In our last installment, we raised the issue of Why superheroes anyway? Now let's figure out how to uncover superpowers in you and others.
Superpowers? Hey, I know I'm good, but...
What do people say you're great at? Better yet, what do you get compliments on that you politely accept, yet secretly believe people are just being polite themselves? "They must be crazy..." you're thinking. "I'm not that good, and it's so easy that anyone could do that."
What's easy for you may be impossible for normal humans
Often when I'm mentoring a senior leader and we're debriefing on how they have worked through difficulties, I hear: "...then you have to do [insert superpower here] when you're faced with [insert challenge here]."
That's my cue. "Wait!" I say. They look at me, surprised.
I go on. "I know lots of people who don't do [superpower]. You are actually choosing to do that. And I think both your choice and your ability are unique."
Almost always, the leader shrugs it off. "Are you kidding? That's just what you do. That's what everyone does. It's easy."
"Maybe. And I'm wondering - have you ever noticed other people struggle doing [superpower]?"
"Hmmm... Now that you mention it, I have noticed that. Really weird, though. I just don't get how [superpower] could be hard for anyone. It's like breathing. It's so simple."
"THAT'S BECAUSE IT'S YOUR SUPERPOWER!" (Pardon the caps)
What's your superpower?
- Can you sort through chaos and see the next steps that need to be taken?
- Does your team rise to the occasion and deliver results that make your customer's heart sing?
- Are you able to inspire others to accomplish tasks they don't initially believe are possible?
We are often the poorest judges of what we are great at, mostly because of our frame of reference. What's normal to you may be extraordinary for others, and vice versa. To identify what makes yourself and others great, here's a simple process from my book Ripple: A Field Manual for Leadership that Works and the practice Know where you're awesome!
Get a clean sheet of paper (or new document file) and brainstorm what you find easy and fun. Circle or add anything other people compliment you on. Look for patterns, then validate them with a trusted source, such as a significant other, to see if you've uncovered new strengths.
Further options include taking third-party strengths assessments or journaling your accomplishments for a week. You can do the same thing for your team members - except have them start their own superpower discovery mission and assist them as an evaluator and coach. You may just be surprised at how your superpowers complement one another!
Your superpowers may require someone else's to activate
I was sharing these ideas about superpowers with a client who leads a successful development company, and noticed a glint in his eye. I asked, and he responded:
"You know, some superheroes need someone else to help out. Aquaman couldn't have gotten to the battlefield unless Wonder Woman had her invisible plane to carry him. Your success can depend on other people's strengths. You have to ask yourself: who are you helping and what are you fighting for?"
His last question is a perfect seque to our next installment: Superhero or supervillain? You are who you choose to be. Stay tuned!