Managing Self

Shine a light on your strengths

Written by Allison Wolf

How well do we really know ourselves? How objective are we about our own strengths? Describing our positive attributes is very difficult for most of us, yet ask us about our weaknesses and we offer up a long list of our failings.

Ida O. Abbot, J.D. writes in Women on Top – The Women’s Guide to leadership and Power in Law Firms:

“You can only achieve true excellence by applying your strengths, so you need to be clear about what they are.”

Self-awareness is crucial to personal leadership. Abbot points out that being conscious of what characteristics help you to excel and which will hinder your progress, allows you to “select assignments, work environments, and activities that bring out the best in you and use your strengths to produce optimal results.”

The following list of questions was designed to help you think about your strengths and develop a list of your top qualities both in the personal and professional realms.

Answer the questions from this list that you find most helpful. Then put the exercise away and return to it a few days later. Have you any further thoughts to add?

  • Think about a significant personal or professional challenge you have experienced in the past year or so. How did you overcome this challenge? What did you learn about either yourself or others through this experience?
  • What strengths helped you, or were further developed, to overcome this challenge?
  • Describe a time when you were at your best. What were you doing? How did you feel? What “felt sense” (i.e. body memory/sensation) did you experience? Where were you? What was taking place? What was most important to you in this experience?
  • What do your friends and colleagues recognise as your strengths?
  • What skills and activities have accounted for your greatest successes to date?
  • What areas of your job do you do best, or better than other people?
  • Where can you perform to “distinction” in your professional and personal lives?

Success, happiness and growth come from the personal strengths within each of us. Accessing and recognizing these strengths is the first step toward fully reaching our goals.

Take time now to consider your three favourite and most valuable strengths. For each of these, ask yourself:

  • How could I better use this strength in my practice?
  • How could strength help me to create a new opportunity in my practice?
  • How could this strength allow me to more fully express myself professionally and personally?
  • Where could I apply this strength to really make a difference in my career?
  • Where in my life and work could I really stand out if I let this strength shine?

About the author

Allison Wolf

I am the founder of AWAL and one of the most senior coaches for lawyers in North America. I have helped countless clients over the past fifteen years, develop thriving legal practices and before that served as director of marketing for award-winning law firms. My specialty is uncovering the thinking traps and gaps holding clients back and helping them acquire the mindsets, skills, and habits for growing successful and rewarding legal careers. After a career in legal marketing and business development with law firms in Beijing, New York, and Vancouver, I was trained as a coach in 2004 at Royal Roads University and now coach clients from across North America. You can reach me at or learn more about my coaching practice from the coaching section of the Attorney With A Life Website.

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