Turn Your Strengths Into Superpowers in 4 Steps

Ask a woman to name her signature strengths and she’ll often squirm in her chair, look away or hesitate. Try asking her what she’s an expert in, and she may just leave the room! On a daily basis, women juggle important demands…yet talking about our talents can be downright unnerving.

Five years ago, I realized the full importance of strengths while interviewing 30 c-level women for my first book. I was flat-out amazed that not one or two—but most every woman I sat down with—noted that she didn’t just hammer herself for her weaknesses, but she actively, strategically cultivated her gifts so she could call on them in any situation.

The good news is that you can do the same.  It takes a little time, and for some—a level of self permission—to really harness your superpowers and then capitalize on them to benefit your career. You can use this checklist to get going:

1. Specify: Beyond listening to feedback from others, how can you identify where you’re particularly adept? Karl Staib, author of the book Work Happy Now, offers some insight: “People love coming to you for this thing because they know you will do an amazing job. Career superpowers are actions that come easily to you, are fun and you can do them for hours on end.” Are you especially skilled at bringing a room of people with different agendas together – to focus on one unified vision? Can you sell so effectively because you’re able to make a personal connection with each prospect? If so, take a cue!

2. Cross-train: Just as an athlete trains in a new sport (that supplements their main sport) for dexterity, so too should you. Jodi Glickman, author of Great on the Job: What to Say, How to Say It. The Secrets of Getting Ahead, recommends, “Use your strength in a situation that’s ‘higher stakes’ than normal—such as presenting to an audience of 100 rather than a smaller sized one—or use it in a new or different environment. If you’re great at presenting to clients, but have never pitched new business, ask to present in a business development context.” Glickman adds that one hallmark of skill mastery is being able to teach it to others: try training someone junior to you on your super power.

3. Invest: Your strengths won’t have much growing power if you ignore them. Mitch Shepherd, founder of the Women in Real Life (WiRL) Summit, an online skill building conference for women advised, “Continuous improvement needs to be an area of focus or it simply falls off the radar until there’s a problem. The biggest thing is finding something you want to learn and develop, so you’ll stay motivated to dedicate the time.” Whether you read a blog, watch a TED talk or attend a topical seminar, you need to consider new angles of your strength. How is this skill likely to be needed in the future? In what areas are you most enthused about having an even bigger impact?

4. Promote: The final step involves in getting others to associate you with your superpowers. After all, they’re pointless if no one knows you have them. Rather than being passive in your approach, decide that the keywords you’re associate with are in your hands. Do you want to be called upon for your knowledge of a particular industry trend, methodology or technology? Spearhead a taskforce in that area, offer a brown bag lunch to teach others on the topic or ask if your project can be featured along with a Q&A of you on the company Intranet. Says Peggy Klaus, author of Brag: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It. “Talk about yourself and your accomplishments in a conversational, story-like manner. The more you do it, the less forced it will feel.”

Women who make it to leadership roles have abilities that are valuable in the marketplace, personal awareness of what they are, and then they flex those muscles in all kinds of highly visible situations.

What’s one of your signature strengths?  Share your success in the comments below!

This article was featured in Forbes on May 15, 2014.

Selena Rezvani

Selena Rezvani is a recognized consultant, speaker and author on women and leadership.  A seasoned human capital consultant, Selena uses workplace culture assessments to help corporate clients be more inclusive and welcoming to women.  She’s also the author of two leadership books targeted at professional women – Pushback: How Smart Women Ask—and Stand Up—for What They Want (Jossey-Bass, 2012) and The Next Generation of Women Leaders (Praeger, 2009). Selena has been featured in the LA Times, Oprah.com, Todayshow.com, Forbes, and wrote an award-winning column on women for The Washington Post.

25 Questions to Ask a Mentor

Whenever I’m asked “What are some of the best questions to ask a ...

Four Types of Questions To Ask Your Mentor

Have conversations with your mentor gotten a bit repetitive lately? Perhaps you approached ...

25 Songs For Your Leadership Playlist

What are your all-time favorite leadership songs — the ones that make you ...

How to Shut Down a Colleague Who Takes Credit for Your Work

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in a meeting and the unthinkable ...

5 Ways to be a Leader, Not a Manager

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a manager and a leader? ...

11 Leadership Lessons Learned

Here are 11 lessons I’ve learned about leadership—mostly from much-admired colleagues, and just ...

10 Killer Leadership Skills: The Great Differentiators?

Last week at Hallmark I hosted a couple gentlemen from a partner company. ...

100 Leadership Qualities

What are your leadership strengths? That’s a question I ask in a survey ...

Influencing Without Authority—Using Your Six Sources of Influence

I am in the difficult situation of being unofficial project lead, responsible for ...

9 Traits of Exceptional Leaders

Truly great leaders are hard to come by, but it seems everyone thinks ...

If You’re Not Seizing Stretch Assignments at Work, You’re Doing It Wrong.
If You’re Not Seizing Stretch Assignments at Work, You’re Doing It Wrong.

 These bonus opportunities have the power to boost your leadership cred and wholly transform your

The Case for Why Millennial Women Should Job-Hop
The Case for Why Millennial Women Should Job-Hop

There are strong arguments for and against the debated practice, but for millennial women, job-hopping

Infographic: How to Slay a Stretch Assignment
Infographic: How to Slay a Stretch Assignment

Recent years have been full of talk about how to elevate women at work. Have you

Panel Presentations: Does Speaker Order Really Matter?
Panel Presentations: Does Speaker Order Really Matter?

On speaker panels, does the panelist order matter? If you’ve ever attended or spoken on

4 Tips for Failing Forward
4 Tips for Failing Forward

After you make a mistake, it’s easy to focus intently on your defects. And then

Press Release: Be Leaderly’s Selena Rezvani Wins 2019 Croly Award for Excellence in Journalism
Press Release: Be Leaderly’s Selena Rezvani Wins 2019 Croly Award for Excellence in Journalism

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa—July 9, 2019—The General Federation of Women’s Clubs is pleased to honor Selena

4 Steps to a Flexible Work Arrangement
4 Steps to a Flexible Work Arrangement

Are you hungry for a little more flexibility in your day?  If so, you’re not

Dealing with a Bossy Coworker
Dealing with a Bossy Coworker

You might expect the occasional “order” or “command” from your boss. But it’s a whole

Press Release: Be Leaderly Wins Gold & Silver at the 2019 Stevie Awards
Press Release: Be Leaderly Wins Gold & Silver at the 2019 Stevie Awards

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa—June 11, 2019—Be Leaderly, a globally recognized provider of women’s leadership development and

15 Questions to Ask Before Taking a Stretch Assignment
15 Questions to Ask Before Taking a Stretch Assignment

Stretch assignments are like the Instant Pot of career development. An intensely challenging, ambitious, go-big-or-go-home

Ask Jo: How can I thank my mentor?

Question: I have an incredible mentor. She ...

Teamwork is a Skill. It Takes Practice!

Everyone wants to lead, or be a ...

It’s Worth the Risk (I promise)

This is Sarah. She’s one of my ...

100 Leadership Qualities

What are your leadership strengths? That’s a ...

Leaderly Quote: Great Leaders Know When to Step Aside

“Great leaders know when to step aside.” ...

At Be Leaderly, our mission is a simple one: To provide proven career strategies that help you lead, climb, and thrive as a rising woman of influence. If you’re ready to lead, we’re here to support and inspire you.

Copyright 2019, Be Leaderly