Skills that are easy and effortless

What skills come easily and effortlessly to you? Are you currently getting paid to use them? These questions don’t only matter to consultants like me who choose what services to offer and how to price them. They are also relevant to people within organizations. Indeed, the strengths-based movement in talent development (Gallup, Marcus Buckingham, etc.) is based precisely on this premise. 

Below is a post I wrote earlier this year for my personal blog. It describes my discovery of what may be my greatest strength and my astonishment that I hadn’t thought of it during a two month period of trying to identify my greatest strengths. Go figure!

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May this story entice you to explore your deepest strengths, particularly those you may be overlooking precisely because they involve so little effort.

02/26/2013

Interviewing – easy and effortless

Sometimes the most obvious things slip our attention. In the first 50 days of exploring my own “primal interests” – the activities that come easily to me and have been interests since childhood – I did not once mention the word interviewing

Then I participated in a three-day training in Enneagram typing interviews. During the practice sessions, my classmates gave me loads of positive feedback. The Enneagram master himself, David Daniels, complimented me on my ability to ask good follow-up questions. 

Aha! I realized. Maybe interviewing belongs on the list.

When you suddenly realize that you may be good at something, the obvious next step is to ask: well, how do I know this to be true? The way I answered this question was by mining my own experience for evidence. What I found:

  • When I was 9, my father first taught me how to conduct simple interviews as a consumer by calling up stores and restaurants to inquire about products and hours.
  • In college, interviews were the principal method of getting to know people as part of the community service projects I helped lead.
  • For many years during my life as a single man, I reflexively treated dates as interviews. Through open-ended questions and patient listening, I invited women to open their life stories to me–which they did almost without fail. (Unfortunately, I rarely revealed myself, which caused problems!) 
  • As a young consultant in my early and mid 20s, I conducted hundreds of interviews with managers and health care professionals as part of doing organizational assesssments, stakeholder assessments, change readiness assessments, executive searches, and a myrid of other fun projects. My boss at the time instructed me to ask a lot of dumb questions and take really good notes. I didn’t know much, so the dumb questions were easy, and years of diligent schooling taught me to take good notes–including putting the date at the top of every page, a practice I maintain today. (For more on how to make dumb questions even dumber, I have just the book to recommend).
  • Informational interviews. Always loved conducting them because you can discover so much about another person, what they do, and what matters to them. More recently, I enjoy being on the receiving end of questions, but that’s another story…

After completing this list of experiences, the answer to my question was yes, there is good evidence that I know how to conduct interviews.

What’s the next step? Exploring how to build more of my work and life around this strength. Stay tuned for further explorations.