How to Increase Your Impact While Reducing Your Effort

I can’t help but shake my head when people say, “You have to work hard if you want to be successful.” 

Really? The most successful people I know are doing something that most others are not -- and it’s not putting in the longest hours at the office. These top performers know what their natural talents are and use them as much as possible in their daily work. They work smarter, not harder. 

By tapping into your natural abilities, your work will have more flow and ease. Your chances of being a high performer and attracting opportunities to do work that excites you will skyrocket. Entrepreneurs, in particular, can maximize the success of their companies by being clear on their talents and using them while running their companies.

The challenge -- and the opportunity -- is to unearth your talents and systematically apply them at work. This is harder than it might seem, though, because many people are unaware of their talents: Exercising certain skills comes as second nature to them. So they think if something comes easily to them, it’s just as easy for everyone else. 

Related: 3 Essential Questions to Consider Before Taking the Leap

How to unearth your talents. 

When you combine your talents with your skills, knowledge and experience, they serve as multipliers. This combination can mean the difference between being an average performer and a rock-star one, without even having to work harder. 

First, identify your specific innate abilities. To understand what sets you apart, get the perspective of others. Ask family, friends, colleagues and former managers to share with you two to three things that you seem to do better than anyone else they know. Or inquire about what you appear to do much easier than others. Request examples. 

Get feedback from at least 10 people and look for themes. What do these responses have in common? What is the impact you have when you use these talents?  

If you’re uncomfortable polling friends and family, bring in the pros. A career coach can help you tease out the talents that you can’t see by asking questions and offering perspectives that unlock what isn’t easily visible. 

For a self-guided assessment, try Gallup’s Strengths Finder 2.0. This will provide a highly personalized report that details the top five talents. 

Most people hear their talents reflected back to them and think, “Yep, that sounds like me” and don’t go any further. Take extra time to think of examples (from your personal and professional life) for each talent and how they made a difference. This will help you as you start to brainstorm to find ways to use your talents at work.  

Related: Embrace Change: The 4 Skills Needed to Reinvent Yourself

Put your talents to work. 

Now it’s time to ask, “Am I using my talents on a regular basis in my work?” Think about what you can adjust to shine a brighter light on them. 

You might find certain of your talents are needed or required to succeed at your job. You may have uncovered your gift for putting the right combination of people together to create collaborative, high-performing teams. Maybe you never before realized that this sets you apart in your workplace because it was so obvious to you. 

With this new knowledge, you might take on more opportunities to shape the staffing of projects or participate in interviewing potential future employees. Using your natural ability to its fullest, you could reduce your company’s voluntary and involuntary turnover and increase team morale and productivity. 

What if a newly discovered talent isn’t needed for your current role? Set up a meeting with your boss and discuss what you’ve recently discovered. Be prepared to share ideas about how you could start tapping into your talents more and ask for opportunities to leverage it.

As you unearth your combination of natural abilities, if you realize that they would not be regularly used in your current job, take it as a sign that it may be time to investigate a new career direction. Don’t waste time languishing at a job that has you focusing on improving weaknesses (things you'll never be talented at). That’s a lot of hard work only to end up as an average performer. 

If an entrepreneur undergoes this process, it can become more obvious where it's necessary to outsource projects or bring in additional talent to fill roles. Many entrepreneurs struggle to be well-rounded, but it quickly becomes clear they can’t do it all. Business owners would be best off by bringing in help for accomplishing tasks and projects that don’t come naturally to them. 

Leveraging your talents for your career will let you to increase your impact and value and help catapult you into opportunities that will make you feel successful beyond belief.

Related: Are You Starting a Business for the Right Reasons?