In November of 2017, I wrote a post about the results of Strength Finders: a personal assessment developed by American psychologist, Donald O. Clifton. This assessment has helped me over the last few years of my career. A colleague of mine suggested that I retake the assessment and the result both surprised and also didn’t surprise me.
The assessment provides insight into 34 unique strengths which are grouped into 4 categories:
Strategic Thinking: These strengths help you absorb and analyze information that informs better decisions.
Relationship Building: These strengths help you build strong relationships that hold a team together.
Influencing: These strengths help you take charge, speak up, and make sure others are heard.
Executing: These strengths help you make things happen.
|Rank||2017 Strengths||2020 Strengths|
Learning is my favorite thing to do. In fact, this one of the reasons I decided to start blogging frequently. The process of acquiring, understanding, and applying learned skills in order to create a finished good is incredibly exciting to me. It fascinates me to discover just how much I don’t know and short term projects are kind of my jam.
I don’t like conflict. I especially don’t like conflict when it’s not promptly resolved. At the heart of any debate I believe there is some common ground that both parties can stand on. Instead of catering opinions to the 1% of the team, I’d rather find consensus among the group. At the end of the day we have a product that needs to get shipped.
Man, oh man, oh man. I eat, breath, and live processes. It creates a predictable and fair environment. Software builds are repeatable. Software deployments are repeatable. Then why would you change the way your building software just on a whim? It’s dangerous to do and your introducing more variables into your software reducing the predictability and increasing the risk. Decide how you’re going to do it and automate it so it’s repeatable and consistent. Afterwards you can test your hypothesis on a proven solution to determine the effectiveness of the variable.
I love bringing things back to life. Refinishing old wooden furniture is one of my favorite things to do because bringing something that was once beautiful back to what it once was. I like to solve problems, but I don’t enjoy it when my feet are to the fire. I want to take a calm and non-threatening approach to the work and fix it and make it better than it once was.
I love looking at data to solve the issue in front of me. Data does not lie. Data can certainly be misrepresented or skewed to favor an agenda, but only if the person is being dishonest or doesn’t understand what they are looking at. I love getting many different ideas and seeing them in practice. What this does is gives me multiple data points in which I can now make better more informed decisions.
Based on my perspective I’ve developed from my experiences and from learning from other I can make better decisions to achieve better outcomes. Understanding the past helps me predict the future. Retrospectives are incredibly important to me, but admittedly, they are only effective if the content of the retrospective is constructive and actionable. I want to spend time learning from people’s past mistakes so that I can avoid the same failings. I also want to share my failings with other so that they can learn from me. It’s important to me to know where we’ve been as an organization and to remember our humble roots and not forget all the hard work and effort it’s taken to get this far. I don’t want to resist change when new situations arise and I don’t want to bore people with history. I merely want to share my perspective with them so that we have common ground to walk upon.
I love breathing new life into weary items. Sometimes things are dingy and slow and sometimes they are just broken. I love diving down to find the cause of the issues which are causing headaches and frustration and experimenting with solutions to improve the efficiency and velocity of the software product development. I have to remember that I can’t solve every problem that comes along, but I can prioritize those problems that have the most pain that could be solve with the least amount of effort.
Knowledge does not have to be immediately applicable for me to consider it to be valuable. I want to learn and continuously improve. On my commute I usually listen to podcasts or audiobooks about software development, product management, and technology in general. I’m hoping to learn a lot more around the basics of machine learning and to dive into the concept of hypothesis driven development.
When I find a block of a couple hours of time to dedicate to executing tasks I try to achieve everything I possibly can. Getting things done puts me at ease and creates a sense of accomplishment where I can look back at my work and be proud of what I’ve accomplished. I have to be careful of committing to work prematurely before I have all the time and resources I need to complete the job.
I’ve love pulling work apart and organizing them into categorical work streams that can be streamlined in order to achieve the maximum amount of work in a given context. Switching contexts takes time to orient yourself and is a major time thief. Arranging work for multiple disciplines is a very important strength for Product Owners.
Developing as a New Product Owner
In 2019, I became a Product Owner and it’s been a new and challenging experience to say the least. Product Owner’s must be organized in order to be effective contributors to their team. Given nearly a decade of experience as a software engineer I have a unique technical advantage which I’ve used to help guide our technical teams to deliver our software. Given this experience I can more effectively represent and be a voice for the software developers who are just as much a stakeholder in the product development lifecycle but are often brushed off by product owners and product managers simply because it’s not particularly easy to articulate the cost of managing technical debt or the cost of not investing time in learning and training. I’ve seen this spell disaster for several teams and companies and it’s a sign of a toxic company culture.
At our company Christmas party in 2019, I was given a award along with several of my colleagues. Our CEO had a few words to say when describe why I was deserving of a award and it was four words specifically that are imprinted in my mind: “He is a leader.” I don’t remember anything he said after that point because that description of myself was surprising and confusing to me. Up to that point I never considered myself a leader. I’ve always followed good people. A couple days later I became the captain of my hockey team. I’ve had a hard time admitting that I am in fact a leader. I keep reminding myself of a lesson I taught myself: “I can have value and still be humble.” I’m here to help my team achieve wild outcomes beyond our own expectations and it’s exciting to witness that happening. In order to streamline our success, I have to organize and arrange our work items in the correct priority and be a leader for our team. I’ve had the chance to work with some great leaders in my life and the best ones were always the leaders who served the needs of their team. By learning my strengths blindspots, that’s exactly what I’m setting out to do.
Here is my full scoring for each of the 34 strengths: