apply to building websites.
At the inept stage I have a choice that was not available when I was oblivious: I could choose to remain inept, or I could become a beginner. At the beginner stage, I still have no knowledge or skill with which to build a website, but I have a mindset that I would like to grow. Beginners seek rudimentary knowledge and skill by finding a teacher, coach or other sources. Being a beginner means being vulnerable to the awkwardness and potential frustration, but through perseverance it could lead to the next rung.
Let’s say I found someone who could teach me the basics of building a website and learned the minimal functions. I have now graduated to the level of basic. Basic means that I can perform the basic moves of the activity.
If I continue to grow in knowledge and practice more skills, I become competent. I can perform basic and medium level skills without problems.
If I continue to advance in knowledge and skill to the point where I could instruct other beginners, then I become advanced. For most activities, some level of competence is perfectly adequate. That’s why it occupies so much space on the ladder model. Knowledge and skill are all one needs to have a level of competence. Without the application of talent, however, I cannot advance to the next rung. The application of talents to an activity often indicate rapid progression up the ladder.
This leads us to the level that we have spent most of our time discussing: a strength. We know that a strength is any activity where we can perform near perfectly on a consistent basis. In our example, that means I could build great websites every time I set out to do so. As a strength-level website builder, I know longer need to read manuals or watch tutorials. I have a scaffold of knowledge to draw from and this allows me to further expand that scaffold quite easily, making it wider and taller. The skills needed to build websites are already well-practiced and the steps of building a website seem to disappear. To someone observing me build a website, they see a seamless performer who can fluidly work within this activity with ease and excellence. To an observer without strength-level proficiency, they would likely be impressed. They might experience awe at what I’m able to do, but to me it all seems quite natural. I may have forgotten all the frustration of trial-and-error I endured to reach my hard-won capability. Dr. Clifton observed that a strength is not possible without the application of talent. It’s talent that allows us to invest to push through the learning curve to for a strength to finally emerge. Talent is the force that draws us so strongly to the activity, allows us to learn rapidly, provides a sense of satisfaction in the struggle for growth and radiates a glimmer of excellence as a demonstration of potential excellence that awaits.
Just for perspective, there is a layer in the model beyond a strength. Mastery is a very rare level of performance. It’s reserved for people that take an activity to new heights through extreme dedication and application of talent. Mastery is innovation in performance of the activity.
In our master class, we explore in depth what is needed to reach strength level performance. We take a closer look at the components: performance, activity, talent, knowledge and skill. It requires us to think in a certain way, similar to other professions. For example, lawyers are trained to think a certain way in order for them to perfect their craft. They need to think in a way that does not get derailed by emotion; an ability to see an issue from various angles regardless of their personal sentiments. A lawyer has a set of tools to work with, among them knowledge of law and the skill to articulate their position compellingly. Just as computer programmers have a particular way of thinking and their own set of tools to excel. So does a mixed martial artist. Every profession is made up of a set of activities and each activity can be addressed to improve performance with this model.
We, at Talent2Strength, help the strength interventionist develop the necessary activities to excel in their work to help people live a strength-based life.
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