One way of understanding the process of turning talents into strengths is by considering the transformation of ore into gold. If someone gave you a handful of ore, you would have something of value but it wouldn’t be in a very useful form. Inside that ore is gold, but there are also some other less valuable elements. Smelting is the process of filtering out the impurities so that all that remains is pure gold.
At Talent2Strength, we have developed a smelting process to turn your StrengthsFinder results (your Top 5 themes of talent) into true strengths. It’s comprised of four stages. We begin with your talents then move through the stages of: Connect, Observe, Interrupt, and Nuance to finally arrive at your strengths. This is what we call the COIN model.
Connecting with our themes is the first stage. To do this, we first need to understand our Top 5 themes the way that Gallup defines them. Do not assume that you fully understand one of your themes based on its name alone. To have the Consistency theme and think, “Oh, I know what it means to be consistent” is not an accurate understanding of the theme as described by Gallup. Consistency, in Gallup’s lexicon, is concerned with treating people the same, being committed to fairness, and making sure that everyone gets an equal shot. Take the time to understand the carefully researched and constructed definitions that Gallup provides. Another aspect of the Connect state is memorizing your Top 5 themes. If you don’t, it is impossible to gain further value and understanding of themes. Mastering the Connect stage allows us to move into the next phase of the COIN model.
The Observe stage focuses on seeing how our top themes play out in day-to-day activities, both in our personal and professional pursuits. Like we established, talents are developed patterns of feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that we have performed so often, they are mindless. Our talents allow us to perform certain tasks very effectively, with much less effort than would be required of other people and they determine how we react in specific situations. One characteristic of a talent is that is fires very quickly, like a mental reflex. Because of this, we often don’t realize our talents are at play or, worse, we cannot control them. Observing our themes means we become more attuned to them while they are happening. We are able to better appreciate them when they help us and recognize when they are detrimental. For example, my number one theme is Strategic. I am able to quickly play through potential scenarios and settle on one that appears to be the most efficient route to achieve the results I want. Most of the time, this theme really helps me sort through data and arrive at a good plan, though sometimes other people who don’t think this way perceive my ideas as random or irrelevant. After consciously observing my strategic theme at work, I realized that by better communicating my rationale and thought process, I am able to avoid misunderstanding and frustration.
By observing our themes in action, we can do something we have never been able to do before: interrupt them. Most of the time, we don’t need to interrupt our talents. They often do their job quite well, allowing us to spend more conscious mental energy focusing elsewhere. But there are times when our automatic responses may not be the best match for a particular situation. For example, my Strategic theme works really well when I have enough information to evaluate different pathways and determine the best one. On occasions when I don’t have enough information, I often find myself in a rut. Finding the most efficient route is such an embedded priority that without knowing the best path, I become paralyzed, unable to take any action because I don’t see the path ahead. Such times call for me to interrupt my Strategic theme and switch to another theme that is not as immediately dominant, but would be better suited for the current situation. While we may not have to interrupt our themes too often, having the ability to do so brings us one step closer to turning our talents into strengths.
The final phase of the COIN model is Nuance. This stage is about creating a wider range of access to our talents, refining them, and finding new ways to use them to complete our goals. Being able to interrupt our themes and turn them off completely is helpful, but sometimes we may want to use our talents to a certain degree. Think of a light switch. Any light switch will allow you turn the light on or off completely, but a dimmer switch allows you to adjust the light perfectly depending on the situation. Apply this thinking to your themes. Some situations may call for you tone down a typically dominant talent and rev up another one so they can work together in harmony to most effectively tackle a problem. Becoming this familiar with your themes allows you to use them in new ways. My second theme is called Individualization, which allows me to understand the uniqueness of people and situations. I am able to pick out what a person’s specific needs are and tailor my communication with them accordingly. Recently, I set a goal of writing blogs for my website. Each time I would begin to write a blog, I quickly became derailed because I didn’t know where to begin. Luckily, a successful blogger friend, Leo Baubata of ZenHabits.com, offered me a great insight based on his own blogs. Instead of trying to write blogs that universally apply to everyone, he thinks of a person who has a particular challenge and writes the blog to his or her perspective. In other words, he told me to write for an individual, not the masses. This subtle shift allowed me to leverage a great resource of mine, Individualization, in a new and powerful way.
The process of connecting, observing, interrupting, and nuancing has provided hundreds of people with a way to turn their ore (talents) into gold (strengths). The process doesn’t happen overnight. It takes constant attention to refine our talents into strengths. I have been at it for several years and still have not reached my full potential. But of all the self-development efforts I have undertaken, using the COIN model has been, by far, the most fruitful.