If you feel like you're in the wrong job or can't decide if that next job is right for you, you may not be in a situation that plays to your inherent strengths.
People's brains are hardwired from birth with certain strengths and weaknesses known as Executive Skills. (They're called that because they help you to execute tasks.) Each person has 12 of these Executive Skills, and typically two or three are their strongest and two or three are their weakest.
When your strongest skills match those required for a particular job or task, it is called a goodness of fit situation, which is what you should strive for.
The cognitive functions of Executive Skills are located primarily in the frontal lobes of the brain, the part right behind your forehead. The skills are:
- Response Inhibition: The ability to think before you act.
- Working Memory: The ability to hold information in memory while performing complex tasks.
- Emotional Control: Ability to manage emotions to achieve a goal or complete tasks.
- Sustained Attention: Capacity to maintain attention to a task in spite of distractibility.
- Task Initiation: Ability to start projects with undue procrastination.
- Planning/ Prioritization: Capacity to develop a roadmap to arrive at a destination or goal.
- Organization: Ability to arrange or place according to a system.
- Time Management: Capacity to estimate how much time one has and allocate it well.
- Goal-Directed Persistence: Capacity to have a goal and follow through to completion.
- Flexibility: Ability to revise plans in face of setbacks.
- Metacognition: Capacity to stand back and take a bird??s-eye view of yourself to make changes in how you solve problems.
- Stress Tolerance: Ability to thrive in stressful situations.
When your key strengths match what you do at work, the more likely you are to be successful and even look forward to work because what you do there feels quite natural. The key is to know your inherent strengths and weaknesses and look for work that requires your strengths and avoid those that require your weaknesses.
For example, if you know you are strong in Goal-Directed Persistence, working on a long-term project would be very natural for you. Conversely, if you know that a key weakness of yours is Time Management, you are not likely to start or end meetings on time.
For many years, psychologists have used knowledge of the development of Executive Skills from childhood through late adolescence for guidelines for assessments and to help children and teens. That knowledge has recently been transferred to use for business and the workplace, by matching Executive Skills strengths to requirements of jobs.
The key in business is knowing that your strongest Executive Skills will continue to be your strongest and your weakest will continue to be your weakest, because they're not dramatically changeable by adulthood.
Everyone has combinations of these strengths and weaknesses and the mix varies from person to person.
Many successful business people intuitively figured out some of their own Executive Skills issues over time. For example, a person weak in Task Initiation likely knows it and has compensated by delegating someone else, such as an executive assistant, to get them started on the next thing on time.
So when reviewing your current or future work situation, checking if your key Executive Skills strengths align with the tasks can help you determine in advance whether or not the position is close to a perfect fit for you.
Chuck Martin is the author of several business books, including his latest Work Your Strengths: A Scientific Process to Identify Your Skills and Match Them to the Best Career for You. He is also the Chairman and CEO of NFI Research.