Feeling Good Isn’t the Same as Feeling Strong

I’m working with a management team taking pause this first quarter of their year to inventory their strengths. They wish to mix things up a bit, opening their thinking with cross-functional teams assigned to specific projects in March and April, and they hired me to help them approach their re-teaming in a way which will better leverage the strengths each person is anticipated to bring to each project team.

Smart strategy. They feel confident in their workforce, and they’re sure there are strengths they’ve not tapped into yet: They are determined that 2010 will be the year everyone’s strengths are encouraged to come out and play.

Fun stuff too, very encouraging for those involved, and we’ve celebrated some true aha! moments just one session into it.

There was one insight in particular that I’ve seen come up before with other groups, a very helpful awareness to have, when you feel you have begun to close in on identifying your own strengths:

Feeling good isn’t necessarily the same as feeling strong
—and your strengths do make you feel strong.

Let’s think about that specifically in regard to leadership today, and keeping our Alaka‘i leading-as-verb definition in mind: When managers lead, they create workplace energy. Energy is our most importance resource in moving work performance forward in a positive, and productive way —more than time, more than finances, for when we have positive energy, we optimize our time and financial resources; having them is just the beginning.

Leadership is riddled with “should-ing” expectations: Everyone has some kind of an opinion about what leaders should do and should not do. Even if we only consider the positive expectations, and what others want from leaders, we can separate those wants into two classifications:

  1. There’s acceptable behavior according to social norms (e.g. decorum, civility, ethics, community responsibility), and
  2. There’s accomplished behavior, where leadership ventures above and beyond, and enters that stratum of success, volunteerism, social entrepreneurship and giving to mankind.

One you admire —it’s good. However the other inspires you —as the strength it truly is.

Acceptable behavior delivers maintenance-level energy to a work culture, whereas accomplished behavior delivers the higher-level energy which makes that work culture vibrant and dynamic: Within a workplace, it is the high energy of accomplished behavior which delivers true performance excitement and growth. People stop thinking work and begin thinking legacy.

So let’s bring this back to you, as an Alaka‘i manager giving your 30% to leadership intentions. Here is the aha! awareness to have, if you are to leverage your strengths too:

  • You may feel good as a leader (you may feel very good) because you are living up to other’s expectations of you, expectations you do share with them, and have agreed to make good on. You demonstrate acceptable behavior, and you may even have nailed maintaining it at a constant level, both for you and the organization you lead. You are reliable in that way, you are trusted, and you are admired.
  • You will feel strong as a leader when you’ve entered the realm of accomplished behavior. You are living up to YOUR expectations of you, AND you are consistently working within those activities which capitalize on your strengths. You feel great because you feel the accomplishment delivered by your strengths, and you are now eager to explore the further depths of your full capacity [More on Palena ‘ole in the footnote.] You are more than admired; you are inspiring.

Accomplished behavior does a LOT for your Aloha Spirit as well. Aloha comes from within you; it helps you live from the inside out, fortifying your personal energies. And what is inspiration? A noun which means “in spirit.”

“There are four telltale signs of a strength. The acronym SIGN is a good way to organize and remember them: S is for Success, I is for Instinct, G is for Growth, and N is for Needs.

Putting these four signs together, the simplest and most useful definition of a strength is this: your strengths are those activities which make you feel strong” In the language of SIGN, you need to be acutely aware of your Instinct, your Growth, and your Needs, because they drive your success.”

Marcus Buckingham, Go Put Your Strengths to Work; 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance

I highly recommend Buckingham’s book if you cannot hire a coach to help you identify your strengths, and match them up to your Ho‘ohana strategies. But don’t just read it: Study it and personally apply it. Work on you as your best project this year.

For now however, read his quote again: The success, instinct, growth, and needs of which he speaks is all about YOU, and leveraging your strengths for the accomplished behavior which requires you work harder, and KÅ«lia i ka nu‘u, strive for the summit.

Is that the leading you apply yourself to?

A last word (well, for today :) This is good news and should not intimidate you, for it’s all about you! It is also a daily journey you will enjoy, and be fulfilled by. Connect this article to these other discussions we have had here:

  1. What Your Big Ideas Do Best: “Our big ideas don’t have to change the world. They just have to move it along.”
  2. Small Wins Create Big Domino Effects: A “Small Win” is not small as in insignificant. It is small as in, you cannot fail unless you completely go lazy on me or get stuck in procrastination.
  3. Who leads? You do. In the Sweet Spot: The trouble with “all or nothing” is that it is often too intimidating to choose all, making it much too easy to choose nothing.

Photo Credit: Day 232 Participant by lintmachine on Flickr.

Footnote: We have themed our February somewhat, starting with this posting: February’s Strengthening. We know it as Love. However strengths-management is a constant discussion here on Talking Story, for it is one of the 9 Keys of the Managing with Aloha philosophy in shaping workplace culture:

7. Strengths Management:

Keys 1 through 6 have put a great foundation in place for your business to thrive within: Together they have created the best possible launching pad for your organizational culture. Now we turn to bigger investments made in each employee, business partner, and stakeholder involved, so you can truly say, “Our people are our biggest asset” —and mean it. Cooperation, connectivity and collaboration evolve to optimization and co-creation.

From December, 2009: Find Your Strongest Life. Yes, You. A book review on a follow-up book that Marcus Buckingham had written for women.

This discussion today also pertains to Key 9:

9. Palena ‘ole (Unlimited Capacity):

This is your exponential growth stage, and about seeing your bigger and better leadership dreams come to fruition. Think “Legacy.” Create abundance by honoring capacity; physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. Seek inclusive, full engagement and optimal productivity, and scarcity will be banished.

What will be the result you achieve when you work to manage with Aloha? New learning, increased energy, passionate commitment to vision, and dramatic shifts in personal engagement. Said another way, you will grow as you learn the Ho‘ohana of self-management and self-leadership as you make extremely valuable contributions to whatever organization you are presently involved with.


  1. Rosa Say says

    When you work on you, it’s self-leadership and demonstrated initiative. When someone else works on you, it’s (ouch) performance counseling. Take pause to inventory your strengths. You have strengths you’ve not tapped into yet, or have barely scratched the surface of —we all do.

    Sunny Sunday Morning

    Here are a couple of my own examples, while I think about this again over my morning coffee:

    Feeling good: Getting my income taxes done before the end of February instead of at the 11th hour early April. Feeling strong: Learning the financial literacy woven into wealth as a value.

    Feeling good: Blogging which gets an RT on Twitter. Feeling strong: The writing which goes into a manuscript for my next book.

    Your turn: compare “feeling good” and “feeling strong” for you!


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