Understanding Your Strengths with SIGNs

Mark Horoszowski

Mark Horoszowski is the co-founder and CEO of MovingWorlds.org.

There are many tools that you can use to understand your strengths. The most popular is the Gallup StregnthsFinder assessment, however, a quick look at StrengthsFinder shows a series of words that probably aren’t relatable. It will tell you that you are good at “woo” or value “connectedness”.

What the heck is “woo”, and how does that show itself in the workplace?

In the MovingWorlds Institute Career Growth for Social Impact Fellowship, we’ve adopted a crafty way to help people understand these ambiguous StrengthsFingder terms using a method called “SIGNs”.

In this LeanIn.org video, Know Your Strengths, Own Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham, author of Go Put Your Strengths to Work, Marcus shares that using a “SIGN”, you can better understand what your strengths are.

What are strengths?

The first reason we really like this SIGN method is that it gives a great definition of what strengths are, and it’s not what you might expect. According to Marcus Buckingham,

A strength is what strengthens you, and a weakness is something that weakens you.

In other words, strength is NOT the same as performance. In fact, you might have something that you’re very good at, but if you dread doing it or wish you never had to do that again, that is a weakness, not a strength. If the act of doing something de-energizes you, you should try to evolve your career to do less of it. This is important: you can be really good at something, but it’s not a natural strength of yours that will give you career satisfaction. The opposite is also true: You might not be good at something (yet), but the act of doing it energizes you. Regardless, you should move towards the things that strenghten you.

Determing your strengths using SIGNs

In the book, Go Put Your Strengths to Work

Some activities just seem to fill an innate need of yours. When you’re done with them, you may feel physically tired, to the point where you are not yet ready to saddle up and tackle them all over again.
But you don’t feel psychologically drained. Instead you feel fulfilled, powerful, restored, the exact opposite of drained. It’s a satisfying feeling, sure but it’s also much more than mere satisfaction. It feels authentic, correct.

There are 4 elements of a strength that create the SIGN acronym:

  1. Success: Tasks that make you feel like you’re contributing and being successful.
  2. Instinct: Work that you look forward to doing.
  3. Growth: Things that make you feel like you’re learning and growing.
  4. Needs: How you feel after completing a task that fulfills a core human need of yours.

How to better understand your StrengthFinder strengths using SIGNs

One of the most popular workshops in our Institute is our peer-based coaching sessions on Strengths & SIGNs. We’ve continued to refine this method over time, but the basic steps that we use to help people better understand the type of work that makes them feel come alive are as follows:

  1. Take the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment
  2. For your top 5 strengths, document your SIGN for each
  3. Share your SIGN for each of your top 5 strengths with a peer or mentor
  4. Ask your peer or mentor to reflect back what they heard
  5. Do an audit of your past career experiences (one method shared here) and analyze how they map to your SIGNs
  6. Look for themes in your SIGNs
  7. Create an action plan to evolve your career towards your SIGNs