While we can’t expect a medal-winning performance every day or to excel at everything we do, we can discover our natural talents, where our strengths lie and what we’re truly passionate about.
‘Everyone has something to contribute’ is a great springboard. It’s a thought that encompasses strengths, hidden talents, tasks you simply don’t enjoy (the ones that rarely make your to-do list) and weaknesses – in my case, attention to detail.
That’s the power of self-reflection. Whatever your background, age, ethnicity, your skills and strengths, your Facebook ‘likes’ or football team, knowing what really fires you up can help you focus your energy. For example, a top athlete’s choice of sport plays to their strengths. They probably had many directions their natural talents could have taken them, but they realised to win meant they’d need to specialise.
What did Denise do?
At a recent talk, I was inspired by Denise Lewis’ story. She was in peak form with 12 weeks to go to Sydney 2000, where she hoped to convert her bronze medal in Atlanta 1996 into gold. Then tragedy struck when she tore her Achilles tendon – an injury so severe, it could easily have ended her Olympic dream.
Despite a six-week hospital stay and arriving in Australia on crutches, Denise still competed at the highest level and won the Olympic heptathlon. We can all learn from her extraordinary determination – it’s relentless, driven and even obsessive. And whatever happens, it means never losing sight of what matters to you most.
The rocky road to success
What is true commitment? For me, it’s realising what our strengths are, concentrating on what we’re good at and persevering despite set-backs. That’s why, as a business leader of a diverse team of people, Denise’s experience resonates so strongly.
I’ve also been inspired by Rachel Morris, Paralympic gold medallist and a Cisco Ambassador. Before an illness resulted in both legs being amputated, Rachel had dreamt of appearing at the Olympic Games as a runner. After her operations, Rachel’s way of dealing with her situation was to channel her energy into sport. Initially she had competed in disabled sailing, reaching international level, but found she wanted a new challenge and her focus turned to handcycling. Through complete dedication, focus and hard work, Rachel won a gold medal in Beijing 2008.
One of the reasons I’m so keen on identifying strengths is the positive effect it can have on team performance. Understanding and embracing colleagues’ different skills, backgrounds and personalities engenders greater openness and trust. Also, by bringing people together across geographical, cultural and other boundaries, we’re playing to Cisco’s strengths. Our expertise in networks, platforms and communication tools, such as TelePresence, mean we’re perfectly placed to reap the rewards of diverse ideas, viewpoints and experiences.
If we focus our energy, our customers will benefit, plus as individuals we’ll make it easier to reach our goals – even to achieve our personal bests.
Why not discover and focus on your skills and strengths? I’d love to hear how you get on – you can post a reply here or message me on Twitter @eroffey
P.S. This post was inspired by my team at Cisco, Denise Lewis, Roger Black MBE, Rachel Morris, Marcus Buckingham and Future Engage Deliver by Steven Radcliffe.