Podcast Episode #30 Using Strengths to Find Your Sweet Spot, with Emma Hodgson

Episode 27

In this episode, Leah spoke to our wonderful Sydney-based Career & Strengths Coach, Emma Hodgson, about the power of understanding your strengths to enable career development and job searching success.

In this episode, we talked about:

  • What does Strengths Coaching involve and what exactly is the definition of a ‘strength’
  •  What sort of people benefit from strengths coaching
  • Examples of how strengths coaching has helped some of Emma’s  previous clients overcome certain hurdles in their career
  • How can strengths coaching help people in their career development
  • How can people use strengths coaching to facilitate their job search?
  • How Emma and Leah use their realised strengths in their current work

For more information on Strengths Coaching, or to book a Strengths Coaching session with Emma or Leah, contact us here.


Leah Lambart  0:19  
Thanks for joining us for Episode 30 of the Relaunch Your Career Podcast. Today I have asked Emma Hodgson, who is our Sydney-based coach, to join me to talk about one of our favorite topics, and that is strengths. Emma and I are both accredited strength coaches and we love helping people achieve their full potential by getting people to really understand their strengths. Welcome to the podcast Em.
Emma Hodgson  0:47  
Thank you so much, Leah. It's my absolute privilege to be here and I love talking about strengths. So you might be able to hear the smile in my voice.  I'm excited to be here  to talk to you about strengths today.
Leah Lambart  0:59  
I thought you might be so let's get into it. We've got so much to cover. So first of all, I guess a lot of people don't really know much about strengths coaching, or they might think it's related to strength and conditioning coaching, which is more for athletes. Can you in your own words, explain what strengths coaching is all about?
Emma Hodgson  1:19  
Yeah, sure. So strengths coaching, in general, would be any sort of conversation that you have to really understand and appreciate your strengths and weaknesses. And importantly, that conversation needs to include the sort of the 'so what' factor if you like, which is how can it help me. So that can be sort of done between any two people in an informal way. And you can have a conversation, just noticing people's thoughts, feelings and behaviours around, you know, the signs that they have strengths, but you can also use a self report tool, and a series of online questions, which are around you know, "what do you do well?", "what energises you?", "What do you do a lot of?", and then use that to structure conversation and just really provide a common language to uncover, I guess not just what you're good at, but what you love and strengths that you might overplay, strengths that you're not using, and where there's opportunities to do them more. And also looking at weaknesses and what you do about those. So that would be a typical sort of strengths conversation.
Leah Lambart  2:27  
Great.  Before we even get into more detail, can you just explain to the listeners what your definition of strengths actually is?
Emma Hodgson  2:50  
Yeah, sure. So when I think about strengths, it's really about those things that we do really well. And the things that we love doing. So you will hear people saying things like, "Oh, this is my calling", or "I just can't wait to do it again", or "this doesn't feel like work, I could do this forever". So it's the things that we do well, the things that we do often and the things that really give us that sense of energy and satisfaction.
Leah Lambart  3:17  
That's right. So it's that feeling of "being in flow" isn't it where you just feel like you can keep doing it all day,
Emma Hodgson  3:24  
So if you look at someone's behaviour, you know when they're using their strengths they'll be, they'll be learning really quickly, they'll be really focused, they'll be persistent and stick at something, they'll be performing really well. And there is this concept called flow and a researcher called Csikszentmihalyi and he identified that this feeling of flow is when we're so absorbed in something and so immersed in something that we don't even notice that time is passing and it's something that we're just really natural and focused on to the point where we're just I guess we're really present, really mindful. I know that mindfulness is a real buzzword at the moment, but we truly are really present and engaged in what we're doing.
Leah Lambart  4:08  
And I think it's also that feeling where time passes quickly, isn't it? Like I remember when I worked in tax in my first career, and I became good at doing tax returns, and you know, all of that sort of stuff. But certainly time did not go fast. And I was constantly clock watching and it was definitely not energising.
Emma Hodgson  4:30  
Yeah, that's right and I think for people who've managed to find that job where they're in flow, and time passes quickly, it doesn't really feel like work. It just feels sort of easy and feels like something they're meant to do.
Leah Lambart  4:44  
Yeah, exactly. So what sort of people benefit most from strength coaching?
Emma Hodgson  4:50  
Yeah, good question. So I think broadly speaking, anyone and everyone who's interested in proving their sense of wellbeing can benefit from strengths coaching. Particularly anyone who's in need of a bit of a boost of confidence and motivation. So I first have a bit of context, I first came across strengths as part of a Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing that I studied through the Langley Group. And for anyone familiar with the field of wellbeing, Martin Seligman's, perma model of wellbeing suggests that strengths is one of the key pillars of flourishing and that's because I guess, when we're focusing on doing things that we really enjoy, then it doesn't feel like work, we're really engaged, we're really absorbed, and we get a lot of satisfaction from doing those things. So I guess what it really does is helps people find the work that they're meant to do something that feels really authentic, something they're really passionate about, as I said, something that is easy and fun. So I guess they're the kinds of people that can benefit, specifically when you're thinking about careers, but also really anyone that is looking to overcome challenges and achieve goals, which I guess  pretty much covers all of us,
Leah Lambart  6:06  
One thing I love about strengths coaching is that it gives you different language to use. I feel like, particularly when people are preparing to create a personal brand to go out to the job market or to prepare for interviews, that often they just don't have that the language to describe their strengths in a unique way.
Emma Hodgson  6:31  
Absolutely. And I think that the more you understand and can describe your strengths, obviously, you'll be really well positioned for that interview, when you can outline how you can use your strengths in a particular role. And when people talk about their strengths, there's really obvious signs. You can notice that in their body language, their tone of voice, their language, they come across as really energised and authentic and motivated. So you can see how appealing that might be for an employer.
Leah Lambart  7:01  
That's right. And I guess the opposite is when they're talking about their weaknesses, you see, obvious body language changes as well.
Emma Hodgson  7:08  
Absolutely, yeah.
Leah Lambart  7:10  
Are you able to give the listeners some examples of where strength coaching has helped some of your previous clients overcome certain hurdles in their career?
Emma Hodgson  7:21  
Sure. So okay, let me think. So I've had so many conversations, as you can imagine, which revolve around, hurdles and challenges. And what I find is that a mindset shift can really make a big difference. Often, there might be some sort of relationship issue or a conflict that someone's having at work somewhere. So we might really sort of hone in on the communication family and the relationship sort of families of strengths. So for example, I can think of a client that was really experiencing these relationship issues at work, really had a dislike for conflict, as many people do, and really wanted to avoid conflict. So what we're able to do in that conversation was think about what strengths she could use to compensate for this and we identified that she really had a great strength for compassion, and being able to understand where the other person is coming from and she had great strengths in CounterPoint. So again, just thinking, you know, with counterpoint, that's always about bringing a different viewpoint to others, depending on whatever the situational context is. Also, she had a great sense of emotional awareness. So you know, being really acutely aware of the emotions and feelings of other people, and also self awareness. So she was able to really use that or dial it up, if you like, to understand her own emotions during a conflict situation, and to be able to sort of adjust accordingly. So really, to use that emotional intelligence. So that's one example. 
I can think of a few others and one being, a couple of people actually, who I've coached recently who have been offered really big promotions. Both of them felt that this was a huge leap, I think in terms of their career and felt quite excited but nervous and perhaps lacking in a bit of confidence around going for this role. So one of the people that I coached, we talked about the fact that okay, well, self belief is perhaps a weakness, but what strengths do you have that can compensate for that lack of belief in yourself? And that question of, 'Oh, can I do this?" So we identified for this particular individual that her real strength around work ethic, around persistence, around drive, which is really about again, being self motivated and pushing yourself really hard to achieve something I'd also strength of pride. Pride is when you really strive to produce work that's of a really high standard and quality. So she was able to use all these strengths in lieu of having that confidence and self belief in order to go for it to take that opportunity. I guess this mindset shift can really enable people to think about things differently.
Leah Lambart  10:29  
It's just such an empowering tool, isn't it? I think, to feel that you've got other strengths in your toolkit, I guess, so to speak, that can replace some of the things that you struggle with.
Emma Hodgson  10:40  
Absolutely. And I don't think there are set strengths that you need for certain jobs or roles. And nor are there a set I suppose that have that are prescriptive. So in another example, I had another guy recently who'd been headhunted for a big new role. And again, didn't necessarily have that sort of self belief and confidence. But what he did have was a strength of Competitive. And he'd never thought of himself as competitive. But this came out through the report. And what he identified and we do this with strengths, we use them in different contexts, he did identify that he wasn't necessarily competitive against all the other candidates. And it wasn't necessarily competitive in his role to get the best figures and outcomes. But he was really motivated to be competitive with himself. So really wanted to see how far he could push himself and ended up really positioning himself really well for that role, by using that strength of competitive as well as some other strengths as well around Persuasion and Explain, so he could talk about all of his strengths and how they would help him in the role.
Leah Lambart  11:48  
That's a great example. I love that. 
Can you also give us some insights into how strengths coaching can help people in their career development in terms of planning their career and working out their next career mode?
Emma Hodgson  12:03  
Yeah, sure. So I guess, as we said, you know, career development really helps you discover not just what you're good at, but what you love doing. So that's really important. When we're thinking about considering new opportunities, and what we might like to do next, having a strengths conversation is invaluable for thinking, "Okay, well, where am I gonna get more energy and more passion?" By uncovering your strengths, and it can also, I guess, do a lot in terms of career development. If you are wanting to stay in your role, or you feel like you don't have an opportunity to actually move, then there is also a lot you can do within your current role around, for example, job crafting, which is an opportunity to improve the situation at work as it is, by looking at your role, which parts of it you love, which parts maybe don't, and it can be as simple as having a conversation with your manager or your team about "Okay, well, I've got this as a strength, but this is my weakness". So if the weakness is Detail for example, you know, "I'm not great on detail but my my colleague here is fantastic on detail. Let's work together on this so that I can do less of the detailed work and I can do more of what I love doing".
Leah Lambart  13:16  
And for people who probably are not familiar with the strengths profile tool, there's four quadrants. So there's the realised strengths quadrant, the learned behaviours, the unrealised strengths and the weaknesses. So what I love abot using this tool is really dialing into those unrealised strengths and how people could use those more in their current role which will also give them more energy. 
Emma Hodgson  13:41  
Absolutely. And this is where I think people get some amazing moments of realisation in a session with the unrealises strengths. The realised strengths, people usually recognise those, they understand them. And they may already know that about themselves. Not always, and often with the realised strengths, as I said, different contexts and different ways they can use existing strengths. So for example, I had a client once that had enormously strong strength of compassion. And she used this strength for other people, but she hadn't really ever thought to use that compassion on herself. And what she discovered is that when she used compassion on herself, it enabled her to just free herself up to something about what she couldn't do, in terms of her career, because she got really stuck with her career, but she could really start thinking about what she could do, she could really focus on what she really wanted to do. 
But when it comes to the unrealised strengths, these are things that people typically don't know or they're not using these strengths or they don't know that they are their strengths without sort of going through them and seeing them written down on paper. So when we can use our unrealised strengths more. This is what I'd call like a land of opportunity or a pot of gold, because it's just this resource, you know, that's inside us that sitting there that's got so much opportunity around it to use it more to get that greater sense of wellbeing to meet goals to overcome challenges and hurdles in a different way.
Leah Lambart  15:21  
That's right. And so in your sessions do you focus more on the unrealised strengths? Because I guess if people are already using their strengths, sometimes they can become overused, can't they? And then they might become actually draining if they are using them too much.
Emma Hodgson  15:38  
Yeah, that's absolutely right. When we have realised strengths, we tend to use them, and we're good at them, we get feedback on them, we are known for them usually. And so what we tend to do is to flog them, if you like, we use them, we get success. So we use them more, we use them harder, we use them stronger, sometimes the real value can come in just dialing them down and taking them down a notch. Because overplayed strengths can lead to burnout. And you see this a lot actually, with people where they've been working so hard on overusing strengths. 
For example, I have a client recently, who had a huge sense of empathy, and she get completely absorbed in other people's problems. She had a great strength of personal responsibility. So she just wanted to take on everything. But ended up pretty burnt out. So there's an opportunity there for her to dial those things down. So that she didn't become burnt out and replace them with those unrealised strengths, which gives us more energy. So it turns out, she actually wanted to dial up her strengths of writer and spotlight and do some, writing and podcasts and talks and things like that. Soit's always interesting to see where the conversation will go.
Leah Lambart  17:04  
Yeah, definitely. So how could people use their strengths to facilitate their job search, like for people who are not working, perhaps low in confidence in terms of getting out and facing the job market? Have you got any examples of where you've been able to help people understand their strengths better to facilitate that?
Emma Hodgson  17:26  
Yeah, so I think there's a few things here, I was talking to someone recently, actually about their strengths, who found themselves quite stuck in their thinking, and not sure where to go. And I think that's a key thing, obviously, with careers is I don't really know what I want to do, or I'm feeling a bit sort of stuck. And so obviously, if you know your strengths, well, it really sets you up well, to know what you want to look for, and what roles you want to consider what will suit you. It's really about thinking about what you know, what makes you feel authentic, and passionate and confident. So that's a really good way to sort of get the ball rolling. 
Talking to a client the other day, she said that she had always actually viewed her strengths as weaknesses, and that by going through them and talking about them, it was quite a monumental shift in her thinking, because she realised that they're actually strengths that she was just over playing. So by turning them down a bit, it enabled her to think more about how those strengths could actually support her in in taking that next step with her career. 
I think also, once you think about job search, you can actually use your strengths for the search process itself. So whether that's your thinking set of strengths to narrow down options. So you might be thinking, you know, using your strength of say, Resolver, which is where you have a problem. And the more difficult, the better, but I'll use my strength of Resolver to really help me think about what career I wanted to go for, you might use a strength of Adaptable or Innovation. So there's lots of different strengths you could use in terms of how you think about your job search. Also, there's a whole family of strengths around motivation. So this is about considering, "okay, what's going to help me to take that next step?". And perhaps there's a strength around Growth and really wanting to learn and looking for new ways to grow and develop whatever that may look like. You may have a strength of Competitive, where you really want to move up the career ladder, you might have a strength of Self belief. It might be Drive, meaning that you're really self motivated and you want to push yourself hard to achieve whatever you want out of life. So I think there's all sorts of different strengths families we call them which can help you in your job search as well as kind of the more obvious ones. 
So for example, a lot of the relating strengths can obviously help your job search. I know that Leah, you talk a lot about informational interviews. And this is where you're using your strength of Connector, for example. And really to find those people that you want to connect with, to have those conversations and find out more about certain fields and jobs that you want to go into. You can also appreciate that there would be strengths of Rapport Building and Relationship Deepening out where that's really going to help in the whole job search process. So there are some examples.
Unknown Speaker  20:31  
Yeah, great. And Connector, I think is a great one as well, too, for networking.
Unknown Speaker  20:37  
Absolutely. Yeah, to find those opportunities, and as you say, you know, to look for the people, not the job.
Leah Lambart  20:45  
So Emma, what are your top realised strengths and how do you use them in your current work?
Emma Hodgson  20:51  
Yeah, sure. So, my number one, realised strength is Esteem-Builder. So that means that I love to help others believe in themselves and see what they're capable of achieving. I also have streaks around Legacy and Mission. So really wanting to make a difference. And I have a strength of Service. So constantly looking for ways to help and serve other people. So I guess in this way, using those strengths, I really believe that every human on this earth has a unique combination of strengths, which makes them so wonderfully suited to do something really special, you know, with those gifts. So for me, I find real passion and joy in using my strengths to help people find that sweet spot. And it's a real privilege. I find it really inspiring as well to talk to people about their strengths and what they're so beautifully suited to do. But I wonder, I mean, maybe I should ask you Leah. What about you? What are your strengths? And how do you use them?
Leah Lambart  21:50  
Yeah, it's funny. So mine, I've got seven realised strengths and they're all from the Relator strengths family. So my number one is Unconditionality, which is about accepting people for who they are. And I think you know, what I loved when I first did this tool, I would never have thought of explaining my strength in that way. Yeah. But I think it is really true. And it's funny, I think I always thought it was just because I was a country girl, and that I was accepting of everyone. But then I realised it's actually a strength, but I would never have thought to explain it in that way. My other ones are Connector, Service, Esteem Builder, Rapport Builder and Personalisation, which is about finding unique differences in people. I think I use all of those for coaching.
Emma Hodgson  22:46  
Absolutely. And there's such wonderful ingredients for coaching, because as you say, they're all in that relating sort of family of strengths. And I can say, this is why you're so good at what you do.
Leah Lambart  22:58  
And maybe why I was such a bad tax consultant Emma.
Emma Hodgson  23:03  
Not such a good fit for you.
Leah Lambart  23:06  
And it was funny, because I pulled the report out again yesterday, and I was looking at my unrealised strength, and the only one was Narrator. So that was when I did it last year again. But then I realised that now I'm doing the podcast. So I guess I am now using that strength, which is pretty cool.
Emma Hodgson  23:24  
Absolutely. And so that's using the power of stories to convey your insights, which is such a wonderful gift, you know, to people to be able to use that strength in that way, I think.
Leah Lambart  23:33  
Yeah. I really love this tool, because once you know your strengths, like if I had done this, when I was younger, I would have been very clear that I was in the wrong career.  You know, the only time I got to use a lot of those strengths was probably at Friday night drinks, or in the lunch hour really and I possibly over compensated a little bit.
Emma Hodgson  24:00  
Yeah, absolutely. And this is really common, you know, to hear this Leah. And you know, you wouldn't be surprised to know that you ate not the only one who has had a career change and found that they've ended up doing something that's a lot more authentic. That's how people often describe it, in that language of like, "it just kind of feels right, it feels natural, it feels energizing", and as we talked about before, that feeling of flow and that things are much easier and more fun.
Leah Lambart  24:33  
Well, that's so true -  it doesn't feel really like work to me at all anymore. So Emma, what would you say to someone who is thinking about doing a strength coach coaching session and how would they know if it might help them?
Emma Hodgson  24:47  
Okay, so I guess I guess the first question, if you're considering doing a strength coaching session, well, what's going on for you at the moment. For example, maybe you're feeling really burnt out and you feel like, you're really good at what you do, you have a really good reputation and you're pretty established, you're really well known. But you actually want to do more of what you love doing. So you know, you might be looking for a change. That might be one example where strengths coaching could really help. 
You might be just really stuck in terms of indecision and not knowing what choices to make. And so the strengths conversation would really benefit in terms of having a new perspective, or a bit more clarity around what next. But I guess it's really for anyone facing challenges or having goals that they want to achieve, and just sort of needing that boost of motivation to accomplish them. And I guess the bottom line of all of this is that it boils down to, you know, wanting to understand yourself better. So I guess the question is, what do you want to invest in, if you want to invest in understanding yourself better and improving your sense of wellbeing, and it's a cliche, but you know, to be the best version of yourself, this is something that I think is a really important and powerful tool for being able to do that. And thinking about how, we apply this to our work, or even, people who use their strengths might not even call it work, they might call it their calling. 
It really helps you find that calling, the thing that you really are meant to do - something that feels really authentic, passionate, easy & fun. And I often use an analogy of, something that feels like you're swimming downstream, rather than sort of fighting against the current. To answer your question, I think, really it can benefit all sorts of people. And to answer your question, really think about what's going on for you, and, and what you want to invest in.
Leah Lambart  26:53  
Great advice. And I love this swimming downstream analogy. I've never heard of that. And yeah, it makes perfect sense. I love it. 
Oh, em, thank you so much for joining me today.   If anyone is interested in finding out more about strengths coaching, or organising to book in for a session, you can contact us via the website and either of us can give you a call and have a chat and see whether it might be the right fit for you. Thanks Emms, there's been some wonderful information in there and I love some of those examples. So have a great day up in Sydney you lucky thing. 
Unknown Speaker  27:33  
It's a nice day in Sydney. So looking forward to getting out there and enjoying some sunshine.
Unknown Speaker  27:38  
It's been a pleasure having you and we'll look forward to chatting about strengths again in the near future.
Unknown Speaker  27:43  
Always happy to chat about strengths. Thanks, Leah.