With great power comes great responsibility. Discover your SuperPowers. Then put them to work for good in the world.
Everyone, at least in my definition, has SuperPowers. If you’re over halfway through your career, chances are good you’ll have a strong idea what yours are, once you spend a bit of time thinking about it. But the discovery process may hold some surprises as well.
What’s a SuperPower? Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall, in Nine Lies about Work: A Freethinking Leaders Guide to the Real World, call it a “red thread”, and describe it this way:
- It’s the thing that, before you do it, you instinctively want to.
- While you’re doing it time speeds up.
- It just clicks for you; any “steps” or “processes” just fall away.
- It’s NOT things you’re good at but don’t love to do,
- And it’s NOT things you love to do but aren’t good at.
Each of us values more highly the things that are difficult for us to do, so our own SuperPowers can be invisible to us. Here are 4 steps you can take if you’re serious about discovering yours:
1. Give the process a realistic amount of time. Plan to devote a few days or weeks to it. You might feel good about what you come up with in a single thinking session, but going through the discovery process fully requires time.
2. Introspection about your SuperPowers will produce a list of likely candidates. Reflect on the possibilities you come up with. Try each on for a while and see how it feels. Use the Nine Lies criteria above as a checklist for each item you consider. Observe yourself in action and compare your behavior and performance with others. What is truly easy for you, that other people seem to struggle with?
Example: I know several people who are excellent writers. Because it comes to them so naturally, they assume it’s easy for everyone. They have a very hard time understanding that this skill is valuable and they can get paid to do it.
3. Think about what others say about you, and what they thank you for. Remember, others will put a high value on something you can do that’s difficult for them. Consider asking people what they think your SuperPowers are. In my experience, you may get a different answer than when you ask them about your strengths.
Example: I once asked a former boss to share a list of what he considered my strengths, and got exactly what I expected. I went back to him as I was thinking about this concept of SuperPowers, and when I asked the question in this new way, I got a completely surprising answer (read on to learn more!).
4. Consider your Kryptonite. (As you’ll recall, a rock from Superman’s home planet of Krypton was the only thing that could impede his amazing powers.) How can knowing your weakness help? Often, our biggest weakness is the flip side of our biggest strength.
Example: The “SuperPower” my former boss came up with was that I can always tell whether each member of the team is truly aligned and committed to the direction we’ve chosen, then help the leader craft strategies to get everyone on board. I was shocked. I had developed that ability as a tactic to deal with what I considered a huge weakness – that I get completely discombobulated and unable to contribute when there are multiple unspoken agendas in the room.
How many SuperPowers does a person have? There are no hard and fast rules, although people have suggested 3-5 seems like a reasonable number. But maybe you really have 10 SuperPowers. Or maybe you have one amazingly versatile SuperPower that you can employ in a lot of different ways. Only you can define what your list is for you.
Once you know with confidence what your SuperPowers are, you need to figure out where you can use them in the world. In the best of all situations, your SuperPowers can be used to meet a deep need in the world, in a manner that provides you with the compensation you deserve. (See my blog on Ikigai to learn more about this concept.)