Make 2019 The Year You Discover Your Strengths

By Elaine Teo, Founder and Managing Partner, Living Potential International



True fact: When I teach corporates how to identify their Strengths, I don’t ask them to look at their work behaviours.

Why? Because at work there are all kinds of factors that prevent us from really behaving as our most natural, unforced selves.

Think about it. You have a direct superior. Your superior’s superior. Colleagues. Clients, Suppliers. And so on.

You have a job to do. You have expectations to live up to. Office politics. Work culture. Different people’s styles to play off against.

When do you really get to be yourself? 


When I train executives how to “Play to Your Strengths”, I ask them to look at their personal lives to spot what the world-renowned management and leadership research organisation Gallup International defines as “talents”, which are the raw material for a Strength:

“Talents are naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behaviour that can be productively applied.”

Do you, for example:

  • Love to keep your mind occupied – books, podcasts, TV series, bring it on! Your appetite is voracious and you love to learn new things
  • Thrive on having several things on the go?
  • Have a knack for getting all kinds of different people to like and trust you?
  • Get a kick out of organising your wardrobe by colour – everything in your life has its place?
  • Remember when things went wrong, so you can keep everybody on track to better times ahead?
  • Spot patterns that no one else can see – this lets you find meaning in things for others
  • Sense intuitively how other people feel, and wonder why friends of yours don’t get along?
  • Love to make lists – bucket lists, shopping lists, to-do lists, friends lists – and tick actions off them, feeling a huge sense of accomplishment?
  • Enjoy fixing broken things – nothing like seeing something working properly again?
  • Like to take something small and new – a plant, a person, a new friendship – and develop it, grow it, watching with delight as it gradually gets better and stronger?
  • Burn to tell people things, show people how you view life?
  • Have this knack of expressing something that captures what other people were struggling to say?

Any of these ring a bell? Maybe you can start to see how these “naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling and behaviour” crop up everywhere in your personal life.

Gallup doesn’t mean “talent” the way most people mean “talent”, like you are really good at playing the violin or kicking a football.

In Gallup’s Strengths language, “talents” are the things you are naturally strong at. These “patterns of thought, feeling and behaviour” are innate in each of us. Each of us possesses a unique blend of our very own Strengths.


According to Gallup’s research, not really. Your “talents” can be honed by adding two key ingredients: skills and experience. But if what you’re after is performance excellence, you have to start first by identifying the things you can’t help but be good at.

These talents, these raw materials for your own enduring excellence at performance, aren’t based on you trying your darnednest to turn yourself into someone you’re not. It’s the opposite. First, you have to find out how you fundamentally thrive at being.

I teach my clients that they can spot these talents best when there is no external agenda. Left to our own devices, with no one else to please other than ourselves, in our leisure time for example, or relaxed with friends and family, is often when our talents show up the clearest. Why? Because we are under zero pressure then to try and behave any way else.

When we observe ourselves in our personal lives when we are relaxed, happy, productive and in flow, we can learn huge things about ourselves that can be ploughed directly into our search for better-fitting, more meaningful, more satisfying and more successful work in 2019.

It’s not rocket science, if you think about it.

How awesome would it be to make money BY thinking, feeling and behaving in the ways we most naturally enjoy and excel at?

This is what I mean when I invite you to dream about making 2019 YOUR year, of “Playing to YOUR Strengths”.


In the next part of this series on “Playing to Your Strengths”, I will explore how Strengths are different from raw talents – and how, after you have identified your talents, you can start to explore options to add skills and experience to hone your talents into Strengths, which Gallup defines as “the ability to deliver a consistent near-perfect performance in a specific activity.”

After that, we want to be thinking about how your talents, your latent Strengths, interact with your values too. As you take these deep dives into your self-awareness, be mindful of the treasures you’ll be coming up with. The answers you find will be so powerful in helping you identify and pursue the work development opportunities that will deliver you the most success and satisfaction for your best year yet in 2019.


Take the next week to really observe myself. Ask myself the following questions over and over again:

– What do I find myself drawn to do again and again?

– What do I always get pleasure and satisfaction out of doing?

– Who are the people, what are the kinds of people interactions I enjoy most, and seek out repeatedly?

– What do I seem to have an endless appetite for?

– What do other people praise and value me consistently for? What am I the “go to” for?

– What do I like to be trusted to do?

– What always gives me a glow of happiness and deep sense of meaning afterwards?

– What can I do that others can’t seem to?

– What am I already good at that I love getting even better at?

– When I’m gone, what do I most want people to remember me for?

Don’t worry if your answers don’t seem to have ANYTHING to do with work. Remember – you’re learning about your whole self, which you need to be, in order to become your best self!

So many of my clients trip up here when I support them in their career development, because they have simply never, ever, given themselves the chance to ask themselves questions like the above.

No wonder they feel cut off, deenergized, unmotivated, lost, or frustrated at work. The things they are best at aren’t being tapped! And how can they tap them when they don’t even know what they are?

So don’t fret. The next time you’re running errands or on the Tube, let yourself play with these questions. Enjoy learning about yourself, what drives you. What motivates you. What you love doing. Find these out first. THEN can you start discovering HOW to truly “put your Strengths to work.”

So…are you ready? 😊 Let’s start this exciting journey of making 2019 THE year you start to truly play to YOUR Strengths!

As Founder and Managing Partner of the highly-acclaimed consultancy Living Potential International, Elaine Teo is passionate about bringing critical life skills for personal success to students and the workforce worldwide.

Elaine delivers leadership development and intercultural coaching, training and thought leadership to some of the most prestigious organisations in the world, including Oxford and Cambridge Universities, JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank, McKinsey, Ernst & Young, Tesco, and Philip Morris.

She appears regularly on the BBC and international events as keynote, moderator, psychologist and life skills coach. She is highly sought after for her cutting-edge ideas on diversity and culture, women leadership, the skills gap between school and work, and applying mindfulness for success at work and life.

Elaine studied Psychology and Philosophy at Oxford University on a full academic scholarship, where she was also Piano Scholar and the co-founder of the Oxford University Chinese Cultural Society. She speaks five languages including Mandarin, German, Italian and French in addition to English. As a Singaporean Chinese who has lived, worked and travelled in over 30 countries, she is particularly valued for her keen insights on the gap between East and West. Elaine is CultureConnector’s resident cultural expert for Singapore and is a graduate of the Corporate Coach Programme of Coach U.

Prior to founding LPI in Switzerland 13 years ago while having the first of her three children, Elaine worked in prime strategic regional marketing communications and product development roles in American Express and Singapore Airlines.

Elaine is passionate about her one-on-one coaching clients and her work with companies, helping everyone to play better to their strengths at work and life. After 28 years of experimenting with her own life, she has seen firsthand the profound power that is unlocked when people finally align with who they were always best meant to be. Working with individuals and groups is equally important as both complement each other. She encourages her clients to live their most authentic selves at all times as this is the most potent way to set them up for lifelong habits of success and meaning. She walks the talk herself and parents her children the same way to exceptional results. or contact

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